Disadvantages caused by the dominance of the English language in science


The success of a scientist depends on their production of scientific papers and the impact factor of the journal in which they publish. Because most major scientific journals are published in English, success is related to publishing in this language. Currently, 98% of publications in science are written in English, including researchers from English as a Foreign Language (EFL) countries. Colombia is among the countries with the lowest English proficiency in the world. Thus, understanding the disadvantages that Colombians face in publishing is crucial to reducing global inequality in science. This paper quantifies the disadvantages that result from the language hegemony in scientific publishing by examining the additional costs that communicating in English creates in the production of articles. It was identified that more than 90% of the scientific articles published by Colombian researchers are in English, and that publishing in a second language creates additional financial costs to Colombian doctoral students and results in problems with reading comprehension, writing ease and time, and anxiety. Rejection or revision of their articles because of the English grammar was reported by 43.5% of the doctoral students, and 33% elected not to attend international conferences and meetings due to the mandatory use of English in oral presentations. Finally, among the translation/editing services reviewed, the cost per article is between one-quarter and one-half of a doctoral monthly salary in Colombia. Of particular note, we identified a positive correlation between English proficiency and higher socioeconomic origin of the researcher. Overall, this study exhibits the negative consequences of hegemony of English that preserves the global gap in science. Although having a common language is important for science communication, generating multilinguistic alternatives would promote diversity while conserving a communication channel. Such an effort should come from different actors and should not fall solely on EFL researchers.


Autor: Klaus Graf

Historiker und Archivar, Blogger

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