Multilingual Science (English)   Многоязычная Наука (Russian)

Ronald LaPorte, Ph.D., University of Pittsburgh, USA

Ismail Serageldin, Ph.D., Library of Alexandria, Egypt

Eugene Shubnikov, M.D., Novosibirsk, Russia


For the Library of Alexandria in Egypt


WHO Definition of Health

 English:  Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity

 Russian:  Здоровье - это состояние полного физического, психического и социального благополучия, а не просто отсутствие болезней или недугов.




Only 3% of the scientific literature comes from developing countries. A major barrier is language.  There are 6500 different languages, but only one for science, English. A student in Egypt has to learn both English and Science. Learning statistics in a second language is very difficult.


English is the lingua franca of Science. In 1910, 28% of articles were  English.  By 2005 a whopping 93% were in English (Fig. 1). 


Figure 1



Human translation has been expensive and inaccurate. Google began machine translation in 2006 but translations often were gibberish.  Ten years ago, Google started using brute force translation. This approach markedly improved accuracy by providing the “Gist” of materials but accuracy was variable.  In 2015   Google, Microsoft,  and others began AI Neural Machine  Translation producing an enormous increase in accuracy. This is leading to a bright promise for multilingual science for the future  

The Library of Alexandria has improved science and training in developing countries.  During the past, we built one of the largest scientific networks,  1000s of PowerPoint lectures were collected and taught 60 million students.  We created the largest research methods library and the first scientific interlibrary loan system with the Library of Congress in Africa.  Now we plan to move forward with multilingual science for developing countries.

With these new machine translation tools, we now have the ability to translate  articles or lectures  into 103  languages. One can translate this article or any item in the Lancet at https://translate.google.com/.  We can present in English and have the audience see and hear the talk in Russian.  There are several excellent MT systems available This can  also be  seen with a lecture by Nobel Laureate John Mather http://www.pitt.edu/~super1/lecture/lec38291/001.htm. These MT systems unshackle content from English to one's native tongue.  There may be a few errors but in general, the translations are very good.

Overall significance:  If we can reduce the barrier of language  many more scientists worldwide would be included. Also, for those of us who only speak English, this would  give us an understanding of science in China,  Mexico, etc. Teaching will flourish as one can teach and learn about any topic in one's native language.  We would be on the road to scientific equity.


(Mather J., Cerf V., Omenn G., Roberts R., Sauer F., Marler E.,  Linkov F.)


1.       Ammon, U. “Linguistic inequality and its effects on participation in Scientific Discourse and on Global Knowledge Accumulation –With a closer look at the problems of the second-ranked language communities”  Applied Linguistics Review 3, no.2 (2012):  333-355.

You can try out the multilingual features in the description of our effort at http://www.pitt.edu/~super1/MultilingualSupercourse.htm



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