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?

How should a bibliography cite works titled in several scripts?

Up to now I’ve been putting all titles into a single list, in the original scripts and in the alphabetical order informed by their otherwise unused transliterations. For example, Матюшкин (Matyushkin) could come right after Mason, but the transliteration Matyushkin would not appear.

I have a book in hand from Princeton University Press in the 1950s that also uses a single bibliographic order, but includes only transliterations and title translations, not the original-script references. That makes it hard to track down a source because the reader has to be able to back-form the other spelling, which may be ambiguous or nonstandard. The title translations are useful, though as they involve the creation of new text, they can make an entry not match references elsewhere to the same work.

Filled with doubt, I wonder if there is a standard approach to this problem.

I am currently reviewing an interdisciplinary computer science paper which is heavily based on previous works in logistics and process engineering that have been unfortunately published only in German (18 out of total 30 references). The overall idea is sound, but as the logistics structures are in some sense a basis of the paper, I have a strong tendency to reject the manuscript as the research cannot be followed and reconstructed by a researcher that does not understand German language.

On top of that, virtually none of them are available online, or otherwise easily accessible.

I was going to hit the “Reject” button just a few moments ago, but I still have my doubts: I know that in humanities and also in mathematics people often cite publications written in other languages, but I have not yet seen something like that in computer science. Also, if it would be one or two references, but 60%? The journal reviewing policy does not help me in this case.

I was thinking about proposing the following workarounds:

  • Extending the paper – this is probably no option as the journal imposes quite strong page limit,
  • Supplementary report – the vital parts of the non-English text could be made available as an Technical Report or an on-line publication (I was thinking about arXiv) and this can be referenced in the manuscript.

Is it fair to reject it? Does anyone experienced something similar? What was your decision?

Would this be considered at all, or is this not even important? I am not talking about fields which have these foreign languages as their object of study, or where it is obvious that the language would help (if I were to study French Literature, knowledge of French would obviously be important).

But what about fields which are primarily English, so say I want to do my PhD in Political Theory. There are probably a few articles in foreign languages I could make use of, but English seems just fine. Would knowing a foreign language still be an advantage, or not really?