“Diversity” programs and “cultural inclusion” goals of many progressive institutions have minimized the importance of Western Civilization and key languages of history — including English.
So, it’s nice to see English getting a little respect in a new book. Serena Golden of Inside Higher Ed interviews author Scott L. Montgomery about the view of English as the language of science, as expressed in Does Science Need a Global Language? English and the Future of Research.
Montgomery, who is an affiliate faculty member in the Jackson School of International Studies at the University of Washington, lays out a host of data in support of his claim that English has more and more become the language of scientific communication and publication — and that it is likely to remain so for quite some time to come.
This being the case, Montgomery says, the best course of action is to improve and expand English instruction worldwide, so that no scientist will be constrained or marginalized by an inability to communicate her work.
Montgomery responded via e-mail to questions about the benefits, pitfalls and implications of having a single, universal scientific language.
Q: What have been the key factors in the rise of English as the global language of science?
A: The history here is both complex and fascinating, but I’ll just summarize some of the major points. Both the Scientific Revolution and the Industrial Revolution, centered in England, were factors early on, though there was much translation and many scientists in Europe could read French, the true lingua franca at the time. By the late 1800s, English was one of several major languages in science, roughly equal with French but well below German. A shift began in the 1920s, as German scientists were blamed for some aspects of World War I (chemical weapons) and for support some of them showed of the conflict. World War II then reduced Europe to ashes, while U.S. science was undamaged, well-funded, and in high gear.
A massive rise in U.S. publications took place, starting in the late ’40s. It took a full half-century before Europe could match America in this primary area. By the 1990s and early 2000s, new and forceful elements combined: the fall of communism; globalization; millions of science students migrating to Anglophone countries; and changes in the editorial policies of international journals to English only. At some point, too, the growing use of English became self-perpetuating and expanding. That is, scientists themselves saw what language the writing on the wall was in, and many began to adapt.
Interview with author of new book on English as the lingua franca of science (Inside Higher Ed | News)