I'm a non native English speaker writing a dissertation in British English. In this text I'm referring to some methodologies whose names are in other languages. For example one of the methods is called "Tien Stappen Plan" (dutch methodology). This literately means "Ten Steps Plan". Should I provide this English name so reader can more intuitively understand the text? If so how would I do this? What markings should I use, if any? Should I use capitalisation?

Below is an example line from the text, is this clear and correct?

For this aspect the "Tien Stappen Plan" ([APA citation here]) or “Ten Step Plan” was used.

  • I'm wondering if this question is not more appropriately answered by the style guide for your organization, or perhaps another StackExchange site like Academia.SE. The English in your example is perfectly clear and understandable, I'm just not sure this is really a question about "learning English" per se.
    – stangdon
    Commented Nov 30, 2016 at 16:10
  • @stangdon Sadly the style guide I've been presented is fairly meager and doesn't offer much help in many cases. Also my organisation doesn't normally work with English. The reason I'm writing this text in English is because the company helping me with the research is a big international company that requested it to be in English so it would be useful for them too. I've never written something like this in English before so it's kind of a learning experience for me. I thought the question wouldn't be "academic" enough for Academia SE so I posted it here.
    – EpicSam
    Commented Nov 30, 2016 at 16:26
  • The Dutch methodology known as the Step Plan Ten was used to [do something to something]. And put a footnote at Dutch methodology at the bottom of the page or at the end that puts in the Dutch term with its "inventor".
    – Lambie
    Commented Nov 30, 2016 at 17:19

1 Answer 1


If the words translate neatly, like your example, "Ten Step Plan", and if the "idea" is not well-known to English-speakers by its Dutch name, I'd just give the translation. Like -- okay, maybe an unpleasant example, but the first that comes to mind -- Americans routinely talk about Hitler's "Twenty-Five Points" speech. I'm sure Hitler said it in German, but we routinely use just the translation.

Now that I have the Nazi example in my head, the Germans developed a military tactic they called "blitzkrieg". This translates very neatly to "lightning war", but for some reason the British and Americans left it untranslated and simply called it "blitzkrieg". Perhaps they thought the sound of the word was appropriate, or that "lightning war" did not sound specific enough.

Sometimes a literal translation is awkward for one reason or another. Like Freud theorized that the human mind is made up of "the it", "the I", and "the big I" (German "das es" = "the it", etc) This didn't translate well into English, so translators instead borrowed Latin words and said "the id", "the ego", and "the super-ego".

In general, if a foreign term is well-known to English speakers, I'd follow whatever the "consensus" is for translating it, whether that means leaving it untranslated, translating it literally, or using some freer translation. Even if you don't like the consensus translation, use it, because otherwise people won't know what you're talking about. (I suppose there might be cases where you find a translation so outrageously misleading that you just refuse to use it, but those are surely rare.)

If the term is not well-known, then if a literal translation expresses the idea well enough, I'd use it. Otherwise, you have to make judgment calls.


Oh, and if it's the name of a specific methodology, yes, you should capitalize it.

  • So if I understand correctly, leaving out the foreign term out and just using the English name (with a citation to the original dutch source paper) would be clear enough? I should only use foreign terms when their literal translation would mean a loss in meaning? A lot of the items I'm quoting don't have a large adoption, so a consensus if often not available.
    – EpicSam
    Commented Nov 30, 2016 at 16:14
  • @EpicSam I would say, yes. Just translate. And of course give any appropriate citations. If your translation is straightforward enough, then anyone who can read the Dutch paper should quickly realize what your translation is referring to. Anyone who doesn't read the original language won't know either way anyway.
    – Jay
    Commented Nov 30, 2016 at 16:19

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