As most of us are aware, we either belong to the world of those who speak a foreign language or we don’t. The English language is currently dominating discussion and debates relating to commerce, technology and science, as it also is in politics, economics, tourism, etc.
The reason for this is, in part, due to the scientific superiority of the United Kingdom and the United States over the last century. In the latter’s case, this world power continues to be the forerunner in the majority of different fields of research, which is due to its economic strength.
Likewise, the English language also reigns supreme as the lingua franca in both the academic and professional worlds. Any researcher, scientist or medical practitioner, to name just a few, must have a sound understanding of this Anglo-Saxon language if they want to have access to the cutting edge information being produced in their field, such as the latest experiments or research; but in addition, they also need the language to be able to consult the other works referenced in bibliographies, the majority of which are published in English.
It is worth pointing out that the life of an academic or scientist is subject to the requirement that they publish the results of their research and investigations; not only that, but they must track the number of times they are successfully published, and where, as this information will affect their chances of promotion, of receiving grants, and of continuing their professional activities (we’re sure many researchers from any of our universities will identify with this situation). From this, we can conclude that an intimate relationship exists between researchers and the publication of scientific papers – the knowledge obtained from the results of their research is then published for the rest of the scientific community and the world at large, often appearing in scientific/academic publications.
The most sought-after route for the publication of research is via international journals printed in English. But of course, a fundamental pre-requisite for publication is that their research be submitted in English. By being published internationally, their work reaches the greatest number of fellow scientists. The motivation behind this need to be published lies in fact that the project cannot be considered finished until the results have been published and shared with the rest of the scientific community; only then will it be making its contribution to scientific knowledge and academia.
When looking at academic articles, the goal is to ensure that the ideas and concepts are spread as far afield as possible in order to maximize their potential for cultural enrichment. In the case of doctoral theses, for example, the results are, lamentably, not regarded as being formally published unless they appear in a scientific or academic journal.
Given the growing need amongst researchers and academic institutions to document their work with international publications, and also to present their work overseas, the majority of scientists have a good understanding of the English language. However, although they may be able to defend themselves well in their own field of research, and although they may have a sound understanding of the grammatical structure of the language, it is unlikely that they are able to write their Abstracts or articles in English at the level required for publication in international journals to meet the demands of their English-speaking readers: being able to meet these demands is essential when so much is in the balance.
If we take a look at machine translation, we see that it is not capable of accurately translating a technical text, much less to the same standard of quality as a professional translator who is an expert in the field in question, and whose mother tongue is that of the target language. Just take a quick glance at some of the outrageous suggestions made by our friend Google Translator to see what we are talking about…
For this reason, the final draft of the research paper should first be written in the researcher’s native language, before being translated by a professional translator (important note: just being a native speaker is not good enough). This will ensure the paper’s approval by the editors of international scientific journals, and guarantee the successful publication of their work. The translator must have experience in technical and scientific translation (or the field of research in question), and have a direct and open line of communication with the author of the article in order to clarify any questions that may arise; resolving these questions is vital to the success of the final translation. It is not uncommon for researchers to make the effort of writing their papers directly in English before sending them on for proof-reading by the translator, but what they may not realise is that, despite all their efforts, this actually produces more work for the proof-reader/translator than if they had been contracted to translate the document from scratch. Both parties soon realise this produces an excessive amount of work for little reward.
We have spoken to María José Frápolli, Senior Lecturer of Philosophy and Logic of Scientific Method in the Philosophy Department (I) of the University of Granada, whom we have worked with translating and correcting academic papers destined for publication in international academic journals. María José informs us that all her work is published in international publications and this brings with it benefit upon benefit: it enables the results of research to genuinely be shared; it places Spanish researchers in international forums; it provides visibility to the work being carried out by different universities…
“The English language, whether we like it or not, is the language of science. National languages should be protected, but the aim of research is to share findings and to have an international presence. A good piece of research which is not published in English will have difficulty reaching other professionals.”, says María José.
When asked when she thought researchers would find themselves in need of a professional translator, she responds: “Continuously. It is very important, in such a saturated market, for the basic quality and formatting to be the best that they can be. We have approached you on different occasions, each of which has helped us to avoid producing work that contained errors.”
So, now you know, if you are a researcher or are writing a thesis, don’t take any chances. Publishing the findings of so much hard work, to which you have dedicated so much of your time and energy, is fundamental to your success. Leave the translation in the hands of another professional and take a well deserved rest after so much hard work : )
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