Works that need to be translated into English?
July 2, 2014 3:56 PM   Subscribe

Is there a way to find out what sorts of academic materials would benefit from an original or updated English translation? I'm sure that one way to figure this out would be to know your academic discipline well. Are there other ways of determining if there is a strong need in a particular discipline for additional translation work?

In addition to this general question, are you aware of any works that you are personally surprised have not yet been translated?
posted by SpacemanStix to Education (6 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I'm not sure there's a way to find out in general, but there is in my worklife. Academic research the cultivation, processing and just about everything else to do with coffee is maddeningly hard to find in English, and what does exist is fairly outdated. Most of it is in Spanish, with the rest in Portuguese and Italian.

I've personally paid an exchange student to translate a study over from Spanish to English.
posted by furnace.heart at 4:05 PM on July 2, 2014

My field (physical chemistry) has a lot of classic work that's only available in German. The really famous, seminal stuff has been translated, and most modern stuff is available in translation, but older stuff that's maybe one tier down from the top in impact and fame is frequently not available in English. (Until a few decades ago, it was not uncommon to see German, Russian, or French in chemistry degree requirements, and some profs will still recommend it as a potentially useful elective.)
posted by kagredon at 4:28 PM on July 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

With the stuff that I wish was translated, there are copyright issues.
posted by goethean at 4:38 PM on July 2, 2014

From time to time on the Hardcore History podcast, Dan Carlin will mention that it's tough to substantiate X or Y aspect of the story because there aren't enough sources that have been translated into English. I especially remember this in the episode about Stalingrad, and also possibly in some of the Mongol episodes. So my guess is that there are a lot of Russian and Chinese historical sources that have not been translated into English.
posted by Sara C. at 5:32 PM on July 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

Very little of Grothendieck's EGA has been translated. (Grothendieck may or may not still want it taken out of circulation, but no one's honoring that request.) However, for an English speaker the hard part of reading it in French is the math rather than the French, even if you know almost no French, so even without the publishing weirdness, I don't know how much urge there is/was to translate it. (That said, Bourbaki was translated into English.)

To be honest, my corner of math has very little in translation. Buchberger's thesis has been translated, surprisingly. It's just kind of assumed everyone can limp through a paper in French if they need to and that there's someone around who can read German to bail you out if/when you get stuck. (We have little to nothing in Russian, which is the other big language for math.)

I did do a project as an undergrad motivated by the fact I could read Christoffel's papers in German and my professor couldn't.
posted by hoyland at 5:45 PM on July 2, 2014

There's a lot of useful reference works in linguistics that aren't in English — mostly descriptive grammars and dictionaries of minority languages.

What language they are in depends on the region: grammars and dictionaries of Mesoamerican indigenous languages tend to be in Spanish; for Amazonian languages, it's Portuguese; for Eastern and Southeast Asian minority languages, it's Mandarin; for Caucasian and Central Asian languages, Russian; and so on.

The thing is, this stuff is valuable in aggregate, but individual works aren't all that valuable alone (except to the two or three linguists who are concentrating on that specific language). It would be really, really hard to pick out a single descriptive work and say "Yeah, this one desperately needs to be translated."
posted by nebulawindphone at 6:56 PM on July 2, 2014 [2 favorites]

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