The Inspiration and Process Behind Our Investigation into Chinese Humanities and Social Sciences Scholars’ Language Choices

December 23, 2016

Written by guest bloggers, Andy Xuesong Gao & Yongyan Zheng, authors of “Chinese Humanities and Social Sciences Scholars’ Language Choices in International Scholarly Publishing: A Ten-Year Survey,” from the latest issue of the Journal of Scholarly Publishing!

Andy Xuesong Gao, University of Hong Kong Yongyan Zheng, Fudan University

What drove us to write this article was initially a casual talk with a colleague who studies the Japanese language and culture in a Chinese university a year ago. As a good friend, he complained to me how he struggled to get published in international journals and how difficult it was for him to get his research achievements duly recognized because he does not publish his research in English. It never occurred to us before, as we work within the English language studies and have always taken English for granted, that language choice could figure prominently in research assessment and publication.

Then we began to think, what about scholars in other humanities and social sciences disciplines? Are they also troubled with the issue of which language to choose to publish their research? This is how an initial idea evolved into an investigation, and after some time, our article on Chinese humanities and social sciences scholars’ language choices.

The whole reviewing process was very smooth, and we were able to address almost all the concerns brought forth by the reviewer, except one last question that almost threw us off the track: the reviewer asked us to explain our own language choice, why we chose to write our article in English and to publish in an English-language journal. To be honest, it had never occurred to us that there was any alternative choice. In discussing Chinese scholars’ language choice, we lamented on how their language preferences for international publishing are exclusively confined to English and Chinese, but despite everything, we chose English to express this lamentation, which underscores an ultimate irony. This question brought us to serious critical self-reflection. By writing this paper, we realized that we actually benefited from the dominance of English in academic publishing, through which we pursued professional goals and secured our academic career advances. But this makes it all the more significant, almost obligatory, for us to use our command of the English language, and to write this article in English so that our argument for multilingualism in international scholarly publishing could be heard and heeded.

To learn more about Gao’s and Zheng’s investigation and findings, be sure to check out their full article, available here and on Project MUSE!

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