When I was working on my dissertation, I had translated some first chapters of a book that I was using into my native language. The reasons I do this because I could consider myself pretty good at reading English comparing two other students in my group (iBT TOEFL reading score: 25/30), and because my specialization was very new to my country (there was (and still is) only three groups, including our group, work in this), therefore seriously lacking good resources. While translating not really prove that I can afford a PhD, it does indicate that I have some contributions to the scientific community. But the translation is unfinished (only first 4 of 25 chapters are translated). I can continue to finish it, but it won't be in near future. Should I write this down on my CV/SOP?

  • Are you translating "my book" (i.e. your thesis) or are you translating "a specialty book" -- i.e., something someone else authored. When answering, I assumed the latter.
    – RoboKaren
    Feb 6, 2015 at 18:11
  • yes, the latter.
    – Ooker
    Feb 6, 2015 at 18:12
  • I made an edit to clarify, feel free to roll back (or ask me to roll back) if it doesn't meet with your approval.
    – RoboKaren
    Feb 6, 2015 at 18:14
  • it's good. No problem
    – Ooker
    Feb 6, 2015 at 18:20

1 Answer 1


Unfortunately, most hiring committees would at best ignore this contribution and at worst wonder if you allocate your time wisely.

The work of translators is (unfortunately) given little value in academic communities with the exception of the field of literature and even there it is deprecated. The rationale is that the work is not the result of independent research nor does it add any intellectual value -- it is inherently wholly derivative.

There might be some association of value if your translation had been finished, published by a reputable scientific publisher in your country, and you had been given awards or otherwise acknowledged for providing an important service to your community. But even then, there is a perception of someone as being "just a translator" that is hard to shake off.

Note that Famous People® are allowed to do translations and be recognized for it, but Famous People® have latitude in their work that non-famous people don't.

At the very worst, a committee might worry that the fact that the translation is unfinished and that you have put effort into doing something with little recognized value means that you don't allocate your energy and time wisely, and that you are not capable of independent research.

The same also applies for authoring textbooks. Textbooks are also seen as inherently derivative and while they make the publisher and author money, are not indications of original scholarship.

At this point in your career, you want to be seen as the generator of original scholarship.

  • Thanks for your answer. What do you mean by original scholarship?
    – Ooker
    Feb 5, 2015 at 16:12
  • Scholarship based on your own research.
    – RoboKaren
    Feb 5, 2015 at 19:20
  • In general, does contribution to scientific community serve a role in applying a scholarship? As I know, US schools prefer students who is active in community service.
    – Ooker
    Feb 6, 2015 at 2:26
  • Please note that there may be very high value to your translation work in your country. I am speaking of how translation gets viewed in the American academic setting.
    – RoboKaren
    Feb 6, 2015 at 18:04
  • 3
    There is no positive benefit because it's unpublished and because it's unverifiable by search/promotion/retention committees. If you could show your translation is being used in X number of schools, then there might be minimal positive benefit, but again it's hard to shake off the label of "just a translator."
    – RoboKaren
    Feb 6, 2015 at 18:22

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .