Breaking the English Language Barrier in Scientific Research

Wordvice reporter Andrew Kim explains how non-native English speakers can overcome common mistakes when writing research texts.

Science is the universal language of discovery, ideas, and improvements across time and distance. However, science itself uses a universal language, and not everyone is on an even playing field when it comes to receiving recognition for their contributions. The reality is that practically any important scientific report will be published in English.

The Nature of Science Publishing

In research, success is largely based on the number and impact of one’s publications. Poor writing can be an obstacle or an outright deal-breaker in getting published. An article must pass through numerous filters, including editorial and peer review. While the editorial process primarily focuses on an article’s scientific value, journals do have writing quality standards. Bad writing can derail an article’s sense of authority and sometimes its entire message. In the highly competitive world of publishing, one detraction is a risk most journals refuse to accept.

English as the “Universal” Language

For historical, sociopolitical, or business reasons, English has become the lingua franca of science and academia. The obvious advantage of having a “universal” language for communications is that academic findings can be more easily shared, accessed, and understood. In support of this, Raoul Kamadjeu writes, “Publishing in English…far outweighs the challenges…Our journal’s statistics show that articles in English are accessed 70% more…”

So why not publish independently or choose a journal in another language? While a noble sentiment, scientists still have jobs and careers to pursue. And publishing in an international, high impact, peer-reviewed English-language journal holds the key to a researcher’s career, professorships, funding, and prestige.

Journals are publishers first and purveyors of academic knowledge second. In other words, they serve a de facto marketing function for researchers and ensure the research is branded as viable and reliable. Further, aspiring professors heavily rely on the citation system to further their careers and gain funding. Citations demonstrate that a researcher is contributing something novel to the academic community. In short, publishing research in journals written in English is crucial for reaching a global audience.

ESL Researchers at a Disadvantage

The fact that only 5% of the world’s population speaks English as a native language poses a huge problem for many researchers. Like it or not, virtually every major scientific discovery will be published in English, which means 95% of the world is at a disadvantage. Competition is fierce, and not being fluent in English is a hindrance. This affects non-native English-speaking scientists in two main ways.

Differences in Language

Science journal articles are no cakewalk to read and are even harder to write. Each academic field is contains significant amounts of jargon, and potential language pitfalls abound. A 2016 audit by the academic editing service Wordvice found that while English errors such as spelling, grammar, and punctuation were numerous (44% cumulatively), most corrections (32%) were for “style,” including issues of wordiness, repetition, and overreliance on passive voice.

Language challenges faced by ESL researchers clearly go far beyond simple word choice or grammar rules and therefore are not easily remedied.

Differences in Cultural Expectations

The cultural and philosophical issues faced by ESL researchers can be even worse than the language ones. Written academic English has the expectation of being very direct and concise. This stands in contrast to Asian languages such as Korean, Japanese, or Chinese, the latter of which relies heavily on indirect communication. Coincidentally, these Asian powerhouses are hugely represented in STEM, with Asians constituting the highest percentage (33%) of STEM bachelor graduates and the highest proportion (64%) of international students at US universities. The potential gap in cultural expectations among future scientists cannot be ignored.

Once submitted to journals, researchers’ manuscripts undergo a thorough editorial process that involves correspondence with the journal’s editors. These types of communications must be carried out in English and require a dynamic, non-scripted, interpersonal command of English. Of particular importance is responding to reviewers’ comments and criticism and writing submission cover letters in an effective and polite manner.

How ESL Researchers Can Even the Playing Field

When the entire publication process—from journal submission instructions to answering reviewers’ comments, requires a strong understanding of both English and a different culture—the path can seem daunting and often unrewarding. In many cases, manuscripts are rejected outright based on a simple writing or submission error. So it is no surprise that many will wonder if their would have gotten a different result had it been written by a native speaker.

Fortunately, non-native English speakers are not alone. Universities are increasingly setting up on-campus writing centers to assist international graduate students and postdocs who do research. Graduate students commonly seek help from their English-speaking lab mates. More inexperienced academics are advised to seek out examples from researchers in their field while avoiding reliance on spell-checkers or automated translation tools. While useful, no existing AI tool can detect all types of errors and no applications are suitable for real-time proofreading of technical work.

However, many researchers do not have English-speaking colleagues to turn to, or not enough time to ask. Therefore, many researchers and graduate students are turning to professional English language editing services.

These types of companies usually offer a mix of both language and scientific editing, with services covering everything in the publication process, from journal selection to reviewer responses. The process can seem overwhelming, and even the technical differences between “editing” and “proofreading” are not obvious.

Regardless of whether ESL researchers seek help from their colleagues, professors, tutors, or professional academic editing services, they still face challenges in publishing their articles. Fortunately, academic researchers, like the information they are reporting, are not going anywhere.

