If you write a scientific paper, you typically write it in English. In fact, English dominates the scientific publication world: all top ranked journals are in English (Science, Nature) and scientists simply do not have a choice other than to write in English. Actually, I cannot pinpoint to the exact reason of this, but my guess that has to do with historical developments. Now that science is dominated by countries like the US it is “natural” to use English for scientific publications. One argument for the use English is that it prevents from reinventing the wheel: papers published in different languages could end up unnoticed and uncited. This is perfectly true and maybe has helped us in the past from reinventing lots of wheels.
This brings me to my own episode with the English language. One of the reviewers of one of my last papers pointed out that my paper needs to be written better, a critique to which I fully agree. But what really surprised me that the reviewer went on with this critique and finished the paragraph with
There is a footnote in German!
as if THIS was a really bad thing to do. Actually, the footnote is the name of an App which is called “Wien wie es isst”. Granted, you need to look a bit closer and maybe google this and I could have added a iTunes Link to the footnote for emphasizing this even more. But I got the impression that the reviewer somehow wanted to make the point that I sloppily redacted the paper (there are grammar mistakes in my work which I’m not proud of) and that I didn’t even bother to TRANSLATE from German to English.
After reading this as a non English-native speaker, I somehow got the impression that there is a kind of “language arrogance” in science. Simply put: if you don’t write in English it does not count as much as an English text. I miss some open mindedness for having different languages in science and later translations (to English for example). After all, some of the most important scientific works were written in different languages than English, like “Zur Elektrodynamik bewegter Körper”, which was only translated later. One could argue that translation is a tedious and long process that leads to a delay for scientific discoveries. This might be true, but in the case of “Zur Elektrodynamik bewegter Körper”, the delay of the translation didn’t really matter, as far I can tell. After all, if the scientific discovery is really good, it will make it through translations as well .
your ikangai science team