Share this entry

Share this page

9 Quotations and direct speech

9.7 Non-English quotations

Quotations from languages other than English are commonly given in English translation, but they are sometimes reproduced in their original language, for example when their sense is thought to be evident, in specialist contexts where a knowledge of the language in question is assumed, or where a short quotation is better known in the original language than it is in English:

L’État c’est moi (‘I am the State’)
Après nous le déluge (‘After us the deluge’)
Arbeit macht frei (‘Work liberates’)

Quotations in other languages follow the same rules as those in English. The wording, spelling, punctuation, capitalization, and layout of non-English quotations should be treated like those in English, and omissions, interpolations, and sources presented in the same way:

Asked about the role of the new Spanish government in his release, Raúl Rivero replied:
Tengo un sentimiento de gratitud con el Gobierno de [José María] Aznar por lo que hizo cuando caí preso. Pero, efectivamente, me parece que la nueva politica española ha sido más efectiva. La confrontación nunca en política resuelve nada. Creo que el cambio sí ha favorecido … que en Cuba hubiera más receptividad en las autoridades cubanas.
El País, 1 Dec. 2004, 33e
Le Monde reported that ‘Raúl Rivero a exprimé sa “gratitude éternelle” envers le gouvernement espagnol’.

In the second example the original wording, including the French rendering of a Spanish name, has been reproduced exactly, but French quotation marks and italicization of quotations (« gratitude éternelle ») have been adapted to British conventions.

Sometimes it seems desirable both to retain the original—perhaps because its exact sense or flavour cannot be captured by a translation— and to provide an English version for readers unfamiliar with the language in question. It is always worth asking in such cases whether the original is genuinely helpful to the reader. The English equivalent may take the form of an explanation or paraphrase, but if it too is presented as a direct quotation, whether loose or literal, it should be enclosed in quotation marks and will normally be placed within parentheses after the original. Alternatively the translation may be given first, followed by the original in quotation marks within parentheses. If sources of quotations are given in parentheses, a source may follow a translation within a single set of parentheses, separated from it by a comma, semicolon, or colon, according to house style:

It provided accommodation for ‘candidates às magistraturas superiores das Faculdades’, those eligible for senior posts in the university.
The cyclist Jean Bégué was ‘de ces Jean qu’on n’ose pas appeler Jeannot’ (‘one of those men named John one dare not call Johnny’).
He poses the question ‘Wie ist das Verhältnis des Ausschnitts zur Gesamtheit?’ (‘What is the relationship of the sample to the whole group?’: Bulst, ‘Gegenstand und Methode’, 9).
Inter needed to develop ‘a winning attitude and an attractive style of play’ (‘un’identità vincente e un bel gioco’).

Where a displayed translation is followed by a displayed original—or vice versa—place the second of the two quotations in parentheses. Where the second of the two displayed quotations is the original, some authors prefer to have it set in italics. A displayed verse original may be followed either by a verse translation set in lines or by a displayed prose translation:

Rufus naturaliter et veste dealbatus
Omnibus impatiens et nimis elatus
(Ruddy in looks and white in his vesture,
Impatient with all and too proud in gesture) (Wright, i. 261)
Gochel gwnsel a gwensaeth
a gwin Sais, gwenwyn sy waeth
(Beware the counsel, fawning smile and wine of the Englishman—it is worse than poison)

In most contexts quotations from other languages should be given in translation unless there is a particular reason for retaining the original. On occasion it is helpful to include within a translation, in italics within parentheses, the untranslated form of problematic or specially significant words or phrases:

Huntington, ‘obsessed with the idea of purity, does not recognize the cardinal virtue of … Spanish: the virtue of coexistence and intermixing (mestizaje)’.

Isolated non-English words or phrases generally look best italicized rather than placed in quotation marks (see 7.2.2), especially if they are discussed as set terms rather than quotations from a particular source. For inflected languages this has the advantage of allowing the nominative form of a word to be given even when another case is used in the passage cited. The non-English term may be used untranslated or with an English equivalent (perhaps on its first occurrence only if it is used frequently):

This right of common access (Allemansrätten) is in an old tradition
As early as 1979 the status of denominação de origem controlada was accorded to Bairrada
In this document he is styled magister scolarum
Montella was capocannoniere (top scorer), with eleven goals

In some works appropriate conventions will be needed for quotations transliterated from non-roman alphabets and for the rendering of German Fraktur type. The German Eszett (ß) can normally be regularized as double s (ss). For advice on transliteration see Chapter 12.

Share this entry

Share this page

Get more from Oxford Dictionaries

Subscribe to remove ads and access premium resources

New Hart's Rules


Preface Editorial team Proofreading marks Glossary of printing and publishing terms