1. Guidelines for translators
  2. Guidelines for proofreaders
  3. Workflow
  4. Volunteer skills
  5. Selection of materials
  6. Copyright
  7. Liberty on selection of materials to translate
  8. Language to translate

Please see the full version of the guide for translators and proofreaders (English, French), which was created through a research collaboration between the Astronomy Translation Network and ISIT, a language school located in Paris.

1. Guide for translators

Q1. How should I proceed if I have never translated a text before?

Step 1: Read the text thoroughly. Make sure you understand what the subject is and identify the author’s style. Don’t hesitate to read the document several times in order to spot any words, sentences or parts of the text that may be difficult to translate.

Step 2: Gather resources and get more insight. Start by reading parallel texts (articles/books on the same topic, in the source language). This allows you to have a better understanding of some related concepts or words. Don’t forget to also read articles in your target language, as it will enrich your vocabulary and show how people refer to the subject in target language. Feel free to vary resources: educational videos, magazines, newspapers articles, online courses, etc.

Step 3: Start translating. There are several things you should pay attention to while translating:

– Keep in mind the words that you will include in the glossary, if you find any (we advise you to type/write down these words). To check glossary guidelines, please go to the Glossary Guidelines page.

– Make sure to double-check your sources. See “Where and how do I find the right words for my translation?” to find a list of verified sources.

– Don’t blindly trust automatic translation. If you translate a word using an automated translation tool, double-check that you have the correct word for the usage you want in dictionaries and on the internet.

Step 4: Once you are done with your first translation, let it sit for a few days (2 or 3). When you come back to it with fresh eyes, you will be more able to identify any mistakes.

Step 5: Proofread your own translation. Read your translated document at least once and pay attention to small mistakes like missing letters or incorrect spelling.

Important: while these are the main steps of the translation process that we propose here on the platform, please be aware that each translator works differently. Feel free to use your own method if you think the work you produce is of better quality.

Q2. How can I deal with languages that have different variations (e.g. British English and American English)?

Your choice of words will depend on your own background. For example, in the case of a translation to English done by an American translator, he/she will probably choose the linguistic variations (style, word preference) of American English. It is not really a problem as the text can still be understood by speakers of British English.

However, once you have chosen which version of the language you are translating to (e.g American English, British English, etc.), you must commit to it. Please try not to mix two different variations of a same language in a text as coherence is key in translation.

Q3. Where and how do I find the right words for my translation?

Start by checking the exact definition of the word you want to translate. Think about the most natural way of expressing the source message in your own language. Please try to avoid using the sentence structure from the original text as it may not make sense in your language.

Use the following resources to help you translate:

  • Online or paper dictionaries in the source language
  • Astronomy magazines i.e. Astronomy (US English), Ciel & Espace (Francais), Espacio (Spain)
  • Multilingual dictionaries i.e. Linguee, IATE, Reverso etc. Be careful: the first translation provided is not always the best choice. Look up the translation result in your search engine to make sure that it is a real word and is the proper usage it is actually used.

Q4. How do I deal with specific/technical terms which might not be understood by readers?

If you find out the translation of a certain term is too rarely used or outdated, you can use the following options:

– try to find synonyms that people might understand.

– If no synonyms exist, you may add a short definition and/or some information to clarify the meaning of this term so that your reader can understand it. See next question for rules concerning added definitions and informations.

Q5. How much information can I add to help the reader understand the text?

Please remember that every translated article should make sense and be understandable by everyone, as our aim is to make astronomy accessible to all audiences. If the source text is ambiguous or unclear, try to clear that issue by translating a clear and understandable message in the target language. If you have trouble understanding parts of the source document, don’t hesitate to get in touch with the language coordinator or even the author.

If you feel the need to add information (for technical or very specific words, for example), you can add a quick definition in brackets or use what is known as translators’ notes. These are footnotes added by the translator to explain foreign concepts when they cannot be translated in the target language. Try to be as concise as possible while making sure the reader will be able to understand your references.

If the term is mentioned multiple times throughout the text, use a definition for the first occurrence only.

If you come across an acronym that needs to be spelled out, put the full name in brackets after the acronym when it first appears in the text. Please keep in mind that the use of too many acronyms can make it harder for the reader to follow.

