I’m sure many of you have heard of the Dunning-Kruger effect which basically states that people with low skills in a given area tend to overestimate their skill level relative to the general population. My question is how this capacity to assess one’s own skills may be affected by language skills.

I am a TA at a German university in a first-year engineering course and I have a few students whose native language is not German. The class is entirely in German and relies on technical vocabulary more than e.g. math or physics. So obviously these students will have a harder time in the class [citation needed], and I’m not concerned about their skill level per se (that issue is covered in another question), but about their ability to judge how well they are doing in that class compared to other students, and also compared to what we expect of them.

Answering with your own personal experience and advice is of course welcome, but pointers to research on the subject would be greatly appreciated. It might support our department in helping these students better in the future.

PS: Feel free to suggest another stackexchange site if you consider this question unfit for academia.sx

As any modern student knows, nearly all published research these days is in English. That’s just the way of the world. But it didn’t used to be that way. Many of the most pivotal pieces of scientific literature in the world, like the writings of Riemann, Cantor, Einstein, Galois, Schrödinger, (Gregor) Mandel, Linnaeus and many, many others were written in German, French or Latin. These days, publishing in a language other than English hurts your credibility, and is largely discouraged.

When did English become necessary for publishing scientific literature?

Following APA style, “if you are citing a work written in a non-Latin script (e.g., Chinese, Greek, Japanese, Russian), the reference must be transliterated into the English alphabet.

Sometimes, for a given language, e.g, Persian, there are more than one system for transliteration and the researcher needs to choose one of them. In such cases, shall we tell our audience what system have been used for transliteration? If yes, where is the best section to put it in an academic journal? In the methods?

For the first time (I am a relatively junior professor), a student has asked me to write a letter of recommendation for him for graduate school application in the US. I was glad to do so, as he is an excellent student who has performed research with me – we have authored a paper together.

On going through my letter now, it seems a bit … unnatural. I have used the same adjective on multiple occasions – I only know so many ways to say that a student is ‘good’ at something. I am also sure that some of my word-choices will be noted as peculiar to the native speaker – most of my English writing experience is in academic contexts. While comparing to random examples that I have found on the internet, my letter seems boring and dull. I am also sure that my letter will have grammar errors of some form or another.

I wanted to know how admissions committees avoid having biases towards letters written by more talented writers, or by native speakers. If you were to put two letters having similar contents in front of me – one written by me and one written by a British or American or any other native English speaking professor, I would say that theirs is definitely superior, and I would feel more positively to their student.

I am applying for scholarships for MSc studies in Germany. On one of the application, there is a field that asks for info on Language skills. Currently I do not possess officialy recognized language certificate (more specifically, I do not possess TOEFL, IELTS etc). I plan to take the test next month, however my application deadline is sooner than that.

I would like to include some certificate in the application. The only thing I have now is a certificate for finishing 5 years of English course during elementary school. It has no grades, but it is from a local language school.

Should I include it in my application?

Many universities require that your native language be English or you will have to submit proof of language proficiency.

Usually if you lie and say English is your native language while all other evidence shows otherwise (e.g. country of birth, country of citizenship, university degree language, etc.), universities will likely suspect that you are lying.

However, suppose my native language is not English but I can read, write, listen, speak as fluently as a native speaker. If I satisfy one or more conditions below, do universities have any reason to suspect that English is not my native language?

  1. I am a citizen of a country where English is the official language (though I may not be born / living there)

  2. I graduated from a university where English is the official language

I want to apply to Cambridge for the math part 3 course. I took the ielts test and scored a 6 on writing, a 7.5 on speaking and a 9 on reading and listing (total 8). Unfortunately I need a 7 for writing, speaking, listening and a 6.5 for reading (total 7.0). Should I try the test again or should I apply with the grades I obtained? Is it possible that they will make an exception for the writing part?

My friend found a MSc program in Germany whose professors guaranteed to him full English courses plus they would let him write my thesis in English. However, the admission office at the University asks for a high level (C1) of German language proficiency.

Up until now he did not have any luck in explaining this to the people in the Admission office. My question is – is it possible for an exemption of the language requirements to happen, or would you advice that this sounds like a time wasted? Have you heard of any case that this was a obstacle, but it got solved?