Answered By: Jonathan Faerber (he/him/his)
Last Updated: Mar 06, 2024     Views: 24

Although it may not be typical of most academic writing in North America, words from non-English languages can be a valuable and relevant contribution to an assignment. For example, you might mention non-English words in order to define or analyze these phrases or words. Words from other languages can also help express a novel perspective where the English language—especially North American academic English—is too narrow or limited for your purposes. This practice of combining languages to more effectively communicate a point is known as code-meshing (Gayle et al., n.d.).

Since the APA manual does not directly address the topic of code-meshing, the following principles are derived from both academic convention as well as the APA Style rules for translating phrases and formatting citations and references. Generally, translations for individual words are included in parentheses on first mention. In some cases, you might repeat an entire sentence in English if you are translating a passage of writing or speech from another language (Purdue University, n.d.). In cases where you have clearly defined a specific non-English word you are discussing and have repeated the word several times, readers will then be able to understand your continued use of the word even without accompanying translations (quite similar to how you would use an abbreviation in APA Style). 

Note that while the APA Style manual does not prohibit the use of non-Roman alphabet characters in academic writing (e.g., Greek or Chinese characters), writers are generally encouraged to use the Roman alphabet (English letters) to write out foreign words, especially when formatting titles in a reference list (American Psychological Association, 2021). It is also common practice to italicize a word from another language so long as that word is not recognized in most dictionaries as part of the English language (American Psychological Association, n.d., When to use italics section).

For a more general introduction to the topic of either switching between or combining multiple languages, see also: What is Code-Meshing? or search for “code-meshing” on Google or another search engine. While several samples of code-meshing in texts will not be formatted to APA Style rules, they illustrate how many published authors combine English and non-English words effectively.

Finally, for information on translating a source, see How Do I Cite or Reference Non-English or Translated Sources in APA Style? as well as “Lost” in Translations? Aigoo [Oh No].


American Psychological Association. (n.d.). When to use italics. 

American Psychological Association. (2021, August 23). When and how to transliterate titles in references. APA Style Blog

Gayle, A., Snyder, C., Highman, R., & Yuan, R. (n.d.). What is codemeshing?,tend%20to%20dictate%20students'%20educations

Purdue University. (n.d.). Using foreign languages in academic writing in English.