New online computer tools can help the French regain their place in science.
At this week’s annual conference of the esteemed French-Canadian Association for the Advancement of Science (Acfas), founded 100 years ago by Marie-Victorin among others, this possibility is worth mentioning. A game changer may be brewing.
What tools are we talking about? Almost everyone knows the giant Google Translate tool. We put a sentence in any language to one side. On the other hand, the translation appears in the desired language.
We’re getting fewer and fewer “Made in Turkey” type results, as it was in the beginning.
Especially when we turn to other, more accurate means like Deepl.com. Advances in artificial intelligence now make it possible to get generally very acceptable translations in no time. The brilliant and controversial ChatGPT produces impressive stuff. In other words, all of these tools reduce the number of hours spent revising and proofreading the first draft of a machine translation.
This new reality takes place at a time when the French language in science is in decline in Quebec and Canada. Researchers also feel compelled to spend a lot of time producing grant applications and scientific papers directly in English.
“According to the Observatoire des sciences et Technologies, the proportion of scientific articles published in French in Quebec fell from 4.0% in 2000 to 0.6% in 2021,” Bloc Québécois MP Maxime Blanchette-Joncas wrote in February.
Even in the social sciences, in 1980, 50% of articles were published in Molière’s language. Today 70% are in English.
There is even some kind of systemic discrimination against the French in Canada, according to the results of a recently published Radio-Canada survey. Between 2001 and 2016, “Of all applications to the Canadian Institute for Health Research, 39% of applications were accepted in English, compared to only 29% of applications in French.”
The report revealed Associate Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ottawa, Martine Lagasse, that Ottawa must define as soon as possible a pan-Canadian strategy to support French-language research, “otherwise francophone researchers will abdicate completely.”
We can only accept this request. Especially if the strategy in question benefits from a new IT deal. Which facilitates communications in the science tower of Babel? But also to promote scientific production directly in French for the 320 million people in the world. Why bother with publishing directly or only in English when you can effectively translate your text in a few seconds?
This would also promote the necessary cultural diversity in the sciences. Science specifically has long made us understand that language is much more than a simple communication tool, it is a world, a universe, and the potential for developing unique perspectives.
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