Integrating Foreign Languages into Academic English Writing
Many pieces of academic and scientific writing in English require the use of words, phrases and longer passages in a foreign language. It is essential that such additions be integrated into the English prose around them in ways that enable the unique qualities of the foreign words to be retained while the author’s meaning is made clear to readers who may come to the text without an understanding of those foreign words.
There are a wide variety of strategies for presenting foreign languages in formal 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 admitted to having as a young student 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.
If there is any doubt about your anticipated audience understanding the foreign words you quote, a translation should 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 which case an acknowledgement such as ‘all translations are my own’ should be added. In some situations, the foreign words may not be necessary and a translation alone will suffice, but remember that it 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 Spanish translation, any quotations from that book should be taken from the original English version, not translated back into English from the Spanish translation.
If you need to use only a word or two of a foreign language and do not intend it as a quotation, the word or phrase can simply be placed in italic font, with an excellent example being the Latin nomenclature for genera and species, including the name for the herb rosemary: Rosmarinus officinalis (in italics here, though they may not show up in this post). As with foreign-language quotations, confusion should be prevented by providing a definition for such words if you are uncertain about the ability of readers to understand the foreign terms you use. In the example here, the meaning of the Latin is explained before the words are introduced, but a definition could alternatively be provided in parentheses after the name.
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