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Does Science Need a Global Language?: English and the Future of Research Hardcover – May 6, 2013

4.8 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

Montgomery explains how the dominance of English extends beyond formal science publications to international organizations, corporate correspondence, job and fellowship postings, Web sites, and much else...Science's adoption of one language is less a cause for concern than another instance of a grand tradition...because for millennia, lingua francas have catalyzed major advances in scientific and other learning.
                                                                Peter Monaghan, Chronicle of Higher Education


Scott Montgomery's book is a fine illustration of the way [new studies of global English] are emerging.  In is the scientific story, told by a scientist--by a scientist who has taken the trouble to understand current linguistic thinking on the global use of English...As Montgomery writes..."What has happened to modern science is remarkable, revolutionary." From a linguistic point of view, I already knew it was remarkable...But I had not fully taken on board just how revolutionary the consequences of this development have been.
from the forward by David Crystal


In [this book], Montgomery investigates the role of English as the global language of science...The book focuses clearly on  natural sciences, yet it is also highly relevant for social sciences, including business and management, as well as for the humanities...This is not a naive or triumphant book about English as a global force. It is a book written by a modernist, a believer in science as a joint, progressive human project. For this purpose as well as for its sheer learnedness and elegance of expression, it is well worth a read.  --Susanne Tietze, Sheffield Hallam University

...the book is an excellent treatment of topics very important to scientific research, communication, and education in general. Highly recommended.  Chemical Information Bulletin, American Chemical Society

Because both educators and researchers at all levels encounter increasing levels of globalization, this book is recommended for all.  Journal of Chemical Education

"As a writer and translator of scientific texts, Scott L. Montgomery has had a front-row seat to an extraordinary development: the rapid ascent of English as the lingua franca of science."
(Chronicle of Higher Education)

"In this interesting, entertaining, and highly informative read, Scott L. Montgomery teases apart various expected and several unanticipated considerations in determining whether science needs a global language. . . . It is without a doubt a meaningful read for scientists, science educators and researchers, and particularly those interested in science within the context of language and history."
(Science Education)

"An intelligent and learned book. . . . In linking linguistic developments and changes to individuals’ life stories and [Scott Montgomery's] own experience, he communicates that the personal and political are interconnected and that the production of knowledge is part of historical, political processes and shifts in power, often played out in the daily tragedies, failures and fragilities of ‘real people’. This is not a naive or triumphant book about English as a global force. It is a book written by a modernist, a  believer in science as a joint, progressive human project. For this purpose as well as for its sheer learnedness and elegance of expression, it is well worth a read."
(M@n@gement)

"Montgomery gives an informative and even-handed account of the state of play, enlivened by anecdotes about professional encounters with non-native English-speaking scientists, and makes thoughtful suggestions as to what this implies for scientific education and publishing."
(Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development)

"Because both educators and researchers at all levels encounter increasing levels of globalization, this book is highly recommended for all."
(Journal of Chemical Education)

"It may seem obvious that English is the one truly global language, but Scott Montgomery, himself a professional translator, is the first to assess the costs and benefits of this fact with such clarity."
(Steve Fuller, Auguste Comte Chair in Social Epistemology, University of Warwick)

"Montgomery makes a convincing case, and he does it with an engaging style."
(Steven Breckler PsycCRITIQUES)

"Montgomery gives a clear overview of the issues surrounding any possible international language of science, and makes a convincing argument for the acceptance of the reality of the place of English in the world. . . . [T]his is a fascinating book that takes a pragmatic view of an important, though potentially contentious, subject."
(The British Journal for the History of Science)

