Referencing Translated Sources (APA, MLA and Chicago)
  • 3-minute read
  • 13th June 2018

Referencing Translated Sources (APA, MLA and Chicago)

Poor translators. Without them, we English speakers wouldn’t be able to read sources written in other languages. But are we grateful?

Not if the reference lists we see are anything to go by, as most people forget to include translators’ names. So, whether you’re reading Nietzsche, Proust, or Sun Tzu, join us for a quick look at how to reference translated sources in APA, MLA, and Chicago referencing.

APA Referencing

When citing a work in translation in APA referencing, you will need to give both the year it was originally published and the year it was published in translation:

Freud (1899/1976) was the first to note this phenomenon.

In the reference list, meanwhile, you will need to name the translator and “Trans.” after the title of the source, along with the original date of publication in parentheses at the end of the reference. For instance:

Freud, S. (1976). The interpretation of dreams (J. Strachey, Trans.). Penguin. (Original work published 1899)

(N.B. We’re using bold text to highlight the translator in these examples, but you don’t have to do this in your own work!)

MLA Referencing

For translated sources in an MLA Works Cited list, you should give the name of the translator after the words “Translated by” before the publication information:

Foucault, Michel. Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison. Translated by Alan Sheridan, Penguin Books, 1977.

If you are focusing specifically on the translation of a text, you can even give the translator’s name in the first position:

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Sheridan, Alan, translator. Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison. By Michel Foucault, Penguin Books, 1977.

However, you should only do this if you are primarily interested in the translation. This will usually be because you’re discussing two translations of a single source or writing about translation itself.

Chicago Referencing (Author–Date)

The format for translated sources in Chicago referencing depends on the referencing style you’re using. With author–date referencing, you only name the translator in the reference list. The format here is:

Foucault, Michel. 1977. Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison. Translated by Alan Sheridan. London: Penguin Books.

Chicago Referencing (Footnotes and Bibliography)

With Chicago footnote citations, you need to name the translator in the first footnote and in the bibliography. For the footnote, the format to use is as follows:

1. Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison, trans. Alan Sheridan (London: Penguin Books, 1977), 91–93.

Repeat citations use a shortened footnote, which doesn’t include the translator’s name. But the translator should be included in the bibliography at the end of the document. The information here is the same as in the first footnote, although the format is slightly different:

Foucault, Michel. Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison. Translated by Alan Sheridan. London: Penguin Books, 1977.

Whichever system you’re using, though, remember to get your work checked by a professional before submitting it. This will make sure that all sources are referenced correctly!

