Archives for the Month of January 2010 on Carl's ILLiad Blog

Foreign Language Titles in Interlibrary Loan Requests

The research needs in the academic setting of American universities call primarily for materials in the English language (with the obvious exception of foreign language studies), though occasionally researchers will require items that are published or are available only in non-English versions. As this pertains to interlibrary loan services, there are generally two major issues of concern. The first of these is whether or not you the customer are able to make use of those that can be obtained only in a language other than English. If so, the other is actually how to submit your citations properly when you place your requests through your ILLiad account. I will try here to touch upon these issues, in one way or another, as they apply in various situations.

All of our ILLiad request forms include the option marked 'Will you accept the item in a language other than English?'. The default value for this is set at 'Yes', the basic assumption being that the usefulness of foreign-language materials is commonly accepted among institutions of higher learning, and can simply be taken for granted. You may select 'No' if you prefer, but if you insist that you can make use of materials available only in English and thus specifically choose to reset this option, there is the possibility that ILL staff will notify you, as circumstances warrant, that your cited items can only be obtained in their original language.

The most common situation to be addressed here involves journal titles in foreign languages. If you cite an article appearing in a journal or periodical with a non-English title, you should expect most often that it will appear in the same language as the title of the publication containing it. It is quite common for an article from an non-English-speaking country to be cited in reference lists with the title translated into English. It is also not unusual to find the abstract of the article available in English translation in various research databases. However, the full-text is normally published only in the original language.

There do exist a number of journals with non-English titles that do contain articles in English, and this can complicate matters. For example, there are journals with either English or non-English titles (usually published internationally) that contain articles in multiple languages, including some in English. Some foreign-language journals may include an English abstract with the original language article text. Many Canadian journals are published with articles having parallel translations in both English and French. Some Soviet-era Russian journals were published simultaneously in English translation for part of their run, and many modern Russian journals are also available in English translation--a major problem with these, however, is that they are frequently cited with the pagination from the original, which does not match that of the translated version (and thus needs to be verified in the table of contents of the corresponding issue of the English edition).

There are a number of German technical journals that are published with articles in English, even though they retain the original journal title in German. There are also a great number of modern scholarly journals with Latin titles that contain articles in English and other languages, although none actually appear in Latin. Finally, some Chinese, Japanese, and Korean journals contain articles in their original languages, but with an English abstract also included, while others are published full-text in English translation.

The situation with monographic materials is somewhat different. In the case of scholarly or esoteric books and conference proceedings, they are more likely to exist only in the language of the country from which they originate or of the nationality of the author or authors. As for books of popular literature, such as novels, they are more likely to be available both in the original language and in any of various translations, often depending on their level of notoriety. If you need to borrow one of these, you can specify an edition in a particular translation when you submit your request in ILLiad, as long as you are certain of its existence as such.

Theses and dissertations, by their very nature, are fairly certain to exist only in one language, that of the country of the college or university where they were done. (An obvious exception, once again, is for those done in foreign language study programs.) In general, if a thesis was submitted at a university in a non-English-speaking country, it will almost never exist in English translation as well as in its original language. (However, theses that later become published books--in rare cases--may perhaps be also translated.) There are also theses that are done at non-English-speaking institutions that, for some reason or another, have actually been originally written in English, although this is more of an exception.

In the case of patents, since they are so closely associated with a particular country and its commercial law, they are almost always available only in the language of the country of their origin, and not also in English translation. You can only expect a patent to be available in English if it was filed at the patent office of an English-speaking country, or perhaps with the World Intellectual Property Organization.

Finally, as for proper submission of your foreign language materials requests into the ILLiad forms, the main issue involves the kind of characters that you input. The rule is basically to enter you text data into the appropriate fields using Roman (or Latin) alphabetical characters, i.e., the alphabet used in the majority of Western and Central European languages, as well as in those of various other countries outside Europe. This is because ILLiad cannot accept data input in non-Roman characters, e.g., Cyrillic, Greek, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Arabic, Hebrew, etc. Text must be cited in accurate phonetic transliteration into Roman letters in order to be processed properly. The ILLiad program is not capable of converting non-Roman characters into usable Roman print, but rather will only interpret them into the HTML equivalent codes for the corresponding Unicode characters, which cannot be practically used for our purposes of bibliographic searching. A similar result occurs when entering non-English text in Roman-alphabet languages that include modified Roman characters and diacritical marks not normally found in English (e.g., umlaut, accent, circumflex, tilde--either separate or as part of a letter character). Usually enough basic Roman characters appear to make the complete foreign words discernable in such cases, but this still can delay the search process.

It is absolutely essential in order for ILL staff to efficiently process requests for foreign-language materials, that they be cited using the standard alphabet of the English language, allowing us to properly search journal and book titles in OCLC WorldCat and other bibliographic resources. In order to help us narrow our searches, it is also useful for you to provide an ISSN or ISBN with your citation, when you submit your foreign-language material requests. With your collaborative help, ILL staff can more quickly and efficiently meet your need for materials not in English.