Gained in translation – launching your international career

Tips from a specialist translator

“The limits of language mean the limits of my world” – so Wittgenstein claimed – and our world is getting smaller every day. However, if your potential audience and your own work aren’t in the same language, then they might as well be in different galaxies. The solution that will allow you to become part of the international scientific community is, of course, to get that paper you’ve worked so hard on translated by someone who’ll handle it with the care it deserves. The translation of your academic papers will allow you to reach a global audience and give you a chance to publish in the very best international journals with the highest impact factors, building your academic reputation further and opening the door to exciting collaborations.

Here are four tips from an experienced academic translator on how to smash that language barrier and give your academic papers the audience they deserve:

1. Be clear on your target: Professional translators work into their native languages (or one of their native languages, if they’re bilingual). An extremely high standard in the original language of the paper is vital so that there’s no room for misunderstanding, but in order to sound flawless and make sure the paper for translation is tailored exactly to the audience you want to attract, the translator should have the target language as their own, or one of their own.

2. Use an academic: An academic background is a must for the person who undertakes the translation of your research papers. Only those who know academia and the publishing landscape understand academic language and writing conventions, and can make sure the translated manuscript fits all the formal requirements for submission to, and publication in, top journals.

3. Use a subject specialist: As well as the general language your paper is written in, the translator will have to be fluent in the technical terms of your subject. Here’s why: for highly technical subjects, a high degree of familiarity will be necessary for the translator even to get the point of what it is you’re trying to say. If the subject knowledge isn’t there, the project won’t even get off the ground. Even for less technical subjects, it’s vital that the translator knows when an everyday word, or combination of everyday words, is being used as a subject-specific term. If the translator doesn’t notice this, the meaning will be lost. Finally, a translator with a high level of subject knowledge is needed so they can identify standard translations and uses of particular terms. This is necessary for a convincing and polished end result.

4. Invest, and identify your goals: Be clear in your mind that the translation of academic papers and manuscripts is highly skilled work. Not only does the translator need a perfect understanding of what you’re sharing with the scientific community, but they also need to be able to share your meaning in an engaging and effective way with a new audience. It goes without saying that machine translation, or translation of your research papers by a non-academic/non-specialist will not help you achieve your aims. Invest time in finding the right service, and be prepared to pay the market rate. It’s an investment which will have an excellent rate of return.

Follow these three steps and watch as your paper takes off and conquers new worlds!