Crappy English as a Scientific Language

Over at Sign and Sight, Stephan Klein notes that the current wisdom in Germany is that conferences have to take place in English to really "matter," and makes a plea for academic conferences held in Germany to be held in German:

[W]ill we soon reach a point where we no longer can discuss the results of new research in German because we can’t find the vocabulary? Society is threatening to split: On one side will be those who employ an elite language, and on the other, all those who miss out on the latest developments. So the issue of whether German remains a language for science is not merely a question of national pride. It has to do with something far more momentous: democracy.

Anyone who only encounters scientific research in a foreign language pays a heavy price, even if he is a master of the idiom. "We are dumber in English" – this was the conclusion that researchers came to in Sweden and the Netherlands, where children were introduced to English on their first day of school. Lectures in English are part of every subject, but nevertheless, the test results are about ten percent lower on average than in courses taught in the mother tongue. In English seminars, students ask and answer fewer questions; they give the overall impression of being somewhat more helpless. Neither students nor teachers are generally aware of the problem, because they all overestimate their expertise in English.

Well, I’m off on vacation tomorrow, but things will still be happening on the site, I promise!