Researcher Resources

How to Make Translating Academic Papers Less Challenging

In the early 1900s, if you asked someone to select the language of science, English would have ranked low on the list. German, French, and Italian would have been considered more favorable options, as researchers and scientists often preferred to communicate their ideas in their native languages. However, around 1918, following the end of World War I, English emerged as the predominant scientific language. This shift coincided with the United States’ ascent as a key player in the global scientific community. 1

The world of science has grown by leaps and bounds and changed a lot since then. It has become more inclusive and is no longer considered as the domain of English-speaking researchers alone. There are now up to 7,000 different languages spoken worldwide, and many researchers choose to write their papers in their local or native language instead of English. However, to make research papers in non-English languages visible and accessible to the broader scientific community, it is essential to translate them into English.2 It is incumbent upon the author to ensure that the translated paper accurately communicates their research findings. Neglecting this responsibility can result in the familiar “lost in translation” scenario. 

Challenges of Translating Research Papers

Translating research papers presents a unique set of challenges because of the need for a deep understanding of the subject matter, adherence to scientific abstracts, complexity of sentence structure, and more. Beyond the linguistic and conceptual challenges, there are also hurdles in terms of cost, time, and quality. Let’s examine each of these factors. 

1. Cost: High-quality academic paper translation comes at a cost, especially when dealing with complex academic papers. Hiring native speakers with scientific and technical expertise adds to the expense. Furthermore, the intricacies of academic language may require additional time and effort, further driving up the cost. 

2. Time: Academic paper translation is not a swift process and can be time-consuming, especially if the subject is complex and demands accuracy in the translated text. It requires adherence to proper style and structure and meticulous proofreading. As a result, the translation of a quality academic paper demands time and may not be in sync with the urgency often associated with academic publishing and research dissemination. 

3. Quality: Maintaining the integrity and quality of the original manuscript is critical. Rushing through the translation process can compromise clarity, potentially leading to errors in interpretation, grammar, or spelling. Achieving the desired quality level requires maintaining a delicate balance between the nuances of both the source and target languages. 

Deploying AI Translation Tools

While general-purpose online AI translation tools are available to researchers for translating academic texts, their output quality remains a limitation. These tools are trained on generic data and lack the specialized knowledge required to navigate scientific jargon and academic language accurately. Additionally, authors often use online AI translators in conjunction with grammar checkers as part of their text refinement process. This is a common approach, where authors seek to validate the reliability of machine translation results by cross-referencing them with a grammar checker.5  

In addressing the above challenges, specialized online translation platforms are a promising solution for translating research papers. One such platform, Paperpal, offers a powerful alternative to researchers and academics. Paperpsal integrates a “Translate” feature that seamlessly provides academic translation services within Paperpal. What sets this platform apart is its reliance on robust AI systems, particularly neural machine translation, which excels at handling translations across nearly 30 languages. Researchers who have used the tool have highlighted the ability to accurately translate nuances and effectively convey ideas, even within the intricacies of technical contexts.  

Powering Ahead

The world of science is undergoing accelerated change, with more scientists and researchers from different geographies actively solving problems and making new scientific discoveries. Even as the language of science continues to remain English, greater collaboration among other researchers can facilitate even more accelerated scientific progress. Additionally, it is time that the world discovers and recognizes the new Einsteins, Newtons, and Madame Curies that are working tirelessly in different parts of the world. But in order to do so, their works will need to be translated and made available in the common language of science, English.  

References: 

  1. Why is English The Main Language Of Science? – Elsevier
  2. China rises to first place in most cited papers – Science.org
  3. The Challenges of Translating Academic Texts: Strategies and Solutions – Training Express
  4. Why It’s Best to Ask a Professional When It Comes To Translation – Elsevier
  5. Academic translation simplified! Paperpal introduces the “Translate” feature aimed at ESL researchers – Paperpal

Paperpal is a comprehensive AI writing toolkit that helps students and researchers achieve 2x the writing in half the time. It leverages 21+ years of STM experience and insights from millions of research articles to provide in-depth academic writing, language editing, and submission readiness support to help you write better, faster. 

Get accurate academic translations, rewriting support, grammar checks, vocabulary suggestions, and generative AI assistance that delivers human precision at machine speed. Try for free or upgrade to Paperpal Prime starting at US$19 a month to access premium features, including consistency, plagiarism, and 30+ submission readiness checks to help you succeed. 

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