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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Translations and Translation Studies in the Russian, Eastern European & Eurasian Context: Problems

A Brief Overview of the Field, and A Guide to Resources for Identifying Translated Works

"Lost in translation": article databases for Physical and Life Sciences and ILL processing

For the last calendar year, the Slavic Reference Service handled ~2394 research questions (243 questions were in the life and physical sciences category).  Most of the questions fall into the following service categories: bibliographic inquiries (which requires an in-depth response), citation verifications (in some cases entire bibliographies), locating and verifying holding institutions, and most importantly, resolving translation and transliteration issues associated with articles.  

On a daily basis, ILL requests for Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies materials (print and online collections) go through a series of barriers before the requested item(s) is forwarded to the patron.   There are two consistent forms of hindrance to ILL requests: translation and transliteration.  A patron searching an English language life sciences or physical sciences database will locate an article (article title in English) and requests this item through interlibrary Loan.  Unfortunately, due to the differing forms of entry in article databases, the vernacular language title or the language notation is not displayed prominently or in some cases, absent from the full abstract view.  This creates a false impression for English speakers and offers a limited view for vernacular language speakers. 

One of the most important databases for physical sciences and materials published in Russia, Eastern Europe, and Central Asia is the Scifinder database, a reliable source for verifying chemistry (not limited to chemistry) citations.  When researchers view the full abstract, one of the first sections they will see (to the right) is the vernacular language sources consulted by the compilers.   In this screen shot of simple search results, researchers can see the language notation, but even here we cannot see the parallel title…

ILL Story

On a daily basis, the Slavic Reference Service verifies, searches for holding institutions, fills interlibrary loan requests, and compiles bibliographic resources and research guides, for published materials in the vernacular languages (Russia, Central Asia, Eastern Europe, the Baltic, and the Caucasus region) and translations of titles from these regions. 

Seeing the originals: V is for Vernacular

Difficulty of filling ILL requests in which the article titles have been translated into English (PsycINFO, Scopus, SciFinder)