A fellow librarian in Shanghai and I have been working on creating some new MLA8 posters in Chinese for her bilingual school / library.  It’s been an interesting process to put it mildly.

We started off with the MLA posters I created with Katie Day about 2 years ago, and which she updated recently to reflect the MLA8 changes. Now translation is as much an art as a science, and, with the help of a Chinese library assistant we made some rather silly mistakes along the way which in retrospect are obvious. Each round was accompanied by the refrain of my Chinese speaking daughter of “but they just don’t have that /do that in Chinese”

Round 1 – we just translated the English posters into Chinese – well duh, why on earth would you take an English book / video etc. and cite it in Chinese?

Round 2 – finding suitable Chinese originated materials in each basic format and creating citations for them. It may sound easy, but it’s actually harder than you’d think. I worked on the newspaper one with my daughter, and it took a whole evening! Then there was a great NatGeo chinese video, but it was way too complicated as it was a documentary with a director quoting from an interviewee – yes a nice challenge for advanced citations but not suitable for a beginner “basic” poster to get the main ideas across.

Round 3 – punctuation. I’m not entirely sure we’ve nailed this one completely. We ended up making an executive decision on making the in-text punctuation follow the Chinese punctuation – particularly for the full-stop / period “。” and the English punctuation in the “works cited” section. What we didn’t do, and my daughter insists we should have done, is to put the titles of the book in the chinese brackets instead of the inverted commas, i.e. 《。。。  》instead of “…”

Round 4 – italics. MLA8 asks for italics, and initially I spent a lot of time trying to italicise in IOS10, which an afternoon of searching will tell you is not possible.  Along the way I found out some truly fascinating things about Chinese fonts and typography, which you’re welcome to read up on – it really is very interesting. I learnt a new word – glyphs, and the fact that you need around 20,000 of them for a Chinese font! (I also coincidently found out how to add phonetic marks above characters in Pages – never know when you’ll need that!)

Two things cinched it, a comment on a CJK font forum (Chinese, Japanese Korean) ”

“I’m not solving your problem, but to remind you that this kind of “programmatic italic font” has really bad readability.
For CJK text, the right way to express emphasize (or quote) is to use another font (usually serif font). Especially for Simplified Chinese, use Songti, Fangsong, or Kaiti instead of italic font if your text font is Heiti (iOS default). I know it’s a little bit complicated, but this is really how we do italic.”

and secondly from the MLA itself (which is where I really should have started, but sometimes you go off on a tangent without really thinking properly).

Q: Do I italicize Cyrillic book titles in the list of works cited?

In the past, titles and terms in the Cyrillic alphabet were not italicized, partly because it is based on the Greek alphabet, which traditionally is not italicized (on this point, see Chicago Manual of Style, 16th ed., sec. 11.131). Letterspacing instead of italics was traditionally used to emphasize a word or phrase.

Today, Cyrillic cursive (the term italics is usually not used in this context) for titles and for emphasis seems to be used often in publications, including scholarly publications, perhaps because of progress in digital typesetting or because of a global trend toward standardization.

Note that there are many languages in the world that do not have an italic font—Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Armenian, for example. Arabic sometimes uses a typeface that slants to the left instead of to the right.

Given the complexity and specificity of historical, cultural, linguistic, and printing practices throughout the world, a writer should not use italics when a book title is in a foreign language that is not written in the Latin alphabet. If a work is being prepared for publication, let the author pass that buck to the publisher.

Round 5 – checking and checking actually we just finished this now – with adding the last missing closing bracket – and voila, the posters may see the light of day.

mla8-referencing-image-ib-version-chinese mla8-referencing-image-chinese mla8-referencing-article-journal-chinese mla8-referencing-video-chinese mla8-referencing-newspaper-chinese mla8-referencing-book-chinese mla8-referencing-website-chinese

And now, I nervously exhibit them for comment and criticism and correction by my peers! All posters are creative commons with attribution please. My next post will be what I refer to as “MLA8 Lite” – the posters I’ve made for my G6 PYP exhibition students. Just the works cited, without the in-text citation, with explanations in the form of the MLA8 Elements.



2 thoughts on “MLA8 and Chinese …

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