“The nervous Japanese postdoc spent two weeks creating slides, 30 hours drafting a script and 44 hours rehearsing. Altogether, she spent one month away from the bench so that she would not disappoint her supervisors and colleagues during a short informal presentation, in English, before co-workers. Yet they remembered only the mistakes, she says.
Seasoned scientists also feel under pressure when speaking in English. Masahiko Takada at the Tokyo Metropolitan Institute for Neuroscience admits that, even after years of working in English, “I sometimes feel frustrated when I have to discuss research data with foreign scientists.”
Language mastery, be it of one’s native or adopted tongue, provides the communicative ease that says: “I am capable.” In science, weak English hinders a successful career. Improve your English proficiency, and confidence will follow — or so the people of many non-English-speaking nations believe.
Concerns about the dominance of the English language in science are being raised around the world. Researchers in Germany and France, for example, are grumbling about the frustration of working and publishing in English — and, perhaps more surprisingly, so are those in nations that have typically been viewed as consumers of basic science, rather than contributors."
So writes Bonnie Lee La Madeleine of the RIKEN Brain Research Institute. Read the rest of this special report on the Nature website (subscription or site licence required).
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