Answered By: Patricia Cossard
Last Updated: May 22, 2017     Views: 90


Many journals published outside of the U.S. include titles and abstracts in English in our databases, even though the actual text of the articles may only be available in a foreign language. Those are not automatically translated, and especially for more recent articles, it's very unlikely that an existing English version is available.

If you find an article that would be very good for your research but is not available in English, there are a few ways to get a translation (although, the Libraries do not provide this service). Depending on the quality you need (Are you just trying to get the gist of the article? Do you want to quote it in your work?), these range from free to rather pricey.

Google Translate: this is probably the best free machine translation system out there. It works better for some languages than others, and the product probably won't read like natural English. Words will be out of order, but you can usually get the general meaning.

Grad Students: Some of the graduate students on campus who are studying a language or who are originally from other countries offer translation services. While this can be a good option if you need a lower cost solution, they are still not typically professional translators, and therefore may not deliver a high-quality, publication level product. You can contact the various language departments on campus or UMD's International Student & Scholar Services.

Professional translators: If you need a high-quality, publication-level English version, a professional translator is the best option. The American Translator's Association (ATA) tests and certifies translators in the US, and they are available in a directory on their website:

They also have a nice brochure called "Translation: Getting it Right" that makes good recommendations and points out common pitfalls:

Some things to look for in a translator are native speakers in the target language (most people only translate well into their native language, not both ways), a degree in translation/interpretation (Monterey and Kent State have the best programs in the US), at least 5 years of experience, and having passed the translation test at organizations such as the World Bank, the State Department, etc. 

Translation companies: There are many translation companies in this area (also listed on the ATA website), but they may not be the best option unless you have a very large project, as they usually have minimum fees of up to $300.

Translating a document into another language in a way that sounds natural and yet accurately conveys the meaning is a challenging and nuanced process. Many professional translators have honed their craft over a number of years, and produce documents that will never be matched by a machine translation system like Google Translate.


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