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 Editorial/opinion piece

 (LaPorte, RE, Serageldin, I) (Library of Alexandria)


 Multilingual Science (English)   Многоязычная Наука (Russian)      

 AAAS Mission. AAAS seeks to "advance science, engineering, and innovation throughout the world for the benefit of all people."  تسعى AAAS إلى "تطوير العلوم والهندسة والابتكار في جميع أنحاء العالم لصالح جميع الناس (Arabic Translation)


 Problem:  Only 3% of the scientific literature comes from developing countries despite 80% of the world’s population living there.  There are many barriers to science in developing countries, Money, expertise, training, books, etc.  One of the most difficult barriers is language.  There are 6500 different languages in the world, but only one for science, English. A student in Egypt is at a major disadvantage to become a scientist, as she has to learn both English and Science.  In contrast an English speaking student in the US needs only to learn Science.



Not only is language an issue of science, it is an issue of civil rights as with the 1964 Civil Rights Act there is a Limited English Proficiency Clause.

“Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 requires recipients of Federal financial assistance to take reasonable steps to make their programs, services, and activities by eligible persons with limited English proficiency

It is quite clear we in science have done little to make science multilingual, and to address the 1964 Civil rights act of limited English Proficiency”


Science cannot be blamed as the tools of human translation have been slow, very expensive ($30-120 per page) and inaccurate. However, translation has rapidly evolved with the development of AI Neural Machine Translation.  Google initiated a translation effort in 2006.  The translations often were gibberish with inaccurate grammar.  Ten years ago, Google started to use brute force translation. This approach markedly improved accuracy by providing the “Gist” of materials but still accuracy was not high. After 2015 Google, Microsoft, IBM and about 10 other translating systems started Neural Machine translation and other AI approaches.   This has produced an enormous increase in accuracy for very little cost.   It is now time for science to break through the language barrier.

The Library of Alexandria is improving science and training in developing countries.  During the past few years we built one of the largest scientific networks with over 1 million email addresses, 200,000 scientific PowerPoint lectures have been collected and used to teach 60 million students.  It has created the largest research methods library in the world, and the first scientific interlibrary loan system in Africa.  Now we plan to move forward with the establishment of multilingual science especially for Africa.


In order to establish multilingual science we need to define the need for multilingual science and to examine the accuracy of the current and future modes of translation. We need to understand the structure of language in science.  It will also be very important to examine multilingual science through the lens of Title 6 of the 1964 civil rights act focusing on Limited English Proficiency. It will be important to center this at the Library of Alexandria as a means to build capacity in developing countries. Finally, guidelines for multilingual scientific communications need to be established

There already are buttons/widgets that can be used to translate from Google, Microsoft and a myriad of other translators.  As indicated one can click on the Library of Alexandria translating button above to see our article in 103 languages. The translators are available, now science should make all of our web pages multilingual by including buttons and using translating systems.

 Overall significance:  If we can reduce the barrier of language in science, many more scientists world wide would be included in the global dialogue. Also, for those of us who only speak English, this would for the first time give us an understanding of science in China, Brazil, Mexico, etc.  We will greatly help limited English speaking Americans to participate more fully in the scientific community. We would be on the road to scientific equity


 What do you call a scientist who speaks 3 languages:    Trilingual

 What do you call a scientist who speaks 2 languages:    Bilingual

 What do you call a scientist who speaks one language:  an American

 Almost 3 times more Europeans can communicate in a second language then Americans.

 Isn’t it time we scientists be able to share our findings in our native languages?




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


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