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Why Should Scientific Research Be Translated?

So you did your research, conducted your study, and wrote your article—perhaps you’ve even published it. Now your job is done, right? Not so fast. In this increasingly globalized world, it’s more important than ever to translate your scientific research. Below are five compelling reasons to translate your work!

1. Increase the information available

While the majority of scientific research is conducted and published in English, many research groups and labs speak other languages. By translating your research, you make your discoveries and theories available to a wider audience who can then build upon and expand that research even further.

Additionally, other labs and groups may be inspired to translate their work into English or other languages, which would benefit the field of research even more! There may be some important theory out there that only French researchers are looking into—so if you can’t read French you’d never know about it. Likewise, your own research could help a group in Germany or Brazil make their own breakthroughs, which you could then use to further your own research. Translating your study might just open doors you hadn’t considered before, and benefit the field as a whole.

2. Close the knowledge gap

Since so much research is conducted and published in English, native speakers of other languages are always at a disadvantage, both as researchers and as consumers. It is widely known that there is a “knowledge gap” between the rich and the poor, but it is less often recognized that there is also a knowledge gap due to language barriers.

Communities and populations that do not speak English—nor any of the other more “global” languages such as Spanish or French—are very limited in their ability to access information in important fields such as public health and environmental studies. Translating research helps close this knowledge gap.

3. Gain a new perspective

The “lost in translation” cliché often worries scientists and researchers who want to translate their findings. However, many do not see the opportunity that scientific translation offers; sometimes you have to say things a bit differently in another language, and it can open your eyes to new discoveries.

It can often be tricky to directly translate a word or phrase, and sometimes it has to be said slightly differently in another language. However, this doesn’t mean anything is being lost—you’re just making new discoveries! Perhaps there is a German word that describes something more precisely, or maybe the way the French say it just … works! You never know what a new language will reveal.

4. Simplify

Many professional scientific translators believe it is often easier to simplify, rather than to elaborate, when translating scientific information. However, this doesn’t mean your research will lose meaning; often it can condense or simplify matters into layman’s terms in a way you may not have thought of.

5. Make your research timeless

While English is currently the lingua franca of science, research and communication, it may not always be so. Historically, many languages have reigned supreme during different eras: Arabic, French, Greek, Spanish, and many others have had their heydays as “lingua francas.” Who’s to say that another language won’t supplant English in the future? Professional scientific translation improves the odds that your research will continue to benefit humanity for centuries to come.