Dr. Elnathan’s Tips on How Second-Language English Speaking Scientists Can Boost Their Careers
English is the global language – and also the language of science. What’s strange is that half of the world’s scientists learn it as a second language. This poses a double challenge: mastering the all-demanding field of science while also mastering a wholly new language. Otherwise, what will all that research be for? You need to be able to communicate it to the world through an understandable medium.
Suitability as an International Language
Dr. Roey Elnathan, a senior research fellow at Monash University, comments that at the suitability of English as an international language, he gives a couple of pointers to justify his reasoning. He states that conveying basic meanings of the language during tourism, business, trade, social media, or news sites is fairly easier.
In most cases, the context doesn’t change with incorrect word order or even by misusing ‘-ing’ or ‘the’. The language has no linguistic gender, declensions, or conjugations. You don’t need tones to differentiate between words, as is the case in the Chinese language family, and plurals are fairly straightforward. The only place you might get stuck is spellings. However, you mostly get the hang of the pattern.
Just Avoid the Fluff
Dr. Elnathan borrows the words of Clive James, an Australian broadcaster and poet, in saying that the language is “big and baggy.” Elnathan comments that given to its habit of borrowing words from other languages, the English vocabulary is gigantic. Additionally, he comments, the grammar is flexible, presenting a confusing array of options with very subtle distinctions. This presents ample room for fluff or filler language.
Dr. Elnathan adds another interesting observation as to the way second-language speakers learn English. They are taught to prove their authority on a topic by using long sentences and elaborate wording. In native parts of the world, however, the reality is completely opposite. English is considered most elegant in its simple and plain form.
What’s the Solution?
The reality remains that English will not step down from being the language of science – its disciples must make an effort instead. If you’re not a native English speaker and are only getting started in the field, hiring a good language mentor will be beneficial.
Additionally, Dr. Elnathan highlights the importance of institutions providing one-on-one feedback concerning language in article manuscripts. He mentions his own example of how his mentor would teach him through discussion and editing. While universities will have to assign a large budget for this, the reward will be presented in terms of scientific breakthroughs.
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