Handling translations

Cultural references   Danish/foreign words in English texts   Signposting   Back translation   Retention of original spelling

When translating from Danish to English, be attentive to the needs and frame of reference of your audience.

Cultural references

References to Danish brand names, old TV shows, celebrities, businesses etc. should either be contextualised or replaced with more internationally recognisable examples.

International audiences cannot be expected to be familiar with – or interested in – the nuances of Danish cultural geography (for example, the difference in mentality between West and East Jutland, or the subtle differences between the cities of the trekantsområde in East Jutland).

Danish/foreign words in English texts

Words and phrases

Individual Danish/foreign words or phrases should be italicised, and translations or explanations should be provided in parentheses in connection with the first instance of the word in the text. Do not put these explanations in single quotes.

If the word or phrase occurs several times in the same text, only italicise the first instance.


In internal communication, references to terms that AU staff/students should be expected to or need to become familiar with do not need to be italicised (Studenterhusfonden, Studenterrådet).

Correct example The central Danish concept hygge (cosiness) is difficult to translate.

Titles of works

When referring to Danish/foreign books, journals, plays etc. in your text, follow your source in capitalising the title of the original work, and include an English translation in parentheses. If the translation is not the official title of an actual translation, capitalise the title sentence-style. If the translation is published, follow the format of the public text, which often means capitalising the title headline-style. And remember that the titles of published works are italicised in English. See Capitalisation.

Correct example Leonardo Fioravanti’s Compendio de i secreti rationali (Compendium of rational secrets) became a best seller. (translation not published)
Correct example Proust’s À la recherche du temps perdu (Remembrance of Things Past) was the subject of her dissertation. (translation published)

Danish institutions, awards etc.

When mentioning Danish institutions, awards, events etc. use official translations where available. Otherwise present the Danish name according to standard usage (sentence-style caps in many cases) and provide a translation in parentheses.  Official names of institutions, awards, events etc. should be capitalised headline-style.

Correct example The Rigmor and Carl Holst-Knudsen Award for Scientific Research
Correct example The HM Queen Margrethe II Travel Grant


Danish writers often signpost foreign words with single quotes or italics, or by prefacing the word with såkaldt (so-called). Do not carry this kind of signposting over into the English version of the text.

Source text: De såkaldte ‘applications’

Correct example The applications…
Incorrect example The so-called ’applications’….

Source text:

Det sker i form af de såkaldte scholarstipendier, som er blevet uddelt hvert år siden 2006.

Correct example The grant takes the form of scholar fellowships, which have been awarded every year since 2006.
Incorrect example The grant takes the form of scholar fellowships as they are known, which have been awarded every year since 2006.

Back translation (re-translation)

We often translate texts that themselves contain translations of quotes or text excerpts from English. A Danish press release about a British researcher’s work that contains translated excerpts of an interview conducted in English is a typical example.

When producing this kind of source text in Danish, always use the English versions of the translated quotes or excerpts in your translation. If you do not have the original English version of a text that is cited in translation, you must paraphrase. For example, quotations should be rephrased as indirect speech.

When translating quotations between Danish and English, take particular care to render quotations accurately. Have your translation approved by the source of the quotation wherever possible.

When interviewing non-Danish speakers for Danish-language articles and press releases that may subsequently be translated to English, please remember to save quotations in the original language so that the translator isn’t forced to back translate to English.

Retention of original spelling

Retain the spelling of the original source text when quoting from sources written in non-UK English. For example, when citing texts that include references to American centres in which the names of these centres are spelt according to American usage (‘center’), retain US spelling.

This rule also applies to centres at AU and other European universities that use American spelling in their names, both in citations and in lists of centres on au.dk and in AU publications.

Since the beginning of 2013 she has been head of one of the most recognised and largest centres for research in education, the Wilson Center for Research in Health Professions Education at the University of Toronto.

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