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Akorbi Ranked as the Largest Woman-Owned Language Service Provider in the United States

Plano, Texas, August 2020 — Akorbi, a US-based group of companies specializing in language, technology, and global workforce solutions, has earned several impressive rankings this year, making the company the largest privately owned, woman-owned language service provider (LSP) in the US. The company experienced 40% organic growth in revenue from 2017 to 2019, and continues to expand its footprint globally, including several locations in Western and Eastern Africa, India, and its newest nearshore multilingual contact center in Pereira, Colombia.

Akorbi, led by CEO and co-founder Claudia Mirza, is thrilled to be ranked #29, #35, and #27 in the world by the Common Sense Advisory (CSA), Nimdzi Insights, and Slator, respectively, in the LSP industry. Akorbi has maintained a top 100 ranking for three years in a row by the CSA; and for two consecutive years, the company has ranked #11 on their North American list. Adding to this impressive track record in 2020, Akorbi was also listed as the fastest-growing Language Service Provider based on the Women Presidents’ Organization’s (WPO’s) “50 Fastest Growing Women-Owned/Led Companies” rankings.

On the company’s recent growth, Azam Mirza, Akorbi’s president and co-founder says, “It is easy to grow a business quickly when you have private equity supporting you. What makes the Akorbi Group of Companies unique is its impressive organic growth and financial performance while remaining 100 percent privately owned. Looking to the future, while continuing to focus on financial controls and sustainability, we plan to assess possible acquisitions while increasing the size and reach of our strategic sales team.”

Akorbi’s president said despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the company has been able to pivot successfully and as needed to continue to support clients’ evolving needs for interpretation, localization, workforce solutions, and multilingual contact center support. These rankings prove Akorbi’s ability to adapt and partner successfully with clients to provide relevant solutions for today’s economy.

When asked about the key to Akorbi’s success, Claudia Mirza said, “During this uncertain time, I have been exceptionally grateful for our executive team, especially our female leadership who work tirelessly to support our clients and bring in the success we are seeing this year. I am also grateful for my business partner, Azam [Mirza], who continues to support and share my vision for Akorbi which always included dedicating ourselves to job creation and the economic development of women around the world.”

As a top-ranked member of the multibillion-dollar global language services industry, Akorbi is one of only a few women-owned LSPs operating successfully in the global market. Even with competition from industry superagencies, Akorbi continues to achieve year-over-year revenue growth.

About Akorbi

Akorbi is a US-based, woman-owned company providing enterprise solutions that empower companies to achieve success in the global economy. Akorbi helps companies connect with employees, vendors and customers in over 170 languages, 24/7. Akorbi offers customizable enterprise solutions including localization, interpretation in any modality, workforce solutions, and multilingual contact centers.

Thinking of partnering with a woman-owned LSP? Looking for advanced language technology solutions for your company?
Visit today or call 1.877.4.AKORBI (1-877-425-6724).

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5 things you should know before studying the French language

As against the common myth, learning a new language does not have to be anything fancy or costly. If you are a student-to-be, then trying to be diligent, regular and patient can be the gateway to become fluent in a foreign language. Read this article to find some important habits that you must incorporate in your daily life to make your French lessons easier.

  1. Own a good dictionary.
    Try to get yourself a user-friendly dictionary that can be easily carried around. Make sure the dictionary that it contains help sections translated in your own language. Although not mandatory, get the habit of looking up for new words manually several times during the day. This is a crucial and important tip for anyone who is looking forward to signing themselves up for a French language course.
  2. Practice writing each day.
    This is a common practice among traditional language learners and can be incredibly productive when trying to cram information about a new language. Starting a personal notebook will enable you to build up French vocabulary easily. In order to get the most out of your French language courses, you must start to write the words down and then memorise them. This can help you recognise alphabets more efficiently, helping you distinguish one word from another.
  3. Listen on the go!
    Tuning in to hear French every-now-and-then is another great way to enhance your proficiency in French naturally. You can choose to hear songs from an old CD, watch a French movie online or watch the news at a global French news channel. But of course, it is always better to choose something that has a lot of engaging conversations included and less music.Also if you are truly interested in learning French, another amazing option worth mentioning is to listen to audiobooks while you commute. In this case, you can choose books that come along with translations that can give you an interesting read, allowing you to develop your French language skills
  4. Set yourself achievable goals.
    It is a good idea to invest some time to plan a reasonable target that you would like to achieve. For this you can ask yourself questions, such as:
    “How much time would I like to devote each day to learning French?”
    “What do I do after gaining expertise in the French language?”
  5. Know your abilities, as well as your weaknesses.
    Successfully figuring out the pace of your grasping new language by experimenting with different styles of learning mode can be the best thing to do! Try to analyse if you are a visual or audio learner, or, need to write a lot. Knowing what kind of a learner you are will help you focus on our strengths and get a better grip on the French language.

Choose to learn French in London can be a great start to your language learning endeavour. Apply now!