Q6. What can I do if the word does not exist in my language?

If a word does not exist in your own language, you can follow these steps:

1) Reuse the term in the source language and add a short definition (see Q5 for rules on added definitions). Be careful as not all languages admit long explanations in a text. This solution is mostly recommended for concepts.

2) Try and find how this word or concept was handled or translated in other articles and texts. Medias play an important role in the acceptation of a word and it can also evolve with time.

3) Don’t hesitate to get in contact with scientific reviewers in your language and ask them more informations on a concept or a term that you cannot find in the target language.

> Astronomy glossary collections by language

> How to create a glossary

Q7. How can I deal with transliteration?

Transliteration is the conversion of letters from one alphabet to another without translation. Most common words have a very different translation compared to their transliteration. For instance, the name for Russia in Cyrillic script is written “Россия” and is usually transliterated as “Rossiya” however the English translation is “Russia”.

This technique is most often used for names without an official translation.

There are several ways to approach transliteration:

  • Search for an existing translation.
  • Consult the ISO 9 standard (not free). It offers exact equivalents for the transliteration from and into many languages. You can also look for free transliteration guides online.
  • Get in touch with experts who might have had to deal with this issue.
  • If none of these options work, you can make a phonetic transcription of the name using the alphabet of the target language. If you must do this please let the language coordinator know.

Q8. Do I need to adapt the references to a culture (e.g. distance, system of units)?

It is usually better to find a similar reference in the target language. For instance, in a French translation, it would be better to convert dollars to euros and to use centimeters rather than inches.

For currencies, keep in mind that conversion can change as exchange rates fluctuate. Adding the date of conversion is therefore recommended. (For instance, “$12,000 (€ 10,000 as of March 8, 2018)”).

Here is a list of online convertors you can use if you need to convert currencies or units.



Q9. What can I do if I have questions about grammar/punctuation?

If you have some questions regarding grammar, punctuation, syntax or anything related to the writing style, please refer to official guides that you can find on the internet. Don’t hesitate to go through grammar and/or language structure books to refresh your mind on your own language rules.

Q10. What should I do if I am having trouble understanding some parts of the text I am translating?

  • If you are having trouble understanding the meaning of the article you are translating, please do not hesitate to ask other volunteers (translators, proofreaders and scientific reviewers) from your language group for their opinion.
  • You can also get in contact with the ATN team (translation@oao.iau.org) and your language coordinator, and eventually contact the author if the problem is still unresolved. Please be mindful, allow the author some time to reply and don’t overload them with messages.

Q11. Is there a specific way to translate a quote?

To translate a quote, you can follow these steps :

1) Check the source of the quote. You can find this information in the list of references of the source text (and/or footnotes), or you can search for the quote using the text and the name of the person whom the quote is attributed to.

2) See if the source has been translated in your language. If that is the case, and if the source of the translation is official and reliable, you can reuse the existing translation.

3) If the source has not been translated, you need to translate it yourself.

Be mindful of the quoting rules in your own language: for example, in French, it is better to use indirect speech to introduce a quote whereas in other languages they might prefer quotation marks.

Q12. What should I do if there is a picture is the source text?

If your source text includes one or several pictures with captions or descriptions, these usually need to be translated.

Ask the project manager if a translation is necessary for the image. If so, you can:

  • Modify the image directly using photo editing software if you are proficient in image editing tools (Photoshop, Paint, etc.). In this case be careful to export the modified image in the same format as the original and respect the available space.
  • Create a small two-column table in the text file beneath each image with the source term in the first column and the translation in the second column. For clarity, we recommend adding a header to the table to clearly identify each language column.

See example below:

Table 1: Mars Exploration Rover

Choose the solution best suited to your skills/whichever solution you prefer.

The most important thing is not to leave any text untranslated.

Q13. How can I deal with acronyms/names of organizations?

Many astronomy texts contain acronyms referring to organizations or technologies used in the field. Use the following steps to translate them:

1) Check if there is an existing official translation of the acronym you are translating. If there is one, use it.

2) If there is no official translation, you can put the full name in the source language and give a translation in brackets in addition to the acronym.

For example: “The Assemblée des Départements de France or ADF (Assembly of French Regions) represents French regions on a national and European level.”

