Translation is not a transfer of meaning from one language to another, but a dialogue between two languages.
People of every nation are learning English. The language of the once-global island empire and its former colonies has conquered the worlds of technology, commerce, and popular culture. Bankers, pilots, commodity traders, film stars, and ship's captains have to know the language of Shakespeare, Lincoln, Churchill, and Yogi Berra. But the conquest is not complete. History, literature, and lab reports still first appear in French, Russian, German, Mandarin, Japanese, Serbo-Croat, Greek, and Hebrew. Authors who want their books and research to reach a global audience will eventually have to translate those results into English. Right at the moment when a scholar who writes in French or Farsi wants to reach the world, a long negotiation begins. For the French author of a recent history of DuPont and chemical engineering, that negotiation led to a book in English very different from the original in French.
We all know that some names and some subjects simply sell books. The reverse can also be true. Certain words can cut the sales of a book. Have you ever read a popular book on science that included differential equation in its title? For those few of you who have searched Amazon or your local bookstore for a page-turner on pipes and valves, the words "chemical engineering" do not appear in the titles of books on the popular science shelves. The 24 books Amazon.com lists from the search string "chemical engineering" include only handbooks and textbooks.
In fact, the publishing history on both sides of the Atlantic of a recent book on the history of chemical engineering at DuPont shows that those who market books believe "chemical engineering" in the …