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I've recently finished obtaining my PhD in a non-English speaking country. All of my papers have been published locally, so I've never felt the need to translate them into English before. Now I'm looking to continue my career as a postdoc in an English-speaking part of the world. One of the basic requirements in Universities abroad is to provide samples of your previous publications. I wonder what my course of action should be.

I have translated all the annotations, keywords, reference information and short summaries of my works into English - but is that good enough? Should I also translate the texts of my most important works and perhaps even my PhD thesis (which would take an enormous effort, to be frank)?

Or should I focus instead on writing more articles on the topic of my research and publish them in international journals? How valuable would my translated articles be to potential employers if they weren't published in an English journal in the first place - would they be taken into account when considering my candidacy for employment?

Thank you!

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    "Or should I focus instead on writing more articles on the topic of my research and publish them in international journals?" This would be a worthwhile thing to do no matter what. – GrotesqueSI Sep 8 '19 at 15:11
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    What field are you in? Some are much more English-centric than others, and that will affect the answer. – jakebeal Sep 8 '19 at 16:01
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    More particularly, is your research topic related to the language of publication? – Anonymous Physicist Sep 8 '19 at 16:51
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    @jakebeal, I'm in linguistics, and my PhD topic and all published papers cover the issues of translation from English into Russian (although the methodology can be applied to other languages/cultures, as well). The practical application and results of my work specifically apply to the Russian language. My main area of interest lies in translation theory. – Xaenor Sep 8 '19 at 17:32
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    @Xaenor Given that you are specifically working in linguistics as applied to the language your papers are written in, I would expect there to be much more flexibility in people interpreting your CV than if you were working in, say, computer science. – jakebeal Sep 8 '19 at 17:34
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It depends on the language

The accessibility of academic publishing is not a binary of English vs everything else. Rather, one can think in terms of a continuum, with major world languages towards one end, and languages with limited global reach at the other. Moreover, this continuum is highly dependent on geography (e.g.: French is spoken widely in Africa; Spanish is spoken widely in the Americas) and context (literature, area studies, and linguistics are obvious examples, but by no means the only fields where languages other than English are very important). In assessing whether the language in which you publish is a "major" language for your purposes, consider:

  • is it one of the handful of languages used very widely in large parts of the world?

  • is it used widely in the publication's sub-field/specialism?

  • is it used widely in the field/specialism of the job/position for which you are applying?

I am based in the UK, and most of the literature I cite is in English, but my field has a lot of important literature published in German, to which I make reference (like many scholars in my field, I can read German reasonably well, although I would not describe myself as fluent). Some of my colleagues have published articles in German despite being native English speakers.

The point I want to make here is that publishing in English is not automatically more prestigious.

For the purposes of applying for a job in an English-speaking university...

  • it is important to demonstrate is that you are capable of publishing in English in a medium subject to peer review, and...

    • ...translating your existing publications would be one way of demonstrating that, if you then publish the translation in a peer-reviewed medium (in my field, it is quite common for collected volumes to include chapters that are translations of work published originally in another language -- usually, these translations are done by a third party, such as the editor of the volume)
    • ...writing a new article/chapter/book and getting it published in a peer-reviewed medium in English would be another way of demonstrating that, with the added bonus that you are enlarging your publications-list
  • publications in English are more accessible, but publications in other languages are still valuable, and...

    • ...providing an English-language abstract is an excellent idea (in some fields, there are scholarly databases that do this for you)
    • ...there is still a good possibility, if the language is used widely, that the publication will be read. When applying for a particular position, you could scrutinise the profiles of your prospective colleagues. It may be the case that one or more of them has published in your language, reviewed literature in your language, or translated literature from your language to another language. If so, there is a good chance that somebody would be able to read your publications.
  • so-called "internationalisation" is very fashionable in UK academia at the moment, many British academics take their obligations as global citizens seriously, and engage with non-English publications and...
    • ...may value a colleague who has a track record of working and publishing in multiple languages (as long as English is one of them)

Conclusion

Since you have already written English-language abstracts for your existing non-English publications, my advice would be to concentrate on writing new publications rather than spend a lot of time translating existing ones. Having said that, if you have a particularly significant/groundbreaking paper, it may be worth translating that one into English (and into other major languages), ideally with view to publishing the translated version in a peer-reviewed medium (when you do this, make sure that you get credit as the translator of your own work). You may need to get permission from the publisher of the original version, but any decent academic publisher should be accommodating (provided that all parties sign a licensing agreement).

