In case you might not yet have had a chance to read this previous blog post by my colleague please do so, it accurately addresses the well-known dilemma faced in the current scholarly publishing landscape in science.
About 2000 languages are spoken in Africa, and these traditional and indigenous dialects are also a medium of choice in knowledge dissemination for many scientists on and off the continent.
As pointed out in the earlier mentioned blog post, many African scientists are proficient in the English language and regularly publish their scholarly communications in Anglophone. In 2018 alone AfricArXiv preprint repository scholarly African collection had 25 submissions in English.
It is however not lost on such scholars, myself included, that whereas we are multilingual, we face unilingual constraints in expressing our mostly written publications as well as sometimes in our spoken word presentations.
I believe that technology in its role as an enabler of positive change could play a vital role in bridging this gap through the use of Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) offering a service of providing a seamless translation platform for scientific work written in different official African languages.
One of the key task for such an A.I. system could be accepting English-papers written by African researchers and offering a seamless translation service resulting in the output of as many African languages as possible, and vice versa, and in a manner that is structured to build on previous learning.
To quote my colleague in the previous blog post “With the advancement of Natural Language Processing (NLP), it should be fairly easy for non-Indonesian [or African] speakers to understand articles written in Indonesian [or African local dialects]. Hence the burden to immediately use English as the main language of science could be lowered.”
There is a language bias in the current global scientific landscape that leaves non-English speakers at a disadvantage and prevents them from actively participating in the scientific process both as scientists and citizens. Science’s language bias extends beyond words printed in elite English-only journals.https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fcomm.2020.00031/full
It’s Dasapta from Indonesia. Thank you Victor for inviting me to joining The Translate Science Initiative. Although scientists are coming from every corner of the earth, living perfectly using their own native/mother tongue, but it’s English which has been used as the lingua franca of science.
Conversely, many scientists in Africa, Asia, Latin America and Europe still publish their work in national journals, often in their mother tongue, which creates the risk that worthwhile insights and results might be ignored, simply because they are not readily accessible to the international scientific community. To overcome this dilemma, several initiatives now aim to strengthen the impact and quality of national journals with the goal of gaining greater international visibility for articles published in a language other than English.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1796769/
Born and raised in Indonesia, a non-English speaking country, it’s important for me to promote the use of national language (Indonesian) instead of English in scholarly communications, because:
- Most researches in Indonesia are about local problems. Therefore it’s very logical if the main mode of dissemination should be in Indonesian.
- Although many Indonesians would take English course since kindergarten or primary schools, but English still is not used as the first language. Therefore it takes more time and effort to translate our researches to English, while it could be shared faster if we used Indonesian.
- With the advancement of Natural Language Processing (NLP), it should be fairly easy for non-Indonesian speakers to understand articles written in Indonesian. Hence the burden to immediately use English as the main language of science could be lowered.