I am currently doing my master’s in German and need to start writing my thesis. Although I am already comfortable speaking the language, writing (especially academic papers) is not something I feel great about. Also, my thesis is a big deal. Legally speaking, could I write it in English and have it translated? It would still be my work.

I am pretty sure that anyone who has spent some time reading academic papers have come across quite a few “lemons” among them, with bad grammar, strange word choices and incoherent sentences. Such papers are always a chore to read, even if the topic is interesting and the research is good, and I have found myself throwing away papers just because they are so awful to read.

The strange thing is that these papers have been peer reviewed and are published in reputable journals. But still they are often near unreadable because of bad language. Why is this the case? Why isn’t bad language picked up and corrected when peer review is done? I understand that a lot of these academics don’t have English as their first language, but publishing a paper that reads like it was translated from Chinese to English with Google Translate and a thesaurus is not a good way to publish your research.

What is the difference between transliteration and orthographic transcription?

For example, here is 1st article of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, in English:

All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

And here is in Russian:

Все люди рождаются свободными и равными в своём достоинстве и правах. Они наделены разумом и совестью и должны поступать в отношении друг друга в духе братства.

Now, if we open russian Wikipedia article about transliteration, we could see:

English (orthographic transcription):

Vse lyudi rozhdayutsya svobodnymi i ravnymi v svoyom dostoinstve i pravakh. Oni nadeleny razumom i sovestyu i dolzhny postupat v otnoshenii drug druga v dukhe bratstva.

For me, it looks like as transliteration, and yes, it is placed at the transliteration page. But it is stated that it is orthographic transcription.

So, what the real difference between transliteration and orthographic transcription? Some easy eamples?

How is it received by the readers to see the dedication in, say, Chinese, while the entire other parts of the thesis or a book is in English?

Would that annoy the readers who do not know the language of the dedication?
Would that be considered as “putting private message in a publicly-designated document”?

Is there a reference that says whether this is a good/bad practice?

Last year I submittet a manuscript to a Journal. The guidelines said that it can be written in UK English or in American English, but not mixed. So I chose UK English.

Now I must resubmit after revision, and see that they changed the guidelines, which are now

English spelling should follow the Concise Oxford Dictionary. Authors
might also wish to consult Fowler’s Modern English Usage (ed. R.W.
Burchfield; Oxford University Press) and Scientific Style and Format
(eds Council of Scientific Editors; Cambridge University Press).

Does it mean, that I still can use UK English? I don’t have this dictionaries, so I am not sure about it. Wikipedia does not clearly say, which English it is.

I’m studying in Germany. German and English are not my native tongue, but I prefer to write my thesis in English for the following reasons:

  • My English is better than my German (not a good reason).
  • My supervisor’s native tongue is English (not a good reason).
  • I’m analyzing the socio-political situations in an Asian country. Although the official language there is not English, the bulk of the existing literature review (written by natives and non-natives) is in English. Also, English is virtually the only foreign language learnt and used over there. It’s just easier to find materials in English; thus, if I write my thesis in German, it would be a laborious task to translate any cited materials. These are probably good reasons.

Could you suggest a convincing way to word my reasons as to why I prefer to write in English? I’m filling a form of demand to write in language other than German, and they only give a small space (a line) to state my reasons.

How about, “The existing literature review is mainly, if not almost entirely, in English; the country’s second language is also English.” Is this convincing?


This is set up in a Russian university with English as a working language, but may apply to any university with a large share of international students.

Suppose I’m listing a set of course materials, including textbooks and educational resources, for a graduate course. Should I include textbooks in Russian / any other language that might be useful to a part of the students cohort, or should I stick to English only?

Pros of providing additional materials in Russian:

  • some students might benefit from them, and additional materials might make the course content clearer for these students,

Cons of providing additional materials in Russian:

  • students that don’t know Russian might fear they are missing out some course material.

I am reviewing a paper for possible publication in a respected journal. The English in the paper is very poor. The authors are clearly not native English speakers. I want to write something to the effect of the following in my review.

I advise the authors to find a native English speaker to proofread the manuscript.

My question: Is this appropriate in a review?

On one hand, I think it is good, constructive advice. The paper would be significantly clearer if someone spent a few hours helping them fix it up. I can try to help them through reviewer comments, but it would be much easier if someone could help them in person. The authors are located in a western English-speaking country, so they should be able to find someone.

On the other hand, I don’t want to be “the mean reviewer.” I understand that English can be difficult to master for immigrants. Perhaps there is a more diplomatic way of saying this.

I am a student who returned to school to get another degree. This time around I wanted to learn Spanish as well. Spanish is hard, especially for a 30 year old single dad who never spoke a word. Anyway, in the first couple of weeks, I noticed a girl who is always answering correctly when the teacher asks the class questions. So I started sitting next to her and would ask her questions whenever appropriate, “hey, what is this word again?” She would answer, and I would thank her then, as well as at the end of class.

Today, she came into class and pulled her chair/desk away from me by a good foot or two, sat down and didn’t say hi or anything. I figured she was having a bad day, so I tried to keep to myself, but then we got grouped together for an activity. The whole time, she kept her face in her phone and gave me curt answers if she answered me at all (she played like she didn’t hear me a lot). Thankfully, and absolutely nothing against her, the others in the group noticed and stepped in to respond to me when she didn’t.

I felt pretty bad. I wanted to say something, like “hey, sorry for riding your coat tails so much, but I appreciate you,” or something like that, but decided just to get out of dodge. I feel like I abused her help, so I am considering maybe sitting across the room from her from now on to relieve her of my madness, but I hope I don’t make her feel bad by doing so, especially if she was just having a bad day.

So maybe I was thinking about leaving a note or something just saying, “hey, I feel like I need to give you some space, so please don’t take it personal that I am sitting away from you. we are good. :)”, but I feel like thats creepy. Should I just move and shut the F up? What do you think?