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November 04, 2014

Lost in Translation: Citing Your Own Translations in APA Style

Dear Style Experts,

I am writing a paper in English for an English-speaking audience. However, I also speak French, and I read an article in French that I want to cite in my paper. I translated a quotation from the article from French into English. How do I format my translation of the quotation? Do I use quotation marks around it? Do I have to use the words “my translation” in there somewhere? Please help.

Yours,

Translated Terry

Languages-800
 

Dear Translated Terry,

Your conundrum is a common one in this multilingual world. Luckily, the solution is quite simple: If you translated a passage from one language into another it is considered a paraphrase, not a direct quotation. Thus, to cite your translated material, all you need to do is include the author and date of the material in the in-text citation. We recommend (but do not require) that you also include the page number in the citation, because this will help any readers who do speak French to find the translated passage in the original. You should not use quotation marks around the material you translated, and you do not need to use the words “my translation” or anything like that. Here is an example:

Original French passage:
“Les femmes dans des activités masculines adoptaient des stéréotypes masculins” (Doutre, 2014, p. 332).
Translated quotation that appeared in the paper:
Women working in masculine fields adopted masculine stereotypes (Doutre, 2014, p. 332).

In the reference list, provide the citation for the work in its original language. Also provide an English translation of the title of the work in square brackets after the foreign-language title, without italics.

Reference list entry:

Doutre, É. (2014). Mixité de genre et de métiers: Conséquences identitaires et relations de travail [Mixture of gender and trades: Consequences for identity and working relationships].  Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science/Revue canadienne des sciences du comportement, 46, 327–336. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/a0036218

Why Is the Translation Considered a Paraphrase?

You may wonder why your translation is considered a paraphrase rather than a direct quotation. That’s because translation is both an art and a science—languages do not have perfect correspondences where every word and phrase matches up with a foreign equivalent, though of course some cases come closer than others. Even in the example passage above I considered how to translate “Les femmes dans des activités masculines”—taken word for word I might have written “Women in masculine activities,” but I thought “Women working in masculine fields” better conveyed the actual meaning, which relates to women working in male-dominated occupations.

Nevertheless, because we can't codify how exact any given translation is, it would be inappropriate to put quotation marks around the translated words. In fact, in undertaking the translation yourself you have literally put the author’s words into your own words, which is the definition of a paraphrase.

Citing a Published Translation

Finally, note that citing a translation you made is different than citing a published translation someone else made. If you read a work in translation and you used a direct quotation from it in your paper, you would put quotation marks around the quoted passage just as for any other direct quotation citation. Although the work has been translated, it exists in a distinct, retrievable form. Likewise, in the reference list you would write an entry for the translated version of the work.

I hope this helps you cite your own translations in APA Style. 

—Chelsea Lee

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