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8.14 French and foreign-language quotations

When including a quotation (as opposed to individual words or phrases) from French or foreign-language documents in your text, do not use italics. The material can be quoted as it stands, without a translation, as long as the Roman alphabet is used, the intended reader has sufficient knowledge of the source language and the context is explicit enough for the quotation to be understood. If you do provide a translation, however, you must enclose it in quotation marks. There are several ways to proceed.

Once the decision to give a translation has been made, it is preferable to quote from a translation that has already been published or gained credibility in some other way (in a thesis, for example) rather than to provide one of your own.

Place the translation of a short quotation or title (itself enclosed in quotation marks or italicized if it is the title of a published work) in square brackets immediately after the original, as in the examples below:

  • Chapter 5, "Die Benennung" ["Terms"], contains an extensive description of rules for the construction of German words and terms.
  • Chapters 6 and 7 contain an elaborate classification of Zeichen [signs].
  • Wüster states: "Ein Schriftsonderzeichen ist jedes Zeichen, das kein Schriftgrundzeichen ist." ["A special writing character is any symbol that is not a main writing character."]
  • The reader should consult Choul’s article "Approches de la traduction technique" ["Approaches to Technical Translation"] for further information.

For a long quotation, give a translation in a footnote on the same page.

Whether you are presenting both the original and the translated quotation, a quotation from a published translation, or your own translation, do not forget to identify the translation in a footnote or immediately before or after the quotation, as illustrated below:

  • Belorgey goes on to say:

    [Translation]
    The considerable growth in governments’ powers has won
    general acceptance because it is seen as the best way of
    providing the services needed by the community.

or

  • Belorgey goes on to say:

    The considerable growth in governments’ powers has won
    general acceptance because it is seen as the best way of
    providing the services needed by the community.
    [Translation]

In all cases, the source of the original must be referred to in a footnote.

An alternative to a source-language or translated quotation is an English paraphrase of the passage concerned, presented within the body of the paragraph and introduced by a phrase or clause such as According to X or X notes that. This approach is appropriate if emphasis is to be placed solely on the ideas contained in the source material, not on any special characteristics that can be communicated only through direct quotation.

Whether the passage finally presented is a paraphrase, a quotation from a published translation, or your own translation, take great care to ensure that the content of the original has been rendered accurately. Even translations from prestigious publishing houses often contain serious translation errors.