Research Guide for Vernacular or Non-English Resources
This section of the guide provides overview and advice on searching obtaining vernacular materials via online library catalogs, whether it is the PSU Library catalog, Vikat, local and regional catalogs such as Portland State WorldCat (also known as WorldCat Summit) as well as searching library catalogs in other countries. Additionally online seach engines such as Google Books will be reviewed.
The Issues • 問題 | Cuestiones | قضايا
Finding books in other languages can be complicated (but not impossible) process. While many library catalogs allow searching in different languages, researchers often encounter unexpected problems when trying to find items via online searching, particularly if using a non-western language such as Russian, Chinese, etc. Spelling variants, diacritics, even the varieties of romanization for a single language may present obstacles and questions, including if what you have found is comprehensive or complete. To further complicate matters, your choice of language or transliteration when searching may impact the number of results you retrieve.
Research Representation from Other Countries
It is also important to remember that titles available in the United States or from online resources usually represent only a fraction of the publishing output from other countries; this is particularly true for non-western countries. Many catalogs and databases provide access to only a portion of materials published and may not accurately present a comprehensive picture of the kind of research and resources available from the language and/or country of interest.
Searching Content and/or Descriptions
Though most catalogs based in the United States handle searching in non-English languages, what exactly can be search by these languages versus English is another matter. Though titles and names will generally appear in the language of the country or origin, the description may only be in English or, more frustratingly, little to no description. This makes keyword searching difficult.
Obtaining materials found in online catalogs may also present some probblems. While materials discovered from the PSU Library and Portland State WorldCat catalogs are relatively easy to obtain, materials identified via library catalogs outside the United States or Google Books may be difficult to order in time for your paper or research project. You may also discover these works are only available via our interlibrary loan service; since the library is requesting works from outside libraries, it may take time for the work to arrive.
Unless you are searching online library catalogs and resources from the appropriate country, the easiest and fastest method of locating vernacular materials is by searching in English and specifying the language. In most cases, you may specify the desired language by limiting your results by language options:
Unfortunately this search technique may miss materials cataloged (i.e., described) in the the selected language. For non-western character-based languages, this search will find materials described in the language itself (e.g., Cryllic, kanji, etc.) or romanizations of the language.
Search in Other Languages:
Those most catalogs within the United States handle searching in non-English languages, what exactly can be search by these languages versus English is another matter. Though titles and names will generally appear in the language of the country or origin, the description may only be in English, or have little to no description. This makes keyword searching difficult.
Search in Western Languages:
Most online catalogs are adept when searching in the major western languages taught in the United States (Spanish, German, Italian, etc.). Diacritics are optional, since most catalogs will ignore them and use the letter instead (e.g., ã is searched as the letter a). Please keep in mind that for most materials, only the title and the author's name will be in the language; descriptive information (including abstracts or table of contents) will be in English.
Searching with Non-Western Languges
Almost all online catalogs give searchers the ability to search using the script of most non-western languages; in other words, a researcher may be able to serach library catalogs using Cyrllic, kanji, Arabic, etc. However, similar to searching fo materials in Spanish and other western languages, chances are only the title and the author's name will be in script or charcter. The descriptive information will most likely be in English and/or a romanization of the language.
Romanization and Character Simplication: Though many online resources and catalog try standardizing romanization use, you may discover materials that are described in earlier versions. The same is true when it comes to charcter changes or simplification.
If you are unable to find any or enough materials, try several searches using:
PSU Library Materials Catalog: Vikat
The simplist way to find vernacular materials located within the library. Vikat can be searched using non-western characters and romanization; however due to varioius inconsistencies in material records, searching in English, the language of interest and romanization is highly advisable.