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    This is a fantastic reply - I'm very grateful that you took time to write it! Thanks for the links and sources, too. I'm glad to hear that there's a tendency towards inclusion of works in more languages - and like others, you mention how it's important to move forward and write more papers in English. I'll follow your advice and focus on my future work - this is going to be a requirement in an academic field anyway. Once again, many thanks! – Xaenor Sep 8 '19 at 21:16
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    You are welcome; good luck with your work. – anon Sep 8 '19 at 22:31
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    This answer makes me curious what academic field there is, where German is so important that even native English speakers feel compelled to publish in German. German used to be the language of theoretical mathematics and for a while also Economics, I think, but those times have long gone. The only obvious one I can think of is "Germanistik" (German Studies). Anyway, that's off-topic, but it piqued my curiosity. – Jörg W Mittag Sep 9 '19 at 18:36
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Research is done in English

I'm from CS, that guides my opinion/answer. Also, that's my personal opinion, I know plenty of people that disagree with it, and that discussion is a bit beyond the point. I just wanted to say that because in all likelihood your publications will be ignored, translated or not, especially the Ph.D. dissertation (even in English, almost nobody will read it. Maybe parts, never the whole).

They will be ignored because since they were not in English, the venues are not 'top venues'. If I have to choose between a candidate with 1 good English publication (CVIU, PAMI, good IEEE) versus 10 local ones not in English, the former will win, hands down. Why?

  • I expect my team to write in English (even while I was in Brazil), not only publications but code comments, documentation, even internal technical notes. Research is about dissemination, by choosing any other language, you are effectively reducing your potential readers. And I would have no idea how you would write in English from non-English papers.
  • It is considerably harder to get one paper in a good venue than 10 in local ones. I'd trade all my publications for one paper at Nature in a heartbeat (not that I have a lot, but the point remains). After a while, you know which conferences will publish bad papers, and you just remove them from the list. Even if your paper is the good outlier.

My suggestion would be: do translate the titles/abstracts. Maybe make a short document (4-8 pages) summarizing the best results from that corpus. Then share the English paper that you are currently working on. Personally, I'd give bonus points if nobody else reviewed it because that would be an accurate sample of what you can currently do by yourself (make that redundantly clear, if that's the case, so they adjust expectations).

Additionally, include links (at least) to the original publications, in case someone on the committee can actually read them. Committee diversity is a thing, and it can work in your favor there.


Some fields consider publications in other languages, but it not as highly. Some math can be published in French or German. Some other fields might have similar exceptions.

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    Just to follow up on your last comment, in math there are several top math journals that are French and still often have papers written in French. Publications in top journals that are written in French are considered just as highly as they would be in English, and most mathematicians can read math papers in French. I think even German and Russian are very rare for research papers now, and any other language would be used only for expository work. – Noah Snyder Sep 8 '19 at 16:51
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    @Xaenor, well, I did, making clear that was unrevised work in progress. My CS bias may be more relevant to you than I thought. Take my answer with a handful of salt. – Fábio Dias Sep 8 '19 at 17:54
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    @FábioDias While this is true in many cases, for the specific asker I would disagree with your take, given that they are specifically working in linguistics with application to the language they are working in. – jakebeal Sep 8 '19 at 21:28
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    Could you clarify what is CS? Sorry if it is obvious to you but it seems like an important piece of context which I completely missed. – Diego Sánchez Sep 9 '19 at 8:13
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    CS = Computer Science, but +1 for avoiding acronyms. – Blaisorblade Sep 9 '19 at 10:15
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Just list them. Put a translation of the title into English in parentheses.

It is what it is. Not the end of the World, but sure English is probably better in general. Has become the scientific lingua franca (sorry Francophones).

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    What makes you thing the asker is a scientist? – Anonymous Physicist Sep 8 '19 at 16:49
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    And offer to provide English summaries of any of them if requested. – Buffy Sep 8 '19 at 18:00
  • @Buffy, yeah, I absolutely do that. Just wondered how to maximise my chances of success, since most places don't give you a reason for why they refused your application - you know how it is with employers these days :) Thanks for the suggestion! – Xaenor Sep 8 '19 at 18:03
  • I'm guessing you will be fine. Now if you want to translate a mathematics paper in Russian into English, I'd love it. A pretty hard go. The author's native language was Czech. – Buffy Sep 8 '19 at 18:11
  • @Buffy, I'm not the one to shy away from a challenge, and I am a professional translator, after all :) If you are serious about that request, could you write me in private somehow? I'd like to assess the scope, terminology and overall complexity of the task before agreeing to something like that. – Xaenor Sep 8 '19 at 18:43

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