Comments (38)
Andy
25th March 2020 at 14:32
What about translation work done by the author of a source he wants to use?
    Proofed
    26th March 2020 at 08:57
    Are you referring to including your own translations in an essay? If so, while it may depend on the particular referencing system you're using, you could cite the source as normal and add a note somewhere (e.g. in a footnote on the first citation) to say that the translation is your own.
Sarah
6th May 2020 at 21:35
Hi, I have a question about citing [English] online forum page that has translated a Japanase online interview. How should I cite this? Should I cite both (English and original) sources' address?
    Proofed
    7th May 2020 at 14:07
    Hi, Sarah. Are you using a specific referencing system? The exact details will depend on which one, but most systems would require you to cite both the translation and the original source (especially if the original Japanese interview text is not part of the forum post).
Katie
18th June 2020 at 22:00
Hello :), For APA, how should I go about referencing a book that I know was originally written in another language but the more modern version I have doesn't list it as translated or name the translator, or even mention it as a republishing? Thank you!
    Proofed
    19th June 2020 at 10:11
    Hi, Katie. If the book doesn't mention a translator, all you can do is list it with the publication information available. As long as you have the year of publication of that edition and the name of the publisher, readers should still be able to find the version you used.
Marina Alonso
19th June 2020 at 18:42
Hello, I have this translation where all the sources are in Spanish, therefore I have to translate all the quotations into English, so paraphrasing instead of quoting for the English version. My question is, since I'm not quoting the author anymore, does this change the way I should cite the author's book/essay/etc.?
    Proofed
    20th June 2020 at 10:43
    Hi, Marina. You can still quote the source if you want (you just need to note somewhere that the translation is your own; the preferred method for this may depend on your referencing system, though). And even if you choose to just paraphrase, you still need to cite the source, including page numbers where relevant. I'd certainly recommend quoting if you're discussing the original author's words or phrasing directly at any point.
JJ Kim
6th July 2020 at 23:59
How do I cite Hammurabi's Code, translated by LW King, in Chicago style (footnote- bibliography)? There is no author for the original source. Thank you.
    Proofed
    7th July 2020 at 16:12
    Hi, JJ. In cases like Hammurabi’s Code where there is no named author, you would usually begin the first footnote citation/bibliography entry with the title.
Ana
24th July 2020 at 02:07
If my translation of a quote is my own, what is the preferred method of referencing it in APA?
    Proofed
    24th July 2020 at 11:17
    Hi, Ana. APA suggests treating your own translations as a paraphrase rather than a direct quote. As such, you would cite the author's surname, year of publication, and the page number(s) for the part you're paraphrasing, but you wouldn't put the translated text in quote marks. In the reference list, meanwhile, you would give the original untranslated title first, followed by the English translation in square brackets. You can see examples of this on the APA blog (this is the 6th edition blog, but the same advice applies for 7th edition): https://blog.apastyle.org/apastyle/2014/11/lost-in-translation-citing-your-own-translations-in-apa-style.html
Matteo
12th August 2020 at 09:38
Hi, what if I want to mention the original title of the translated book?
    Proofed
    12th August 2020 at 09:57
    Hi, Matteo. You can mention the original title in the main text of your work if it's relevant, but if you're citing an English-language translation of a book in one of the systems mentioned in this post, you don't need to include the untranslated title in footnote citations or the reference list entry.
Elle
9th September 2020 at 20:10
I have a book written in portuguese, 1985, by A. Mendes. It was translated by editors John Smith and Mary Jones in 2018. They want you to use references that are less than 5 years old. Does this book meet the standard considering it was republished in English in 2018 and how do you reference these three individuals.
    Proofed
    10th September 2020 at 10:07
    Hi, Elle. It is hard to say without seeing the instructions you received, but if you've been asked to use sources that are less than five years old, I'd imagine that refers to the original date of publication rather than the reprint or republication. As for how you reference the source, that will depend on the system you're using. We outline the method for referencing translated books in APA, MLA, and Chicago referencing in this post, but if you're seeking advice on another system, we have editors who can help with most citation styles (or, if you have a style guide from your school, you can check that).
Luiza
13th September 2020 at 16:45
Hello, so if I have a term, let's say "Périplo Africano" how do I add the translated English version in the footnotes (Chicago style)? “Périplo,” means navigation, travel around an area and “Africano” means African, thus traveling around Africa. This is my own translation.
    Proofed
    14th September 2020 at 16:33
    Hi, Luiza. All you need to do is cite the source as normal and add a note saying "my translation" in an appropriate place: https://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/qanda/data/faq/topics/Documentation/faq0030.html
Sophia
27th September 2020 at 05:40
Hi! I am citing Nicomachean Ethics by Aristotle Chicago Style and it was translated by W.D. Ross in 1999. Do I put the year the book was published and translated as 1999 or like 340 BC when aristotle wrote it? Also, do we actually bold the translated portion for the bibliography? Thank you so much!
    Proofed
    28th September 2020 at 09:14
    Hi, Sophia! No bold required: that is just to highlight the relevant part of the reference. As for Aristotle, you would cite the year of translation/publication for the edition you're citing, so 1999 in this case.
Kristy
30th September 2020 at 00:07
Hello, How would I cite a translated journal article (not a book!) in Chicago, footnote/bibliography style? Would the translator come after the article title and have a comma before the journal title?
    Proofed
    30th September 2020 at 10:21
    Hi, Kristy. Yes, in Chicago style, the translator's name goes between the article title and the journal title. For instance: 1. Ashley Authorname, "Examples of Referencing: An In-Depth Look," trans. Jo Translatorname, Journal of Examples 21, no. 3 (April 1992): 47.

    Authorname, Ashley. "Examples of Referencing: An In-Depth Look." Translated by Jo Translatorname. Journal of Examples 21, no. 3 (April 1992): 41–52.

