Multilingualism for science communication

Martina thinking about the importance of using multiple languages in scicomm

As you (probably) already know or recently noticed I am not a native English speaker. I am Italian and besides my mothertoungue I also speak German and English.

Since the 60s, English has been recognized as the lingua franca of science and that is the main reason why I decided to write this blog and the related Instagram page in English.

I thought that choice would allow me to reach a wider public and to make my posts more accessible since English is one of the most spoken languages in the world.

I recently came across a paper by Màrquez and Porras “Science Communication in Multiple Languages Is Critical to Its Effectiveness”, which made me question my choice. The authors state that although having an universal language has allowed scientists to share ideas more easily, it ignores the point-of-view of non-English communities.

Issues for scientists: presenting at congresses and writing manuscripts and grants is challenging for non-native English speakers. Often manuscripts are rejected because of poor English even if the scientific content is valid.

Issues for the general public: often scientists focus their research on topics related to their countries. If these are non-English speaking countries/regions, the consequence is that this kind of knowledge will not be available for the local population. Often learning a new language is strongly correlated with a particular socioeconomic background.

I strongly believe that science is for everyone (regardless of age, gender and education level) and I write this blog in English believing that this language is one of the most spoken and accessible languages in the world.

The paper by Màrquez and Porras forced me to think about my decision and now I am asking myself if I should start writing also in Italian and perhaps in German too.

On Instagram I follow talented bi(multi)lingual scientists, who do an incredible job communicating science in multiple languages. Some examples are listed here:

@stina.biologista Stina is a German scientist, doing a PhD in Sweden. She communicates science in English and German.

@bio_bob_ Roberto in an Italian assistant professor working in the Netherlands. He communicates in English and Italian.

@thelabnotebook Mafalda is a Portuguese post doc working in the US. She communicates science in English and Portuguese.

@carlabiotech Carla is an Italian post doc working in the UK. She communicates in English and Italian.

Do you think that I should also communicate in Italian and German? If yes, both on this blog and on Instagram?

Let me know what do you think about it in the comments.

Reference:

Màrquez and Porras, 2020, “Science Communication in Multiple Languages Is Critical to Its Effectiveness”, https://doi.org/10.3389/fcomm.2020.00031

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