MLA style citations of unofficial translations
April 29, 2010 4:50 PM   Subscribe

MLA Citation Filter: How to cite quotations from an unofficial translation that a friend did for me as a favor?

I'm writing a paper on German cinema, in which I cite a book I was only able to find in German (I don't believe it has ever actually been translated into English). Since I don't speak the language myself, I had a friend of mine translate relevant passages. (She is not a professional translator, but fluent in both German and English.) How do I cite her work? Should I cite it at all? Every reference I've been able to find only mentions official translations of the entire work. Thanks!
posted by punchdrunkhistory to Writing & Language (4 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I would count it as a personal communication, and cite it similarly to an email, if you're going to be directly quoting your friend. If you're only citing the information from the book (that you understand through the help of your friend), cite the book itself. The first time you cite the book, you could also drop an endnote acknowledging your friend by name and crediting her for translation help.
posted by Tesseractive at 4:56 PM on April 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

I haven't done this in MLA, but in a law journal article I edited we cited a foreign language source this way: [normal citation] (as translated by Friend's Name; translation on file with the author). It may not be the prettiest, but it accomplishes the goal of accurately citing your sources and allowing verification if necessary.
posted by katemonster at 5:01 PM on April 29, 2010 [2 favorites]

Friends of mine who work in foreign languages will cite the non-english original, state the translator (usually themselves, but in this case your friend), and include the original quotation in the original language so that readers familier with that language can check the translation. This is in papers and dissertations, of course, where there are no limits on footnotes.

If you are using MLA parenthetical citations, you can put the citation in the parenthesis as usual, and use a footnote at the end of the quote to note the name of the translator and give the orginal quotation. MLA allows for explanatory footnotes. I don't know which citation system my Anglo-Saxonist friend used, but I do know that she had massive footnotes filled with Old English which she had translated into modern English for quoting in her dissertation.
posted by jb at 9:14 PM on April 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

jb's answer seemed the most clear-cut -- I hadn't even thought of including the original translation. I wrote the parenthetical citation for the original author, then included a footnote reading, "as translated by [Friend's Name]; original reads: [German text]". I then just listed the original book's information in the documentation. I'll run it by my professor before I hand it in, though! Thanks so much for all your help.
posted by punchdrunkhistory at 5:22 AM on April 30, 2010

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