Typically, references in foreign language are cited with title and journal name in original language, whether they are academic or popular science books. As pointed out in this answer, popular science books, written by native authors and published by different publishers, report English, German and French references without any translation.

Of course leaving the identification of the references is vital. However, I wonder if this is the best practice for the audience who are not familiar with how academic works, especially kids. I imagine that having them written in their mother tongue will make them compelling and informative enough to read, and after reading them, they will know at least these things:

  • Academic researches are published in academic journals, collaborated by many authors
  • Titles tend to be very specified, journals are very niche
  • Consistency needs to be maintained
  • And whether they understand them or not, some terms will get into their mind, enhancing their vocabulary. To put it as Wittgenstein, "my language is the limit of my world".

The book I'm translating is What If? from Randall Munroe. It's academic enough to have several pages of references, but entertaining enough to have comic on it. What I am trying to do is to find the balance point to make an academician and a kid both happy. One reference of it goes like this:

Merlis, Timothy M., and Tapio Schneider, “Atmospheric dynamics of Earth-like tidally locked aquaplanets,” Jounal of Advances in Modeling Earth Systems 2 (December 2010); DOI:10.3894/JAMES.2010.2.13.


  1. Should this be done? I guess yes, despite of the current practice. How far should this be applied? Having the origin text first, the translation first, or only the translation if other identifications exist such as DOI or URL? As long as the audience can trace the references on their own, then there's no reason for not doing this, right? What if only some references have DOI, and some others have dead links? Should I add the DOI for every academic papers? What to do with blog posts and YouTube clips?

  2. Is there any drawback of this? Would the readers lose their interest in the middle, or having no interest in reading them at all, hence wasting the translating time?

  • I don't understand who the intended audience is for what you are writing. (Primary audience, secondary audience.) I didn't understand where the young readers fit in. // I translate scholarly articles, and I do provide translations into the language of the target audience, of both article titles and quotes from others' work. Basically, what the scholar-author and translator are aiming for is for the reader to understand the text. Apr 18, 2017 at 20:00
  • it's a popular science book, so the audience has no background in the field, and maybe academia at all. I put the young readers in since I think they are likely to read every words in the book if they really like it, even if it's the most boring part. I agree with your second point, but what do you mean?
    – Ooker
    Apr 18, 2017 at 20:11
  • Aack, what's my second point? Could you copy and past the part you didn't understand? Apr 18, 2017 at 20:52
  • The part after the double slash. I've thought you were questioning me
    – Ooker
    Apr 19, 2017 at 4:07
  • No, I wasn't asking a question in the second part, just explaining my recommended approach. Apr 19, 2017 at 21:11

1 Answer 1


Figure out what the younger portion of your target audience is, and find out how comfortable they'll be with the various languages your references and quotes are in. For example, my guess would be that your typical younger readers would be age 12? And that you are writing in German? I imagine your interested 12yo readers will be okay with most article titles given in English, so those translations could be given in footnotes. The reader who doesn't need the translation could just keep reading and not bother with the footnote. My guess is that all the French would need to be translated.

The general answer is, you need to know your audience. Give some talks in schools to get to know them better.

  • Translations in footnotes? There are several pages of them, so I don't think that's feasible. I agree that I need to research my audience, but what do you think about translating them itself? Would it acceptable? I haven't seen any precedent on this
    – Ooker
    Apr 19, 2017 at 12:56
  • 1
    "Translating them itself"? Sorry, not sure what you mean here. // The first step in research is to visit your local bookstore's science section and also a school library. While you're there, you can chat with the bookseller and any customers there are in the store, and the librarian. // Please explain "several pages of them." Usually books for children ages 9 - 14 have a section at the end of the book called "Further reading." Is that what you're talking about here, or are you trying to cite your sources as you go along? Apr 19, 2017 at 21:31
  • well, the book I'm translating is What If? from Randall Munroe (aka XKCD). The book, while being hilarious enough for children, does have multiple pages of scholarly references. Therefore putting the translations in footnotes is infeasible, I think.
    – Ooker
    Apr 20, 2017 at 10:10
  • @Ooker - Are you talking about the section called "References," on pages 299-303 of amazon.com/What-If-Scientific-Hypothetical-Questions/dp/…? If so, this is exactly the sort of thing I was talking about ("Further Reading" at the end). In this case, I personally think it is unlikely a child reading this book in translation will go hunting for one of the references, and therefore there is no need to translate the titles. However, you should definitely translate the section headings (e.g. "Global Wind Storm," "Spent Fuel Pool"). Optionally, you could Apr 20, 2017 at 17:29
  • put the translated book title in brackets after each reference. In my translating experience, a book title, e.g. "What happens underwater during a hurricane" is easier to translate than some of the cutesy, "entertaining" section headings, e.g. "Periodic Wall of the Elements." I don't think, in any case, translating these book titles will be much extra work for you, since you'll already be immersing yourself in these very topics in order to translate the main body of text. Apr 20, 2017 at 17:32

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