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Many of the aca­d­e­m­ic texts I trans­late at S Swift Trans­la­tion con­sid­er forms of near­ness and remote­ness in human rela­tions.

 

Well-researched academic translations

As a spe­cial­ist aca­d­e­m­ic trans­la­tor work­ing from Ger­man into Eng­lish at S Swift Trans­la­tion, I pro­duce both lucid trans­la­tions of aca­d­e­m­ic research in the human­i­ties and social sci­ences and trans­la­tions of texts from the crossover area between aca­d­e­m­ic research and its prac­ti­cal util­i­sa­tion and dis­sem­i­na­tion in the spheres of pol­i­cy adviceedu­ca­tion and muse­um com­mu­ni­ca­tion.

Academic translation – context is the clincher

I use a range of strate­gies and tools in a sys­tem­at­ic and self-reflex­ive fash­ion to find the opti­mal form of expres­sion for your research work. This page focus­es on a few aspects of this process that are par­tic­u­lar­ly rel­e­vant to the trans­la­tion of research con­tri­bu­tions. My gen­er­al approach to trans­la­tion is described else­where.

Tak­ing account of con­text in order to pro­duce sense-for-sense trans­la­tions (as opposed to word-for-word trans­la­tions) is a very basic trans­la­tion skill: while resources like dic­tio­nar­ies can pro­vide use­ful def­i­n­i­tions and expla­na­tions, con­text is the all-impor­tant resource used to deter­mine which pieces of infor­ma­tion are rel­e­vant. In every­day texts, ambi­gu­i­ty can often be resolved by human trans­la­tors using lit­tle more than a soupçon of com­mon sense.


Con­text mat­ters: keys open doors, but not if the keys in ques­tion belong to a piano or a bike lock…

Com­plex texts in spe­cial­ist fields present greater chal­lenges, since trans­la­tors require an in-depth grasp of the spe­cif­ic field to pick up on the con­tex­tu­al sig­nals that point towards pos­si­ble trans­la­tion options or rule them out. When trans­lat­ing research con­tri­bu­tions such as aca­d­e­m­ic essays, I pay atten­tion to:

The disciplinary context: My areas of expertise

Since I aim to trans­late only texts I under­stand ful­ly, I stick to fields I pos­sess a degree of exper­tise in. Revert­ing back to an author with ques­tions or research­ing issues myself can be very help­ful to clar­i­fy details, but it can only prove suc­cess­ful when I already have suf­fi­cient back­ground knowl­edge in the rel­e­vant dis­ci­pline (includ­ing an aware­ness of its method­ol­o­gy and cur­rent ter­mi­nol­o­gy) to “peg” new infor­ma­tion to an exist­ing frame­work of knowl­edge.

With­in the gen­er­al area of the social sci­ences and the human­i­ties, my core fields of exper­tise include:

  • Human geog­ra­phy
  • His­to­ry
  • Polit­i­cal sci­ence
  • Soci­ol­o­gy

  • Edu­ca­tion­al research
  • Reli­gious stud­ies
  • Ger­man stud­ies

The overarching context: translation as academic writing

In aca­d­e­m­ic dis­course, cor­rect cita­tion is of the utmost impor­tance: it is only through the ver­i­fi­able traces of author­ship run­ning through a text that read­ers can cor­rob­o­rate state­ments and data and con­tin­ue the pur­suit of research begun by oth­ers. While it is obvi­ous in prin­ci­ple that this trans­paren­cy must be pre­served in aca­d­e­m­ic trans­la­tions, adher­ing to ele­men­tary stan­dards of aca­d­e­m­ic prac­tice is not always easy for trans­la­tors. Con­sid­er the case of a hypo­thet­i­cal author pon­der­ing upon the diver­gent opin­ions of three fur­ther aca­d­e­mics work­ing in the same field. When her com­ments on the trio are trans­lat­ed into a lan­guage that uses dif­fer­ent gram­mat­i­cal struc­tures to mark indi­rect speech, the risk aris­es that state­ments could become dis­tort­ed, take on new con­no­ta­tions, or sim­ply be mis­at­trib­uted. It is impor­tant that trans­la­tors are aware of these pit­falls and on their guard to ensure no errors creep in when ref­er­ences are being dis­en­tan­gled and then reassem­bled afresh in a new lan­guage.

Whether con­tri­bu­tions are accept­ed for pub­li­ca­tion in an essay vol­ume or spe­cial­ist jour­nal may also depend on whether cer­tain for­mal or tech­ni­cal stan­dards applic­a­ble to aca­d­e­m­ic writ­ing have been adhered to. These include, for exam­ple, the cor­rect use of for­mat tem­plates pro­vid­ed by a pub­lish­er, or adher­ence to house styles or oth­er edi­to­r­i­al guide­lines. As a trans­la­tor, I pay care­ful atten­tion to such aspects.

The reception context: media and audiences

Academic knowledge is communicated in different arenas

Lec­tures, for exam­ple, need to be man­age­able for speak­ers and acces­si­ble to lis­ten­ers, and this means that they are trans­lat­ed dif­fer­ent­ly to texts which will be read silent­ly rather than heard. I usu­al­ly ask what form texts will be used in so that I can come up with trans­la­tions that fit the intend­ed recep­tion con­text, and I some­times deliv­er more than one ver­sion of a piece, for exam­ple a pub­li­ca­tion-ready man­u­script and an MP3 file with a spo­ken lec­ture text.

To annotate or not to annotate?

Even texts intend­ed main­ly for a pure­ly aca­d­e­m­ic read­er­ship can be addressed to quite diverse tar­get groups. Some texts are aimed at high­ly spe­cial­ist audi­ences with­in a sin­gle dis­ci­pline, and trans­la­tors can safe­ly assume that the vast major­i­ty of read­ers will pos­sess par­tic­u­lar lan­guage skills or sub­ject-spe­cif­ic knowl­edge that ren­der the addi­tion of explana­to­ry notes or the trans­la­tion of quo­ta­tions super­flu­ous. Oth­er texts address a more diverse read­er­ship, per­haps because their pub­li­ca­tion in an inter­dis­ci­pli­nary or trans­dis­ci­pli­nary con­text is antic­i­pat­ed. In this lat­ter case, it may be advis­able for trans­la­tors to smug­gle some extra back­ground infor­ma­tion into their trans­la­tions (or, in rare instances, to add anno­ta­tions) in order to make the trans­la­tion more acces­si­ble to a wider read­er­ship. Adding too lit­tle infor­ma­tion and giv­ing too much can both frus­trate read­ers: the aim should always be a trans­la­tion read­ers find nei­ther incom­pre­hen­si­ble nor clut­tered. I use tact and finesse as a trans­la­tor (and liaise close­ly with authors and clients) to ensure that addi­tions are made spar­ing­ly, incon­spic­u­ous­ly and in a man­ner that does not come across as patro­n­is­ing.

I look for­ward to dis­cov­er­ing more about your research and your trans­la­tion project and see­ing how your text could gain in trans­la­tion. If you have a lec­ture, an arti­cle, a project report or a fund­ing appli­ca­tion that needs trans­lat­ing, I will be delight­ed to help! You can con­tact me using the form below or direct­ly at sarah@s‑swift.de.