About the Author

Scott L. Montgomery is a consulting geologist and university lecturer. He is the author of The Chicago Guide to Communicating Science, The Powers That Be: Global Energy for the Twenty-First Century and Beyond, and several books on the history of science and scientific language, including Science in Translation: Movements of Knowledge through Cultures and Time.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: University Of Chicago Press (May 6, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226535037
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226535036
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #753,925 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I found this to be a highly readable, even eloquent, essay about the present and future state of science, globally speaking. It uses the lens of language to talk about this, specifically English, now the global tongue of international research, which most people probably never even think about. I'm now convinced they should. The scientific world is rapidly globalizing; anyone who is working in the sciences or who wants to go into science needs to understand this. It is globalizing because researchers everywhere recognize English as a lingua franca and use it as a shared medium. As Montgomery shows, this isn't the first time a single tongue has had this kind of influence. Latin, Arabic, Chinese, among others, all brought great benefit and also difficulties in the past. The author reviews all of these to gain some insight into what may happen in decades to come. He considers the possibility that translation technology will take over and make a shared language unnecessary. He rejects this, I think, in an informed and convincing way. He also gives a very fair review of the drawbacks to a lingua franca. In the end, however, he concludes these aren't enough to weaken the need for a global tongue, due to all the benefits it brings, especially for developing countries.

I confess that I've read several of Scott Montgomery's books and have enjoyed them all, especially his last one on global energy. I always come away from these reading experiences enormously more informed than when I began. The same is true here. I learned a great deal about language and its realities in the world today. I liked this book even more than the others I've read by this author. It's short, very well written, with Montgomery's special kind of ironic humor and humane sensibility. But it also revealed a world I didn't really know existed - a world that is also new and rapidly evolving before our eyes. This kind of revelation, it seems to me, is what good non-fiction is supposed to do.
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Format: Hardcover
This is a book about the future of science by a scientist, written for everyone--I disagree with the first reviewer; it is not a scholarly book but can be easily read by anyone. Science would not exist without language, obviously--but which language or languages? We don't tend to think about this, or hear about it. Yet, as the author shows, it is a key question for most of the scientific world today and for the future too. English is the global tongue of scientific work: we can accept this fact, lament it, or even hate it, but we can't deny its reality and its force by turning our backs and proposing other, wishful realities. Montgomery is not out to celebrate the place of English in science. He wants to meet the reality head on and say what it means for the present and future of science and for scientists. He looks at how the situation came out, how it operates today, what are its advantages and disadvantages, what impacts it has on other languages, and--very important, it seems to me--what precedents it has in lingua franca of the past (Greek, Arabic, Latin, Chinese are the ones he discusses).

The book is provocative. Some readers will find its main thesis--that a global tongue is indeed a good thing for science--upsetting, even offensive. But this would be a mistake. Montgomery, I say, is no advocate for the English language. His real advocacy is for science to be accessible to all scientists, everywhere, especially developing nations. A shared language is crucial for this, just as it has been true in the past. He points out that fears about a global tongue are often re-directed fears of English as the agent of American hegemony, imperialism, etc. Would Russian be a better choice? Chinese? Hindi? How about all of these, perhaps with Spanish and Portuguese thrown in?
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Format: Hardcover
The author discusses the rise of English as a lingua franca (common language) in science and technology since the 1990s, and explores the significance of the growing use of English by millions of people for whom English is not their first or primary language. The author provides an interesting perspective by considering the use of English as a lingua franca for science and technology today in light of the historical record of other languages that served as a lingua franca for science and technology in the past. The author also discusses some of the criticisms leveled against the use of English as a lingua franca in modern science, weighs the pros and cons of those criticisms, and aptly notes that some of the criticisms could just as easily be leveled against the use of any other language in science instead of English.

This is a scholarly book that is not aimed at casual readers. Persons who might be interested in the book could include professionals in science and technology fields, educators in science and technology fields, linguists, government officials dealing with science and technology issues, and persons interested in the history and sociology of science. Teachers and instructors in courses and programs dealing with English for Academic Purposes (EAP) also might find the book useful.
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Format: Hardcover
Scott L. Montgomery is an effective writer who can present complex issues of science in an engaging story-telling approach with great clarity. This book is a must read for those who are interested in this topic.
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