It should come as no surprise that I am a strong advocate of knowledge translation. While this has customarily meant making science accessible to persons that are not experts in one’s field of study but are otherwise important supporters of one’s work, translating research across language barriers even within a field is an equally important pursuit. Indeed, while most impactful scientific journals today are published in the English language, I shudder to think how much excellent science is being published in other languages to which I have absolutely no access. How often has a cursory internet search in your primary discipline pulled relevant manuscripts in Spanish, French, German or Italian, which you have all but ignored?
While the humanities have done a far better job of translating their most important work across many different languages, a large number of relevant research will inevitably slip through the cracks. This is why I was so enthralled the other day while I was reading through this manuscript from Kaufman et al. (1965), and came across the paper summary, an excerpt of which I have included here:
What struck me was the inclusion of a summary in Interlingua, which I had no trouble comprehending despite it not being written in any of the languages to which I have some cursory fluency in. Interlingua, which I later discovered was developed as an international auxiliary language (IAL) between 1937 and 1951 by the International Auxiliary Language Association (IALA), is the most widely used naturalistic IAL that I had never heard of, and the second most widely used IAL after Esperanto. Developed to combine a simple, mostly regular grammar with vocabulary common to the widest possible range of languages, written Interlingua is comprehensible to the hundreds of millions of people who speak a Romance language.
While the practice of including an Interlingua summary at the end of every published work is no longer common practice (if it is presently done at all) – society would be very well served by investing in an application that can translate published work into Interlingua, and journals should host Interlingua translations of their manuscripts online to better disseminate research worldwide. The better understanding of the natural world is, above all else, a collaborative venture and I for one would certainly appreciate more access to my colleague’s works.