Related (not duplicates):
- Is it appropriate to cite a paper in a language I don't understand?
- Would it be ethical to hire a proofreader for theses and academic articles?
One of the things that I have found extremely helpful when writing in a non-native language is to use tools such as Google Translate, where I will first write what I want to say in my native language, put it into the translator, and then revise the translated output based on my actual knowledge of the language. Specifically, I am often able to recognize the correctness of a passage in that language (e.g. word usage, false friends, correct verb tenses, spelling errors, appropriate levels of politeness, etc.) better than I can write fluently from scratch.
When doing such a thing in an academic paper, is it generally necessary to either:
- Disclose that an automated translation tool was used to assist in the composition of the paper?
- Formally cite the translation tool (e.g. Google Translate)?
I'm not asking about any specific situation (contact your instructor or editor), but about best practices and general understandings. I'm not asking whether it's acceptable to copypaste directly from the output of an online translator straight into a manuscript, thesis, or course essay (that would be crazy), but whether the fact that one has used a translator in a non-trivial way can be considered unethical. Would the answer differ based on context? For example, my instinct tells me that this would probably not be ok for coursework in which mastery of the target language is a main focus (e.g. you are taking Advanced English as a Second Language and are assigned to write a short story), but would be more acceptable in a context (coursework or journal submission) in which mastery of the target language is not the focus (but rather the medium of demonstrating mastery over or research findings regarding some other thing), such as writing a paper on astrophysics for a journal that requires that all papers be in English (the journal is really focused on your astrophysics findings, and the language is just a standardized medium of information exchange, i.e. a tool to do so).
It's already well-accepted that using general language reference tools such as dictionaries, thesauri, grammars, and style guides are not unethical, but it's not clear if automated translation tools are truly analogous to them.
In a nutshell, the process I'm speaking of is as follows:
- Write my original composition, findings, thoughts, analyses, etc. in my native language, without doing anything remotely resembling plagiarism.
- Send what I wrote through a translator.
- Use the output of the translator as a framework or draft, going through it and making appropriate corrections (conjugations, false friends, incorrect synonym chosen (e.g. translating "hot" as in temperature as "spicy" or "sexy"), awkward phraseology, archaic language, inappropriate diction, blatant translation errors, etc.), but without recomposing the entire paper from scratch in the target language.