More than 90 percent of global scientific literature is published in English but only a fraction of the world’s scientists are from the US, the UK, Canada, and other Anglophone countries. Science was done equally in English, French, and German at the start of the 20th century. Together these three languages formed the triumvirate. Anyone wanting to stay up-to-date with the latest scientific advances had to learn all three of them. Today, English alone suffices.
Science is Done in English
Scientists in Japan, Germany, Russia, and China spend a substantial amount of their time honing their English skills. Still, their manuscripts need significant revisions before they can be published. Therein lies many opportunities for native English translators if they have scientific training and editing skills.
High Demand for Bilingual Editing
The rise of English as the scientific lingua franca in recent decades has given birth to a new field in language correction: bilingual editing. It has become the norm for scientists to send out their papers to bilingual editors who can fix the issues with their language. Freelance translators from Anglophone countries can become bilingual editors to supplement their income, sometimes substantially.
Bilingual Editing is Different from Editing
Bilingual editing is different from simple editing that involves correcting texts written by native speakers. A Russian mathematician writing in English will not make the same mistakes an American scientist would. If you know mathematics and Russian and speak English natively you will have a unique set of skills to edit the research papers of Russophone mathematicians. You will be aware of source language interference and capable of reading between the lines. Editors fixing the grammar of native speakers don’t really have to deal with these challenges.
Becoming a Bilingual Editor
Glamour journals, such as Science and Nature, have their own teams of editors and translators who work with elite scientists from across the globe. Joining their team will require years of rigorous training in the exact sciences–a doctorate in physics, mathematics, or something equally demanding–and an aptitude for language. It can be difficult to get onboard even if you meet this stringent criteria. Fortunately, alternatives exist.
To enter the niche, you can start helping scientists from Africa, Asia, and Europe. You can work as a freelancer and edit manuscripts before submission to ensure they is not rejected because of linguistic shortcomings. Besides being a well-paid job, it is also emotionally satisfying. That begs the question: Why will someone hire you?
The Skills You Will Need
You can be your scientist clients’ trust partner if you have a degree in any of the hard sciences and can fluently read in more than one language. Many freelance translators have been getting a quarter of their income from work of such kind.
Currently, several high-profile editing agencies and scientific publishing houses offering editing services to non-English-speaking scientists. However, the price tag tends to be exorbitant, out of the reach of most students and not-yet-famous researchers. These scholars can be your stepping stone in the niche if you can convince them of your linguistic skills and provide your services at reasonable prices.
Bilingual editing is not limited to research papers. Because science is a collective enterprise now, scientists spend a lot of their time sending out grant proposals, updating resumes, and communicating with fellow researchers. They need to communicate without ambiguity and bilingual editors can help them.
The editing will involve:
- Fixing grammar, punctuation, and editing copy otherwise
- Improving the semantics and style of a paper
- Work on content and flow
- Ghost writing
The fourth tends to be the most expensive the first requires the least time and energy. The type of editing you are asked for will also have an effect on the price.
Potential for Earnings
The potential for earnings will depend on the work you take and the pricing model you adopt. Your pricing method can be per hour, by volume, or per word. Some experienced editors quote a flat fee. It will also depend on the complexity of the material. A graduate thesis on Galileo’s work may not be as mind-bogglingly dense as a research paper on quantum computing.
Bilingual scientific editing can be a new source of income if you are a translator with a training in hard sciences. More than half of the papers published in natural sciences are from non-native speakers of English. Assisting them in improving their writing can be emotionally and financially fulfilling.
Overseas DTP’s native English speakers translate scientific and technical documents and provide assistance in editing research papers. The editors are native speakers and subject-matter experts. The prices are also reasonable. Consult us if you are looking to translate or improve your research paper in English.