Languages, lipstick and some more

I received a tweet and an email about an article which appeared in the Language and Linguistics section of fifteeneightyfour, the blog of Cambridge University Press. Below, my views.

Carmen Pérez-Llantada appreciates the richness and the power of the words that scholars use in their communication of science. They do so to present the facts they study, to share their observations and educate their readership. Of course, Pérez-Llantada doesn’t use such a strong word as educate. She skilfully softens it to “align their readers’ views to their own”. Which is, to my mind, exactly what science communication should be doing. And she aptly characterizes the professional use of language as skilful and crafty. A wonderful choice of words for more than one reason.

Pérez-Llantada rightfully starts from the power of languages to shape new knowledge in the respective fields of use which has become more visible than ever through the use of the Internet for the professional communication of science. And then she correctly moves on to the necessity to spur the “multilingualization of new and existing knowledge available only in English”. Why does she, along with other experts, consider the use of more languages besides English so important? A conceptually simple, but pragmatically somehow difficult to grasp answer: how else than in their own languages can field practitioners and policy makers use such knowledge for addressing problems at a local scale (she quotes Amano et al., 2016).

Photo by Vlad Tchompalov on Unsplash

I greatly appreciate that such an acknowledged and respected expert in applied linguistics as Carmen Pérez-Llantada deals with such a complex issue. Particularly when her own first language is Spanish and English is her professional/academic means of communication. And yet, though coming from one of the widely used languages in the world, Pérez-Llantada is well aware of the many nuances of a science communication linguistic monopoly. Opening up science communication to the larger public is a must today in a world divided not only by understanding languages, but by various types of fake news and the difficulty to address “gloCal”, global and local, audiences.  


Pérez-Llantada insists in a polite academic way on the necessity to preserve the rich linguistic ecology in the public communication of science.  And she thinks that we, multilingual scientists, may improve the situation by taking advantage of the resources that the Internet offers. She invites us, and through us I imagine that she targets local practitioners and decision makers, to learn how to go beyond the lipstick on the pigs, and get trained and effective in the use of the many, versatile means of web 2.0 communication.

Photo by Daniil Kuželev on Unsplash

I mostly agree with her points. Where I see things, not necessarily differently, but wearing my local, Romanian linguistic lenses, which makes me see the world in Romanian colours and hues, is where I strongly believe that beyond the scientists, researchers, scholars, experts, professionals there is a place for decision and policy makers to have a vision of what scientific production really means, of the collaboration it entails and, above all, of the profound need and possibly right to be allowed to think and work in one’s own language as well. And acknowledge that need somehow in the many and constantly changing admin criteria that govern the lives of the above-mentioned categories.

A welcome and worthy post.

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