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the google translate suggestion is so naive. If you read or speak another language, you realize that google translate is merely a first step in accessing information. The translations are often quite poor.

F. Contesi

Thanks for drawing attention to my work, Marcus! However, the Barcelona Principles talk about inclusion of non-native speakers of a language, mainly English, rather than about non-English speakers. It is a de dicto difference but an important one. In other words, I am not advocating divergence from a single lingua franca, or even from English as that lingua franca. This at least shoulod assuage your worries re. translation and different languages.

Marcus Arvan

@hmmm...: ha, okay I'll admit that I'm not the most tech-saavy person. I've often used Google translate on webpages and generally speaking it has seemed to work fairly well to me (albeit with strange errors sometimes)--but obviously philosophical writing may be another story entirely.


I am always puzzled about why analytic philosophy is picked out when we talk about this topic. My native language is not one of the European languages, and I actually come to study analytic philosophy precisely because it relies less on English but focuses on the ideas expressed. Its emphasis on simple and clear expressions makes the language barrier easy to handle.

By contrast, it is very hard for me to read some continental philosophers such as Adorno or Derrida. To understand them well, I need to study additional languages. I also do not think I can write like many contemporary continental philosophers, even in my native language (partly because I have a hard time understanding them, partly because it is hard to talk about some ideas in my native language). The relatively simple and clear English expression in analytic philosophy was like fresh air for me when I was an undergraduate.


How general is the worry (and, in turn, the need for a solution)? Does it apply to mathematicians? Historians? Medical doctors? Architects? Priests? Chefs?


I don't know about other languages, but Google Translation of Chinese to English is often ridiculous and incomprehensible...

ESL Teacher

Languages are not computer codes, but human cultures and human worlds. It's true that international linguistic power of an Anglophone speaker is enormous, and that this is unfair. But there's just no easy way around the fact that English is a real human language, and that it takes a lot of education to write and think well in it. Google can only do so much. Private tutors can help with more. It's hard work, but it would be not be fair to demand anglophones to let our mother tongue be collapsed into a kind of neutral "globish," lowering our standards to let all the international speakers in for their efforts (I sometimes hear comments like this). We have to live and love in this language after all, it's not some technical code we use for work.

I would think a better solution would be for journals to hire a special foreign language editor to work on adapting papers from other languages with good content, or to make a policy of funding, say, one translation per issue. It wouldn't be absurdly expensive. Perhaps international institutions can make it a priority to contribute to translation funding for English publication.

I would think another solution would be for us anglophones to consider it a serious priority to learn other languages. There are great ideas, as has been said, and perhaps we should share the burden of learning to read them, too!

Peter Finocchiaro

Seconding linsantu's comment about Chinese-English translations!

A more concrete suggestion, along the lines of what Contesi has argued, is to develop special issues of top journals dedicated to work produced by non-native speakers. There are many forms this could take. One potentially interesting form would be serious translations of articles that are influential in their own sphere of influence.

To take generality's comment earnestly: the worry is as general as we have evidence to worry. Chefs are already doing a fairly good job learning from a broad range of background

Jakub Mácha

Google Translate is not perfect, but there are better tools, e.g., DeepL. The development in machine translation is so rapid that there is a reasonable hope that we become nearly perfect translation tools soon. Hence Marcus' suggestion to accept journal submissions in any language could be implemented in near future.
This is not to imply that multi-language proficiency could become superfluous in philosophy (logic is an exception perhaps). Even if there were perfect translations.


Agree with ESL teacher above, and thinking more broadly that including more philosophers who speak multiple languages in the editing and reviewing process could help. I think that's also consistent with the aim of making philosophy more diverse.

Bill Vanderburgh

It would be interesting to have a journal that publishes (good) translations in English of articles first published in other languages. It would need some sort of nominating mechanism and a board that could make selections--and enough money to hire translators. I bet that last point would be the hard part.

non-native AP

Building on Bill's idea, I wonder whether it is possible for journals to accept submissions of translation pieces, which still go through a review process as such.

I am quite conflicted myself as a non-native speaker of English. I have joined the Barcelona initiative because I frequently suffer from language issues (English was never my passion subject and I don't really care much much about the correct use of articles for example). But I can totally see how important language is for philosophical writing. Even for native speakers, the writing skills can determine how top a journal they can publish in.

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