How To Integrate Words from Foreign Languages into Your Thesis or Dissertation
If you are writing your thesis or dissertation in the English language but need to use certain words, phrases or longer passages of text in another language (or more than one other language), these additions must be carefully integrated into your English prose. The foreign words should be marked as such and retain their unique qualities, and their meaning must also be clarified for readers who may come to your text without an understanding of those foreign words.
There are a number of different ways in which to present foreign languages in scholarly English writing, with the most straightforward being direct quotation. When quoting chunks of foreign texts, quotation marks should be placed around the borrowed words, and the quotation should be integrated into the grammar and syntax of the English sentences around it, just as the Latin quotation is integrated into the following sentence. Augustine confessed that as a young student he possessed a mind that ‘delectabat ludere,’ and the verbal wit that sparkles throughout his writing makes it clear that this love of play remained with him as a mature author. When passages of a foreign language are quoted in this way, italic font is not required and is, in fact, incorrect.
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To ensure that your audience, including future readers as well as your supervisory and examining committee, will understand the foreign words you quote, a translation can be included as well. For the example in the paragraph above, the translation could simply be placed in parentheses immediately after the quotation: ‘delectabat ludere (was delighted to play).’ Be sure to indicate the source of any translations you use, whether you are quoting from previously published translations, which should be included among your references, or translating the foreign passages yourself. In the latter case, it is good practice to add an acknowledgement such as ‘all translations are my own.’ The foreign words may not actually be necessary in some situations, so a translation alone may suffice, but it is a good idea to discuss the best option with your supervisor or primary mentor, and remember that any translation should appear in quotation marks just as the original would. Keep in mind as well that retranslations are not acceptable for quotation in scholarly writing, so if a book was originally published in English, but you have used it in a German translation, any quotations from that book should be taken from the original English version, not translated back into English from the German translation.
When you are using only a word or two of a foreign language and are not directly quoting it, the word or phrase can simply be placed in italic font, with an excellent example being the Latin nomenclature for genera and species, such as the name for the common herb thyme: Thymus vulgaris (in italics here, though they may not show up in this post). Potential confusion should be prevented by providing a definition for any such words if you are uncertain about the ability of your readers to understand the foreign terms you use. In my example here, the meaning of the Latin is explained before the words are introduced, but a definition could certainly be provided in parentheses after the name if necessary.
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