So I'm a really bored french student and there's a thought that occurred to me of something that could kill three birds with one Stone : improving my English, allowing me to learn New things and making research more broadly available to the ones who are interested in them but are blocked by the language barrier. And this is translating articles or papers of researchs or studies in french. I would guess that there's not really anything preventing me to do that for personnal use, but what if I wanted to, as I stated, make the translated versions available on a website or a database ? What should I know about that or what should I do in order to meet both the legal and ethical requirements of such a thing ?

Thanks in avance for your answers.

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    Yes, you can translate. See https://scholar.google.co.uk/scholar?q="English+translation" for examples (possibly in citations). Here's an example hosted in France: halshs.archives-ouvertes.fr/halshs-00996315/document
    – user2768
    Dec 5, 2018 at 10:21
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    Great idea! Better to stick with open access, preprints, or historical papers. Publishing companies take their copyright very seriously.
    – Tom Kelly
    Dec 5, 2018 at 11:09
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    You can do it, if you have the technical vocabulary in both languages. I was lucky and did part of my engineering degree in France so i was exposed to the French technical vocab to match the English vocab I had already.
    – Solar Mike
    Dec 5, 2018 at 11:21
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    @Nätsumura I have friends who are technical translators and I have done them myself... The learning curve is steep and, based on your post you have some way to go... Good luck.
    – Solar Mike
    Dec 5, 2018 at 11:40
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    Listen to @SolarMike. If the content is, say, physics, it is quite likely that someone teaching English, high level or not, without a physics background will not be of much help. Technical fields use vocabulary in quite specific ways that don’t map well onto common usage.
    – Jon Custer
    Dec 7, 2018 at 3:27

1 Answer 1


Ethically, I do not see a problem with this. If you reference the original work and make it clear that it is translated then I think it should be fine.

The problem here is from a copyright point of view. Many journals are subject to copyright and if you post the findings online then someone could not pay to read the documentation and just go to your website and then translate it into whatever language they wish.

I must mention that even though you think you're doing something that benefits others, without even making profits, you can still be in trouble.

If you're really interested in translating a particular piece of work you would need permission from both the author and the publisher (if you're going to publish it online).

My advice would be to ask permission from authors who have unpublished work. An example in finance is John Cochranes guide to PhD writing, this was translated from English to Chinese and placed on his personal website with credit given to the translator.

This way, you don't get in any trouble and you are still gaining the benefits of translating that you mentioned in the question.

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    First of all Thanks for the details, indeed the copyright side of things is where I thought the problem lies, so the Best would be to either get the permission from both parts involved, the journal and the author, or to get in touch with authors whose work is not published in a journal, like on his own Website or on something else than a journal ?
    – Nätsumura
    Dec 5, 2018 at 10:30
  • @Nätsumura if you think this answer is good enough you can accept it! Dec 5, 2018 at 10:34
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    I'll dig into it, both on the scientific and the finance side
    – Nätsumura
    Dec 5, 2018 at 10:42
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    Yup, I'll probably get it checked by someone I know who could help me should I need it
    – Nätsumura
    Dec 5, 2018 at 10:45
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    @TonyChivers I had to redo a "translation" by a lady who insisted there was nothing she could not translate... Turns out she could not deal with an article about a cylindrical uni-axial stressed beam... Translation of technical things needs a specific vocabulary and knowledge...
    – Solar Mike
    Dec 5, 2018 at 11:19

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