I am really interested in translating academic material to my mother tongue. However the other day, I was talking with a professor and he advised me cease translating and start writing research papers if I want to continue my studies and start a PhD, he pointed out translation is of no value to English academicians!

I know it is very important to show your research capabilities by actually doing so but I feel shocked and a bit disappointed if this is true about the attitude towards translating academic material.

Would you tell me what you think on this and whether you think by translating I am spending my time in a wrong area?

I need to add that I am going to start my PhD outside my home country and probably in an English-speaking country.

  • 10
    Valuable to them? Possibly, especially if they speak that language. Academic translation is not done nearly enough. But valuable to you? No. It won't help your academic career very much.
    – Roger Fan
    Jun 3, 2015 at 0:02
  • @RogerFan I am going to start my PhD outside my home country and probably in an English-speaking country. So my translations will not help me to get admitted?
    – Juya
    Jun 3, 2015 at 0:06
  • 3
    Doing translations will help you be familiar with the material, and that may help you do better research. But, as aeismail says, it won't be of any direct impact.
    – Davidmh
    Jun 3, 2015 at 8:47
  • 2
    Whether you continue these translations or not, be aware that if you publish them without permission of the copyright owner, you a violating their copyright in most countries.
    – Bill Barth
    Jun 3, 2015 at 12:26
  • 2
    Right now in most disciplines of science, there is a common global language - bad English. This means that there are two groups of scientists - those that don't need translations because they read papers in English all the time anyway, and those that have no impact on the discipline because if they're not publishing in English, then noone else reads them.
    – Peteris
    Jun 3, 2015 at 16:27

2 Answers 2


Unless you're in the humanities, where the ability to translate source materials may be a critical need, what you're doing would be considered an example of a "service activity." You can certainly list such an activity on your CV and applications, but its impact on an admissions committee decision will be minuscule. You're much better off, as your advisors suggested, producing original research results.

Moreover, if you're planning to study in an English-speaking country, you will want to spend time improving your written and oral communication skills, rather than translating materials into your native tongue.

  • The OP seems to be talking about translations to English, from his or her mother tongue.
    – Relaxed
    Jun 3, 2015 at 18:20
  • 3
    @Relaxed The OP states in their post: "I am really interested in translating academic material to my mother tongue."
    – Mad Jack
    Jun 3, 2015 at 19:30
  • I have an IELTS certificate with a band score of 7.5 (My writing score: 7.5). Nevertheless, I am all with you I need to move towards expertise in writing and speaking Academic English.
    – Juya
    Jun 4, 2015 at 0:29

For PhD admissions in the humanities and social sciences, yes I think there would be some value. One has to have a fairly good knowledge of the topic material in order to do an adequate translation. If your translated work was authorized, was of a substantial nature, was published by a notable press, and has received a warm reception in your home country then I think it'd be a net bonus to your application.

However, if you're just translating bits and pieces or translating to the web or other non-reviewed outlet, then it's not really a notable use of your time.

If you've already done the work, put it on your CV but if you have a choice, you'd be much better advised to put your energy into writing peer-reviewed research articles -- either in English, or in your home language and translating those to English.

  • Thx! Both my BA and MA was done in Tourism Management and I am going to start a PhD in the same field.
    – Juya
    Jun 4, 2015 at 0:17

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