Tips for ESL authors on using academic translation services effectively

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Tips for ESL authors on using academic translation services effectively

Non-native English-speaking or ESL researchers who do not have the luxury of spending time writing in English and grappling with the grammatical rules and nuances of the language can benefit considerably from English language translation services. The researchers draft their manuscripts in a language they are familiar with and use a translation service to convert their draft into an English-language document. ESL researchers looking to get published have the option of package services that offer both translation and editing, where authors can choose to get the translated paper checked for language and formatted according to the requirements of the target journal, and in the process ensure that the final draft meets the standard of publishing.

While a lot depends on the skill and experience of the translator, input from the author of the paper plays a significant role in ensuring that the product is closer to the desired output. In this article, I will discuss what steps the author can take to ensure that the final draft is publication ready.

1. Provide a glossary/term list

While translating some technical terms is straightforward, some translations may vary with the translator and the clarity offered by the source text. These differences may be nuanced (“expenditure incurred on drugs” vs. “drug expenditure”) or drastic (“measurement of corneal refractive power” vs. “keratometry”). To ensure that technical terms are translated as per your liking or are consistent with the parlance used in your industry, authors are advised to provide the translator with a glossary that contains technical terms in the source language along with the preferred translation. The translator will then make sure that these terms are used as instructed. However, if the translator or editor feels that the author-recommended translation is unsuitable or inaccurate, he/she may provide a more suitable alternative. It is in the author’s best interest to review these suggestions.

2. Provide files in the most suitable format

The time taken for translation varies with the document type. MS Word is the most translation-friendly format for source text. It allows the translator to translate the content in the same file and format and avoid reproducing any complex illustrations/tables, thus reducing the chances for error. With the PDF format, the translator is required to translate into a different format, the most common being MS Word. This increases not only the time required for translation but also the chances of content being missed during the translation process. Also, since illustrations and images cannot be reproduced easily in a different format, the translator has to insert explanatory notes on how some text needs to be translated, thus increasing the length of the translation cycle.

3. Provide clear instructions/reference files

It helps to know if certain parts of the source text need to be excluded from the translation or approached differently. For example, PowerPoint documents may contain presenter notes that may have to be translated; or you may require translation of a few stray sentences in an otherwise English paper. In this case, let the translator know if he needs to refer to the English text to maintain consistency. While this may be a reasonable expectation from a translator, remember that it puts a premium on the translator’s time and the timeline for completing the project may need to be extended.

4. Buffer for review time

Any translation process needs to be iterative—that is, it requires multiple rounds of checks before it can reach the desired level. While one advantage of using this service is that it saves you the time you would have otherwise invested in writing in English, it is important that you account for time needed for reviewing the translation and for a recheck from the translator. Here a few things you can consider:

1. Use the service at least a few months before the date of journal submission. Also, share the date of submission with the translation company.

2. Take the time to review the completed paper thoroughly and flag parts that you are dissatisfied with and would like to revise. Inserting comments (with MS Word’s comments feature) to flag issues will save both you and the translator a lot of time.

3. If you are unsure of the quality of the entire paper, do not fret. Share your concerns with the translator and explain why the entire paper needs to be rechecked. If you are unsure of certain sections of the paper, ask the translator to review only those sections. In other words, let the translator know what exactly is expected of him/her.

Editage offers package translation and editing services. For more information, visit

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Published on: Aug 18, 2014

An experienced editor and trainer, dedicated to the cause of enabling research communication.
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