How to Quote a Foreign-Language Source and Its Translation
Dear Style Expert,
How do I format quotations from books or articles written in a foreign language? Do I have to present the quotation in both the original language and in translation, or do I present only a translation? What do the citation and reference list entries look like? Help me, please!
When you want to quote a source from a language that is different from the language you are writing in, you have the choice of presenting
- your own translation of the quotation (without the foreign language) or
- both the original passage in the foreign language and your translation.
Either choice is acceptable. You might choose to present both languages if you want to draw attention to how something was said in the foreign language (e.g., if you are conducting a linguistic analysis or a qualitative study), especially if you expect your readers to be multilingual. Otherwise, presenting just the translation is fine.
Previously on the blog we have addressed how to present your own translation (without the foreign language) of a quotation from a published source, such as a book or journal article.
If you want to present a quotation in both a foreign language and in translation, place the foreign-language quotation in quotation marks if it is less than 40 words long and in a block quotation without quotation marks if it is 40 words or more. After the foreign-language quotation, place an English translation of the quotation in square brackets. Then add the citation for the quotation.
Here is an example:
Research has addressed that “Les jeunes qui terminent un placement à l’âge de la majorité dans le cadre du système de protection de la jeunesse sont plus vulnérables” [Youth who finish a placement at the age of majority in the framework of the youth protection system are more vulnerable] (Bussières, St-Germain, Dubé, & Richard, 2017, p. 354).
In the reference list, translate the title of the foreign-language work into the language you are writing in (here, that’s English). Otherwise, the details of the foreign-language source should stay as they were published, to aid in retrievability. Note for this example that Canadian Psychology/Psychologie canadienne is a bilingual journal that is published with a bilingual title; if the journal title were only in French it would not be necessary to translate it in the reference.
Bussières, E.-L., St-Germain, A., Dubé, M., & Richard, M.-C. (2017). Efficacité et efficience des programmes de transition à la vie adulte: Une revue systématique [Effectiveness and efficiency of adult transition programs: A systematic review]. Canadian Psychology/Psychologie canadienne, 58, 354–365. https://doi.org/10.1037/cap0000104
If your quotation is from a research participant rather than a published source, please see our posts on that topic:
Do you have other foreign-language quotation questions? Leave a comment below.