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Translation: It's Not Rocket Science (Although Sometimes it Should Be)

Tutorials » Translation: It's Not Rocket Science (Although Sometimes it Should Be)

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In order to be a professional scientist in the 21st century, you have to communicate in English. English is the accepted universal language of the scientific community, and while this is not a problem if you are born in a native English speaking country, for the majority of the world’s scientists it certainly adds a whole other level of difficulty to their profession. Not only do they have to learn basic English, they also have to learn specialized scientific nomenclature and are expected to communicate the subtleties and significance of their research in an idiosyncratic foreign language. To do so without the eloquence of a native speaker would more likely than not reflect poorly on their credibility.

A misplaced preposition or poor choice of verb can ruin a convincing narrative, reducing the probability of publication in a top international journal and limiting the impact of the research. In the end the entire scientific community ends up losing.

That is why science needs more trained personnel who can bridge the language gap with fluency. The need is particularly urgent in areas such as the environmental, agronomical, and other localized areas of science, in which it is increasingly appreciated that regional and local studies can have global impacts.

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In an effort to make up for language shortcomings, many foreign scientists spend precious research funds on private translation services. But standard translators may not always understand the technical language and structure of scientific papers, resulting in a translation that does not truly represent an accurate representation of the original paper.

One alternative is to rely on bilingual colleagues to provide translation services as a favor. However, there is no guarantee you will be able to find someone readily available that is not only fluent in the languages, but also willing to help out.

In a recent article in the journal Ambio: A Journal of the Human Environment, it is suggested that university departments in non-anglophone countries could hire professional translators with a science background, just as they hire statisticians and technical specialists. Alternatively, they could offer attractive positions for bilingual or native English-speaking researchers, with a percentage of their time earmarked for assisting colleagues with translating, editing or writing papers and other research outputs. Such positions could be permanent or offered on a fixed-term basis to visiting academics.

As the attention for the need for translation continues to grow in the scientific community, rest assured that more solutions will present themselves. In the meantime, the best solution is to go with the professional translation company, with the explicit specification of using a professional translator with the same specialized scientific background. More and more professional translation companies are now recruiting translators with a background in science and pharmaceutical training, as these areas have shown to be some of the most vertical industries and most in need of translation services.

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Tutorials » Translation: It's Not Rocket Science (Although Sometimes it Should Be)

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