Can you help me with some good arguments to prove that English is the best language for scientific writings? (some hard-core scientific articles would be nice).

I'm from Slovakia. Few weeks ago I receive a response from my University which states that I am not allowed to write my "pre-dissertation" thesis in English. I have a plan to write an "open letter" to the University.

note: I am fully aware that my English is not as perfect as of native speaker. But writing thesis in international language is a way how to easily train to write articles to scientific journals.

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    Historically, some Brits would disagree (Newton wrote his works in Latin).
    – oerkelens
    Commented Feb 12, 2014 at 10:27
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    Not all. His mathematical treatise was ‘Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica’, but his later work on the property of light was ‘Opticks: or, a Treatise of the Reflections, Refractions, Infractions, Inflexions and Colours of Light’. Commented Feb 12, 2014 at 10:36
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    You may find advice beyond lingusitics at Academia.SE academia.stackexchange.com
    – Slaviks
    Commented Feb 12, 2014 at 10:59
  • @BarrieEngland indeed, pretty much all his earlier works were in Latin, all his later in English.
    – Jon Hanna
    Commented Feb 12, 2014 at 13:55

4 Answers 4


There used to be one language of science, a lingua franca, and it was Latin. However, the Protestant Reformation changed the power and influence of the Catholic Church and the use of Latin. Galileo and Newton both started writing papers in their common tongue, and eventually in the 19th century the three main languages of science were French, English and German.

German fell out of favour throughout the 20th century, as many of the big scientific organisations had been formed by the US, Britain, France and Belgium. French clung on a little longer, but in the 80s the French journals switched to all English too. In the Soviet Union, all papers were published in Russian and many never translated - this is actually still a problem today as many great papers in Theoretical Physics are still only available in Russian.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, then only English remained as the language of science. Chinese may come to challenge it in the future, though. The Slovak language? Probably less so..


When Wasaburo Oishi discovered the jet stream, he could have written his report in his native Japanese, or in either of German or English (the two predominant languages in earth-sciences at the time).

Instead he chose to write it in Esperanto; that way it should be easy for anyone to learn how to read it!

And so, the jet-stream remained unknown of outside of Japan, until WWII (ironically one of the ways that westerners discovered it, was the effect on targeting it had while trying to bomb Japan).

There are good reasons for promoting national languages in Universities, but there are good reasons for publishing theses in those with a large international readership.


It's because it's widely understood in the international scientific community.


English is the most widely used language in academia, at least in the west, but much research is published in other languages, and I have observed a growing trend to provide abstracts only in English.

My personal view is that it makes more sense to go for common, rather than specific languages in order to share knowledge in the widest possible way.

The most obvious candidates are Esperanto (the most widely accepted so-called artificial language) and Basic English (the most widely-used and -accepted common variant).

Cases for and against can be found here.

Noone yet has made the case for graphic novels being a more universal form of communication - at least not until now, as far as I'm aware. Although you'd be fighting an uphill battle to get it taken seriously, it's an argument I would love to see put forward, as it makes a lot of sense - but would present a healthy challenge to many exclusively word-based academics. Good luck!

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    It's interesting to note that while there are more articles on the Esperanto version of Wikipedia, there are 3.5 x more users registered on the Simple English version. See meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/List_of_Wikipedias#100_000.2B_articles Commented Feb 12, 2014 at 12:47
  • Wasaburo Oishi thought the most obvious candidate was Esperanto too. Nobody read his papers though, because they were all in Esperanto. Then again, if they had read them, they would have found it easier to bomb his country, so it balances out.
    – Jon Hanna
    Commented Feb 12, 2014 at 12:55

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