While looking for literature relevant to my research topic, I came across a number of papers in Russian. Russian is Greek to me. What should I do? Is there an online platform that may help me? What about Google Translate? How effective is it?
First, ask an academic librarian to help you find a translation. You can also ask the authors, assuming they are still alive, if they know of a translation into a language you are more comfortable with.
For some fields, though not so much for technical ones, Google Translate does an adequate job. But technical translation is still very difficult due to specialized vocabulary and such.
If you can't read the paper, see if you can read some of the papers that it cites. Or try to read other papers that cite it.
Did you consider paying for a translation? If the research is done on behalf of a company, then providing a translation for hundred or so pages would be pennies for them. If it's for a university, maybe the grant could cover it. This advice won't be applicable for all circumstances, but for others it would be the most straightforward and error-proof method.
Just imagine how many misunderstanding you can create by relying on Google Translate alone. I use it often for lyric translation and there were numerous times, when I completely misunderstood a song because of the broken translation.
Obviously, the best options are for you to get a friend who knows the language or learn the language yourself. But in the meantime, try this:
- Download the paper as a PDF file.
- If the paper is a little bit old or is composed of scanned images, use a good software to do Optical Character Recognition (Adobe Acrobat should do the trick).
- While the PDF file is open, copy a few paragraphs of text (3 or 4 should be ok)
- Open an Internet browser such as Chrome.
- Paste the text (Ctrl-V) into the address bar (yes, the address bar!) This will collapse all of the lines into a single, unbroken section of text.
Note: this step is actually quite important. It is sometimes the case that when you copy a few lines of text from a PDF into Google Translate, the pasted text will appear as broken sentences (i.e., broken at the line break points), and as a result Google Translate will only translate each of the fragmented, incomplete sentences instead of reading the fragments as a single continuous sentence. This will negatively affect translation quality, which is already not that great to begin with.
- Select the whole text from the address bar (Ctrl-A)
- Cut or copy the text (Ctrl-X or Ctrl-C)
- Paste the text into Google Translate.
- If necessary, print each translated section as a PDF file so that you can reference it later.
- Repeat the process until you've read the whole thing.