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How to cite your own translations

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Adams, A. (2022, November 21). How to cite your own translations. APA Style.

How to cite your own translations

Many talented, multilingual APA Style users skillfully translate passages from works published in different languages on their own. And, after creating their magnificent translations, these brilliant writers are now faced with how to accurately credit the author(s) of the work(s) they have translated and how to inform readers that they—the writer of the paper—are the translator. In general, this may seem like a complicated APA Style writing task; however, it’s not—well, in theory, it’s not.

If you translate a passage from one language into another language on your own in your paper, your translation is considered a paraphrase, not a direct quotation. Thus, to cite your translated material, all you need to do is include the author and date of the material in the in-text citation. It is also recommended that you include the page number (if available) in the citation to help readers who do speak the language of the original passage find the material in the original work.

Because your translation of the material is a paraphrase, do not use quotation marks around the material you translated. In creating your translated paraphrase, keep in mind that APA Style does not promote patchwriting, which is considered a form of plagiarism, when a few words in a passage have been changed but content is largely the same.

Rather than translate word-for-word, strive to create paraphrased translations. Let’s say you read an article in one language and then write about it in another language; for example, you read an article in French and then paraphrased it in English. In this case, you are both translating and paraphrasing the information. Such a situation requires no special treatment—treat it as any other paragraph by providing an in-text citation.

Here is an example of a passage originally published in French followed by your paraphrased translation of the passage in English:

Original passage in French about sleep problems in autistic patients:

“Ainsi, les problèmes de sommeil retentissent sur le fonctionnement diurne des patients en perturbant leurs capacités d’apprentissage et de régulation émotionnelle” (Schröder et al., 2022, p. 301).

Passage translated and paraphrased by the writer into English:

Schröder et al. (2022) noted that sleep problems affect autistic patients’ daytime functioning by disrupting their learning and emotional regulation abilities (p. 301).

Although the passage as written in French—or in any other language—may have a more nuanced meaning than its English translation, it is important to note that there is not necessarily a perfect correspondence between two languages where every word and phrase match up with a foreign equivalent, though some cases come closer than others.

Further, because it is not possible to codify how exact any given translation is, it would be inappropriate to put quotation marks around the translated words; again, your translation is a paraphrase. There are many ways to paraphrase a text. Here is another example of the same French passage translated and paraphrased into English. Whereas the previous translation hewed closely to the grammatical structure of the original, the following paraphrase has a different grammatical structure.

Passage translated and paraphrased by the writer into English, with a different grammatical sentence structure than the original:

Autistic people frequently experience sleep difficulties that affect their daytime functioning, making it more difficult, for example, for them to learn and to regulate their emotions (Schröder et al., 2022, p. 301).

Please note this guidance applies to translations that are short—that is, a passage or two. If you are considering translating larger sections of a work or an entire work, you must follow proper copyright attribution and permissions guidelines (see Sections 12.14–12.18 in the Publication Manual and Sections 8.35–8.39 in the Concise Guide to APA Style; these sections provide guidelines based on U.S. copyright law).

Creating a reference list entry for a work you translated and paraphrased

As for the reference list entry for the material you have translated, provide a reference for the work in its original language; after the foreign-language title, include a translation of the title of the work in the language in which you are writing your paper in square brackets. The following is a French journal article reference example for an APA Style paper written in English.

Journal article with a French-language title and an English translation of the title:

Schröder, C. M., Broquère, M. A., Claustrat, B., Delorme, R., Franco, P., Lecendreux, M., & Tordjman, S. (2022). Approches thérapeutiques des troubles du sommeil et des rythmes chez l’enfant avec TSA [Therapeutic approaches for sleep and rhythms disorders in children with ASD]. L'Encéphale: Revue de psychiatrie clinique biologique et thérapeutique, 48(3), 294–303.

Citing your own translation versus citing a published translation

Please note that citing your translation is different from citing someone else’s published translation. If you read a work that has been translated and you directly quote from it in your paper, you would place quotation marks around the quoted passage just as for any other direct quotation citation. Although the work has been translated, the translation exists in a distinct, retrievable form. Likewise, in the reference list, you would write an entry for the translated version of the work.

To discover more seventh edition APA Style topics like this, check out related blog posts and subscribe to our newsletter. Guidelines for citing translated works are also available in the Publication Manual, Concise Guide, and Mastering APA Style Student Workbook (the MAS workbook has been updated and includes a glossary and 28 summative quizzes). These publications can be purchased from the APA Style Products page.