I often insert quotes from foreign languages in my undergraduate essays. I translate them in English in the main text, but do I have to put the original text in the footnotes? It will make them long and unpleasant.

I'm currently working with the MHRA referencing style, but I wasn't able to find any information online. Any suggestion also from other referencing styles (MLA, Chicago, APA) will be appreciated.


EDIT: I'm asking here because my teacher has not replied to this question and I cannot go to see her.

  • Who is your audience? If this is a journal article, consult the journal, but if it's a professor grading your essay for a class, consult the professor. There's not enough information about your situation in your question for us to tell.
    – Bill Barth
    Commented Apr 15, 2016 at 15:07
  • Thank you for your reply. It's one of my undergraduate essays - not an important piece, but it relies heavily on foreign language sources. Commented Apr 15, 2016 at 15:10
  • I have already asked the professor without receiving any reply, and the deadline is approaching, so here's why I am here. Commented Apr 15, 2016 at 15:10
  • Go to office hours if there are any between now and the due date.
    – Bill Barth
    Commented Apr 15, 2016 at 15:14
  • Unfortunately, I'm now in another country and this is impossible, considering that the due date in in ten days. Anyway, thanks for the suggestions, I'll edit my post to make it clearer. Commented Apr 15, 2016 at 15:17

1 Answer 1


Here a few solutions, all of which should be fine unless your professor explicitly rejects one of them. Since the MHRA (from what I can tell glancing over it) doesn't include explicit recommendations, as long as you indicate the source of your translated text and the original, I can't imagine them being so unreasonable to count off.

  • Option 1: Find a translation
    This might not be possible, but if you can, just cite it instead. Life made easy for everyone, unless it's a terrible translation.
  • Option 2: If short, include both
    I would only do this if the handful of foreign words are pertinent to the discussion (perhaps due to ambiguity or double entendre), or are relatively famous. You would probably want to quote Julius Caesar as …"Veni, vidi, vici" (p. 38), which is to say "I came, I saw, I conquered"…. For such short translations, if you did them yourself or they are well known, there's no real need to indicate the source of the translation.
  • Option 3: Original/translation in text, translation/original in footnote/endnote.
    This prevents your main text from being too cluttered but could quickly turn into an abuse of footnotes/endnotes, especially if you have a lot of relatively short quotes. If you just have two or three long block quotes, this might be best, though.
  • Option 4: Translate to English and clarify.
    This is my preferred approach. Just cite in English, but in your citation, add a little extra saying "translation mine" not unlike the common "emphasis mine" to indicate italicization not present in the original. From what I can tell, in MHRA you actually put "emphasis added" in parentheses inside the quotation marks, so you may just put at the beginning or end "(translated from the French)" or similar. Or, since MHRA appears to use footnotes for first citations, just include the text after the reference entry "I have translated all citations from this source to English" (or similar), and never worry about it again.
  • Thanks, your reply was really useful. It's just frustrating because most of my quotes are script dialogues or critical pieces which always lose something in translation. In addition, the essay will be marked just by my teacher, who knows these languages, so translations are basically useless (unless it reaches a wider audience). Thanks again! Commented Apr 18, 2016 at 10:12
  • @kjabflweanbf if you know your teacher knows the languages, I don't see any need to translate. If you were to publish, the journal would let you know if translations were necessary Commented Apr 18, 2016 at 10:17

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