SCI-ART LAB

Science, Art, Litt, Science based Art & Science Communication

A researcher sent me this message after reading my articles on science communication ....

Q: I want to communicate science too. But I am not good at both English and my mother tongue Hindi.

I mentioned 'Hindi' also because I don't know what scientific terms they use in my language. What should I do? 

Krishna: Know what?  I face the same problems. But a researcher, an Editor and an Englishman opened my eyes to the truth a few years back.

The English author told me, "Don't worry Krishna, even we are not good at English! We have Editors, assistants and proofreaders to help us and correct our work!"

The researcher told me, "If you are afraid of making mistakes, you can never make progress. Just keep walking and correct yourself as you move".

The editor said, "Most think that improving their English will help to make  their academic texts into publishable papers, or help in writing articles and so spend time and effort on that. In reality, linguistic competence takes second place to the ability to produce quality scientific content. For editors and reviewers, good science is almost always more important than language ability". 

Another researcher said, ' language does matter — papers/articles must at least be understandable — and I regularly find myself frustrated at the status quo. Science too often demands that non-native English-speaking (NNES) academics focus on learning to speak and write in English, which drastically disadvantages them. Even if NNES academics eventually learn perfect English, they will have spent so much of their professional time and effort on this endeavour that they might find themselves lacking in ability to actually work on science.

Rather than investing seemingly endless time in learning English so that researchers can share their findings with a global audience, it makes sense to re-evaluate researchers’ needs, reconsider training and seek support from language professionals. This would be a better investment of resources for all involved' (1).

The importance of language lies in communicating something. If the person you are communicating to understands what you are trying to say, that is more than enough, at least in science. That is the lesson I learnt after all these years of science communication and writing.

Forget about what others think about your writing skills. You are not here to show your language proficiency. Yes, it helps if you are good at wordplay. If you can attract people with good language skills that is a boon. But 'science' is more important in this field than 'language'.

Do you know that due to my lack of time, I sometimes write/type while travelling or doing other things like eating?  If I wait for the article to get  corrected, that time never comes! Because I deal with several things at any given point of time. I have to finish what I am doing and move on to another task.

So I post the article even while writing with all the mistakes in it! The pressure that people are reading it at that point of time makes me do the corrections or add more information by 'creating' time for it!

Read this article of mine to understand my problems more: I-love-my-toddler-essays

Then even I don't know the scientific equivalents of words in my own mother tongue! I use English words while describing scientific terms. 

In a world where an equivalent to 'hue' can be spelled as either color or colour, which one do you think is right? 

Which of these words do you use in your science articles? 

leukaemia leukemia
manoeuvre maneuver
oestrogen estrogen
paediatric pediatric

Either one of these sets will do. People will understand all of them alright.

You can even invent your own English words if you want! I do that sometimes. :)

So forget about your language skills. If you feel like communicating your work, just go ahead and do it! And learn the language on your way like I do!

When you are aiming big, small things don't matter.

Footnotes:

1. https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-021-01905-z

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