Lost in Translation: The Challenge of Publishing Scientific Writing in Foreign Languages

Karen Englander Book Cover for YFile homepage
book cover
Karen Englander’s new book

International scholars face obstacles disseminating their research in English-language journals as scientific writing is often challenged by writing style and even bias when translated.

In her new book, Writing and Publishing Science Research Papers in English: A Global Perspective, Karen Englander, a professor in the Department of Languages, Literatures and Linguistics at York University, finds that while publishing in English is “crucial” for disseminating scientific research, many scientists struggle with the structural complexities of the English language.

“For example, when comparing Spanish and English, there are forms of Spanish argumentation that appear digressive or missing steps when translated into English,” she said.

Twenty-four per cent of scientists found it harder to write scientific articles in non-native languages, reporting increased anxiety and dissatisfaction with what they have created.

The book, intended for scientists and graduate students who need to write and publish scientific research in English, includes analysis of scientific papers by a variety of experts including applied linguists, sociolinguists, geopolitical policy analysts, and bibliometricians.

“There are issues around bias and provenance as well,” she added. “The same paper with non-English names and institutions are sometimes peer-reviewed more harshly.”

“My personal motive for creating this book,” said Englander, “emerges from the dozen years I have spent working with scientists who need to publish their research in English.

“Their struggles, victories, and furtherance of their disciplines always inspire me.”