Modern science is almost entirely conducted in English. A Medline search will occasionally turn up an article with its English- translated title in square brackets and French or German or Spanish at the end of its publication details, which for most of us hopeless monolinguists means the authors may as well not have bothered. How many people ever try to read such an article or even have it translated, no matter how closely the title matches their search? I reckon I’ve attempted to read one article in Spanish and another in French in 25 years as a scientist, and I don’t remember getting much out of either (if they’d been about hotel rooms or breakfast choices rather than hepatitis and drug use I’d have done a lot better).
Despite the overwhelming predominance of English in science today, not long ago other languages were very important. Click here to read Michael D. Gordon’s story (Aeon, 4th February 2015).