Risks Involved in Using Online Options for Research Translation

An Increasing Need for Academic Translation

As open access publishing offers greater availability of journals from around the globe, the need for accurate translation of academic material continues to grow. Whether you are looking for translation of a research paper you have identified in your literature review or are seeking translation of a paper you intend to submit to an overseas journal, your primary concerns are usually speed, price, and accuracy.


Unless you consider yourself to be a wizard with a language translation dictionary, the fastest tool available is software based, such as Google Translate or Babelfish. Believe it or not, even human native language translators cannot match the speed of Google Translate (2,000 words a day versus 2000 words in less than a second when comparing the translation of a submitted document).

The software is free, and if all you are looking to do is translate an abstract to see if a particular paper or dissertation is worth pursuing for your own research, it may well meet your needs, unless the lexicography of your field is so specific that all you’ll get is a bunch of gobbledygook. If that seems unacceptable, remember that you get what you pay for.


If your confidence in the accuracy of free online translation tools is less than one hundred percent, but you still have budgetary issues, online freelance sites such as fiverr.com, odesk.com, or elance.com, will provide eager young native speakers who will bid competitively for the opportunity to translate your work. However, the low price will probably be reflective of the experience of the personnel involved, so check references thoroughly, and if your need is urgent, be prepared to be disappointed as the bidding process can be slow, and you may not be able to connect with a suitably qualified freelancer right away.


In academic writing, accuracy must be paramount in order to ensure that all stakeholders and future collaborators are working with a high quality piece of research. On that basis, free software and five-dollar freelancers should not be considered unless there are absolutely no alternative authors.

Serious work requires nothing but the best available translation by both native and appropriately qualified and experienced personnel who speak the language of your field, or using a translation company that specializes in academic translations. Only then can you expect the specific nuances of your written work to make the transition to a foreign language intact.

If factoring the cost of such services into your budget makes you nervous, consider the cost to your stakeholders if your paper is retracted for errors based on mistakes in translation?

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