Hana
19th October 2020 at 03:50
Hello! How should I cite a translated book in MLA if the PDF file did not indicate who the translator is and the publication of the translated material? The title of the book, the title of the volume, and the pagination is the only given information.
    Proofed
    20th October 2020 at 10:09
    Hi, Hana. If there's no named translator for the version you're using, then you don't need to include that piece of information in your works cited list. Just try to give enough detail to make sure that other people can find the exact source if required.
Alex
28th December 2020 at 10:02
Hello! How should I cite an official translation of a presidential speech transcript that I have found online in Chicago style for a bibliography? I know that the citation of a speech in general is: Last Name, First Name. "Speech Title." Speech, Place, Date of Delivery. Website Name. URL. So would I put something like "Official Translation. Date of translation" after the details of the speech or before it?
    Proofed
    28th December 2020 at 12:05
    Hi, Alex. In general, Chicago style suggests using "Translated by" and the translator's name after the source title. And working with the reference format you suggest, if the translation date is different than the speech date, you could include that after the name of the translator. However, the best format to use may depend on exactly where the speech is published (e.g., Chicago style has a special format for proclamations by US presidents and other government documents).
Margriet
2nd January 2021 at 14:37
Hi! Thanks for this info, the other answers have already been useful but I wanted to specifically ask about MLA: a colleague student and I are writing a paper in Dutch and are using English sources. We sometimes translate quotes to Dutch for our paper. Does MLA specify how we should reference this? Should it go in the in-text citation reference eg. (Doe 15, own translation), or should it go with a footnote or something else? Thanks in advance!
    Proofed
    4th January 2021 at 10:27
    Hi, Margriet. The MLA Handbook focuses on English-language writing, so it doesn't have any specific instructions on using English-language sources in other languages. However, it does have rules for quoting non-English languages in English-language writing, which you could reverse in your paper. In this case, it suggests two approaches: 1) Adding the original language and "my trans." (or possibly "our trans." if you are co-authoring a paper) in the parenthetical citation. For example: The source says "translated text in Dutch" ("original text in English"; our trans.; Author Surname Page Number). 2) If you are using one translated source repeatedly, adding a footnote/endnote after the first translated quotation that specifies which quotations from the source are your own translations. If you have multiple sources in English, and you're only translating selected quotes, I'd imagine the first method is more appropriate. Hope that helps!
Greg
11th May 2021 at 06:50
Hi, thanks so much for all this info. I have a question about citing the original plus published translation in a footnote in Chicago. For example: Édouard Glissant, Poétique de la relation (Paris: Gallimard, 1990)—but then I'm not sure how to couple that reference with the existing English translation: Édouard Glissant, Poetics of Relation, trans. Betsy Wing (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1997). I know Chicago 17th ed. covers this in 14.99 for bibliography, but I'm wondering about footnotes. Many thanks in advance!
    Proofed
    11th May 2021 at 09:07
    Hi, Greg. I don't think CMoS addresses that situation in footnotes directly, but you can usually adapt something from a bibliographic example for a footnote (or vice versa) as long as the references are clear. In this case, then, I'd suggest simply adding "Translated as..." or "Originally published as..." after the main citation, as demonstrated for the bibliography entries in 14.99, depending on which version you want to foreground.
Penelope
13th June 2021 at 20:19
Hi, thank you so much for all of this. I'm using Chicago style (footnote system) for my paper and I translated a website with an unknown author and unknown published date. Do you know where I should mention that I translated the site in my citation? Thank you in advance!
    Proofed
    14th June 2021 at 10:24
    Hi, Penelope. If all the translations of the source are your own, simply adding "All translations are my own" or similar at the end of the first footnote should suffice. You can find a little bit more about the topic here: https://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/qanda/data/faq/topics/Documentation/faq0030.html
Ann Reynolds
25th January 2022 at 19:51
How do you cite a comment from a translated text? The translator is not the person who wrote comments -- in other words the comments are an apparatus criticus.
    Proofed
    26th January 2022 at 09:29
    Hi, Ann. It would depend which referencing system you are using and where the comments are in the text. For example, you can find guidance on citing a footnote comment in MLA style here: https://style.mla.org/how-do-i-cite-a-numbered-footnote/ If you can provide more detail on what you're citing and the system you're using, or if you want to submit a document for proofreading, I'm sure we can offer more specific advice.
syi
8th March 2022 at 16:05
hi, how can i cite CMS footnote for legal case report?
    Proofed
    8th March 2022 at 16:39
    Hi, Syi. The Chicago Manual of Style recommends using Bluebook-style citations for case reports (and says that you can usually cite them in footnotes only, with no bibliography entry required). You can find more on case reports in Bluebook here: https://proofed.com/writing-tips/legal-citation-citing-cases-with-the-bluebook/
Danielle
9th August 2022 at 01:42
Greetings! I am trying to cite in APA this URL: https://nsarchive.gwu.edu/document/19491-national-security-archive-doc-4-extraordinary The source information provided is: [Archive of the President of the Russian Federation (APRF), Record of Session of the CC CPSU Politburo, 28 April 1986, working copy, published in Rudolph Pikhoia, Sovetskii Soyuz: Istoriya Vlasti, 1945-1991 (Novosibirsk: Sibirskii Khronograph, 2000), pp. 429-432.] is the translator. Please help!! Thank you! If I were to guess, the APA citation would be: Khronograph, S. (2000). The interpretation of Extraordinary Session of the CC CPSU Politburo (Politburo, Trans). Rudolph. (Original work published 1986, April 28) Am I close?
    Proofed
    24th August 2022 at 15:21
    Hi, Danielle! Thanks for your question and apologies for coming to this late. On an online search, it looks like Novosibirsk: Sibirskii Khronograph is the publisher. I’ve found this excerpt cited on several different websites, but the main point is that this report is mostly classified and the only access we have to this extract of it is via the cited book by Pikhoia. The most important thing is to allow your reader to access either version of this source, so the book itself or the website where you found it. I would treat this reference as an excerpt/chapter from an edited book (see How to Reference an Edited Book – APA Style). Make sure you add the name of the translator after the book title (as shown above in this article), and then the National Security Archive website URL (or preferably DOI if you can get it) at the end. Archive of the President of the Russian Federation (APRF), Record of Session of the CC CPSU Politburo, 28 April 1986, working copy (2000). In R. Pikhoia, Sovetskii soyuz: Istoriya vlasti, 1945-1991 (pp. 429-432) (Name, Trans.). Novosibirsk: Sibirskii Khronograph. https://nsarchive.gwu.edu/document/19491-national-security-archive-doc-4-extraordinary

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