My mother tongue and English (indicating your preferred language in your user profile)

English is the lingua franca of sience nowadays, and was invented and is based in the USA, where english is the official language.

But I would suggest, that in “profile” everybody would use both languages, English AND the own mother tonge. In my case it is German, and so I did.

So I suggest, you complete your self description with an English version, if it is in Spanish, Chinese, Russian, and so on. Or you complete your selfdescription additional with your native language.

I presume, the second case is statistically more common…


People also leave a note on their profile - which languages they use.


Fortunately, translation apps work pretty well on scientific texts and common, widespread languages such as German, so you may write in whatever language you want and people will copy and paste it into their favourite app. The situation is much trickier when people speak a less common language: automatic translation may not work properly.

Once you have a text in English, is a very useful tool to fix mistakes and help rephrase if needed.

I mean, it is great to write in English plus your mother tongue, but people who are not fluent in English should not worry and write in their own language.


A few years ago I needed to read and extract data from an old thesis on lichens published in German. I tried a few translation apps and could understand nothing from the results. I had to send it to a German colleague, who said it was mildly old fashioned but otherwise standard academic German. I guess AI translations have improved greatly in the last five years?


For certain types of texts and certain language pairs, definitely, yes, there have been substantial improvements in the last several years. DeepL was developed by a German company using bilingual/multilingual corpora that include large quantities of EU texts. So it is reasonably good at things like producing plausible-sounding German-English translations on legal topics. I doubt it is quite as competent at lichenology.

Note my qualification “plausible-sounding”: my experience is that machine-translated texts might sound good at first read and often they are good for getting the gist of a text, but they fall apart when one actually needs to understand the details of what was written or follow a complex argument. And I doubt there is a machine translator anywhere that is adequate to the task of correctly parsing a convoluted “nested sentence” of the sort that German humanities scholars are fond of constructing!

For comments on iNat in European languages I have rudimentary or no knowledge of, however, I find that a machine translation is usually good enough to figure out what is being discussed. The same is generally true for a user profile written in a language other than English.

I do appreciate it when people indicate what languages they know or prefer. My day job requires me to work bilingually, and constantly figuring out what language to use when communicating with other people can be stressful. So it simplifies things to know explicitly from the outset whether I can communicate in German or in English or in whatever mixture thereof happens to be at the top of my head.


In Chrome, you can highlight just that one word or phrase that trips you up - then I click ‘translate to English’
No need to copypasta anywhere.


Actually the USA has no official language at the federal level.


Until I retired earlier this year, I was a professional translator (Italian/English) and I can 100% vouch for DeepL. Although I would never take it as gospel, from most “common” languages into English, it sometimes did better than I could and was even pretty good at technical texts in a range of subjects… don’t know about lichenology though! With less common languages, it is not so fluent, but it usually gives a pretty good idea of the content. I use the DeepL add-on for Chrome quite a lot, an invaluable tool for international dialogue!


most commonly used language is English (specifically, American English), which is the de facto national language. It is also the language spoken at home by the great majority of the U.S. population (approximately 78.5%)

My English in South Africa only 9.6%

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I can only really judge German-English-Spanish, but Deepl does an awesome job there as well! I use it regularly and especially with contracts or medical stuff it is a good help for me

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Or, English and your second and third languages.


English is my first language, but on a few occasions I’ve left comments in your Muttersprach on observations in Germany and Austria. I’m not 100% fluent but I figured it was a good opportunity to use the language and possibly be a bit courteous to the observer. What are the thoughts on this?

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If possible, I leave a comment in English and include the same statement in whatever language the person the comment is directed at is speaking in. If I don’t know that language, I just use Google Translate to give me the translation. I figure it will at least show I am trying.


I write as I speak in life. I am fluent in German - and in conversation we find our way to the language which is easiest for both of us. I don’t write in German - autotranslate is easy for German or English.
I am more concerned for someone whose first language is one which autotranslate trips and stumbles over. If I use my first language I know I have said what I meant, and meant what I said. With autotranslate, maybe, the nuance and tone slips sideways.

(One of the first German words I tripped over in conversation - was - why - are you asking me what language my mother speaks? Lost in translation already ;~) He was American, we were working at Zentralbibliothek Zurich - both carefully talking German at each other. But we couldn’t do the local Zuriduutsch.


I appreciate the way the discussion takes, covering a wider range that I have intended. But my main aim is just, that the personal profile of everybody, who has written something about himself in English, though English it nor his or her native language, additional writes the same in just the own words too.
And that somebody, beeing able to do this, also write his or her self description additional in English.
so that anybody can get a quick glimpse to other peoples background. And I consider it as hopefully
normal, that people have an. affective approach to their own language.
I personally find it curious that especially Austrians and Germans want to proove how good they are in English as lingua franca of science, but at the same time seem to think of the German language as neglectable. A prominent example for this attitude is the president of theEU-commission Ursula von der Leyen.


You can hardly force anyone to express themselves in a language (learned or native) that they do not want to use in this or that context. Any mention of someone’s linguistic abilities is probably best taken as a hint of what languages that person may be able to use if it pleases them, not what they must use to please you.

(If you require me to duplicate my profile in a different language, just because you think I should use whatever dreaded ‘mother tongue’ I happen to have learned … what you’ll get from me is a link to an online translation tool.)

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I do have my profile written in english only… the main reason is that I do want to add the (to me) most important topics on the page to give an idea about me and how I prefer to use iNat, but not inflate it unecessarily.

And yes, english is the language many users are either familiar with (especially from german speaking countries) or are able to deal with using translation tools… both languages are usually covered quite well by those little helpers. So I really do not feel the need.
I do not feel emotional sentiments for or against any language, so that might be an over-interpretation on your part :person_shrugging: I just do what is easy and feasable and sticking with one language is easier for me then switching back and forth.

I will even usually have exchange on observations about IDing in english, even if fellow german IDers are involved. It will be usefull for a wider variety of people and I know we have some very good IDers here for Germany that do not speak German.

Of course I will switch to german (or spanish when IDing e.g. in SA) if I am not sure the other person understands english well enough or approaches me in german (spanish) first.


Das ist eine sprachpolitische Frage, die den Rahmen des Forums sprengt. Es gibt vielfältige Gründe, warum eine Person in einem bestimmten Zusammenhang sich für eine Sprache entscheidet, sei es aus pragmatischen Überlegungen oder auch persönlichen Vorlieben. Ich fände es nicht angebracht, andere Nutzer:innen vorzuschreiben, in welcher Sprache sie kommunizieren müssen.

I have plenty of thoughts about the dominance of English as a lingua franca in the EU and the ramifications this has – for English, for other (official and unofficial) languages spoken in Europe, for the speakers of those languages. These thoughts are strongly shaped by my own personal history as someone who enjoys the accidental privilege of having English as a first language, but adopted a second one as my own, with all the complexities that come with this. None of these thoughts are relevant to iNat, except perhaps the recognition that language is tied up in all sorts of other questions related to politics and identity and that it is often highly emotional. And that often the kindest thing we can do is respect and accommodate the linguistic choices that other people make, even if we might prefer them to choose differently.


Lost in translation: a life in a new language by Eva Hoffman.
I read this book at our Zurich library, and passed it on to my colleague at the next desk. She was from the French-speaking part of Switzerland. We were careful and correct in German - I remember she said she was a quite different person in French!


It would be nice to have flags or something in the profile to indicate what languages a person understands. Adding that information could be part of the signing up process.

New users often don’t have a profile filled out yet and it’s sometimes hard to guess what language to use.