If the acronym is repeated many times in the text, only use the brackets and full translation the first time you come across the acronym. For the rest of the document, use the acronym in the source language.

Sometimes, an acronym in one language will not be translated into an acronym in another language. For example, “LV” (Launch Vehicle) will be translated by “Lanceur” in French. In such cases, you will need to find the translation most used.

You can find online resources that will give you a list of the acronyms that exist in a language such as www.acronymfinder.com.

Q14. What can I do if the source text is badly written?

If a source text is badly written, it can be very difficult to understand. Please remember to not guess what something means and translate it. You might misinterpret it and write something false in your target text. Instead, try to get in touch with the writer to ask them what they meant. Please remember to always be polite and considerate with them.

2. Guide for proofreaders

Q1. How should I proceed with proofreading?

When proofreading, it is best to use a review/comment tool to track changes instead of erasing what the translator wrote. Proofreading is a step in which you will have to discuss changes with the translator themselves, and they need to see clearly what you want to change. Then they can accept or refuse the changes. Therefore in your comment boxes, always justify the changes you’d wish to make and talk about it with the translator.

Q2. What should I look out for as a proofreader?

Your main focus should be to ensure that the meaning of the source text is respected and to check grammar, spelling and punctuation.

Other important tasks include:

1) Check consistency:

  • the translation of concepts and technical words
  • language variation (for instance, American English or British English)
  • localisation (for instance, if the translation is from English to French, are dollars converted into euros in the translation?).

Check the following links for references:



2) Check clarity of expression: you need to make sure the audience can understand the text.

3) Check titles: when possible, they should be attractive to readers. Do not hesitate to look up the titles of other articles to find inspiration.

4) For esthetic reasons, please make sure to justify the text (typographically speaking) so that it looks better.

Q3. How can a proofreader balance between respecting a translator’s writing style and maintaining writing quality?

It is best not to alter the translator’s writing style. However, you are allowed to make some changes as long as you can justify them (i.e. they improve the clarity of expression in the text).

If you have further issues or need advice. please contact the translator in order to overcome the problem together. Please try to be mindful of the translator’s work. You should also inform the language coordinator about this problem as it can be frequent and they might have already dealt with such problems.

3. Workflow

Q1. Are there deadlines for posting or making available translated materials?

Currently we do not receive urgent requests to translate. When you select a resource to translate, please tell your language coordinator your target date to finish translation.

4. Volunteer skills

Q1. What are the qualification for each roles.

Translators and proofreaders need the ability to comprehend resource contents to translate (especially regarding scientific language). They should also have writing skills in their own language (grammar, expression, linguistics, etc). Degrees or certifications in translation are not necessary but appreciated. Proofreaders need to be more experienced with translation. If you have experience with translating astronomy content, please inform us when filling the registration form.

Scientific reviewers should be currently enrolled in or completed graduate studies in astronomy, or professionals in the field of astronomy. Teachers and educational staff in astronomy-related fields are also welcome to apply.

Q2: Should translators have knowledge of several languages or can they adopt a source language of the material to be translated into their native language?

Currently, we translate resources from English to other native languages. When your language group is ready to translate from your native language to English, you can do the direction.

5. Selection of materials

Q1. Have the materials in the list (in English) passed by any kind of previous assessment relative to the quality and accuracy ? What are the requirements in terms of quality / accuracy to accept materials to compose the list?

The current list consists of materials, which are peer-reviewed articles, IAU contents, or have been proofread by several experts of astronomy education. We surveyed to collect resources in 2017 and now are analyzing the data to find the best way to select suitable resources to translate.

6. Copyright

Q1. Is the translator entitled to own use or to divulge in his / her native language the material he / she translated?

The translation platform works for resources which are under license of Creative Commons. It means that it is free to translate and disseminate.

7. Liberty on selection of materials to translate

Q1. Are there any obligations as to the translation of all materials made available in other languages or the materials may be of free choice of the translators?

There is no duty to complete translation for all materials that are listed up on the website (https://sites.google.com/oao.iau.org/translation/resources). Volunteers can select interesting resources from the list.

8. Language to translate

Q1. Can the materials be translated into a language other than the translator’s native language or should they always be translated from another language into the native language of the translator?

Now we think that is reasonable to pass English for translation between non-English languages.