Monday 21 November 2016

(Un)scientific English

The book you can see to the right is called Scientific English and was brought out by Zanichelli in 2007. It is essentially a guide containing tips and resources for those Italians who want to know more about how to write scientific papers in English. It deals with abstracts, journals, keywords and phrases commonly used in medical English, as well as with oral presentations.

The book also claims to provide some guidelines on the pronunciation of 'technical terms', though the section devoted to this subject is reduced to a mere 10 lines. Have a look at the bottom of page 153, under "Pronuncia" ('pronunciation'):

('The purpose of this manual is to provide the reader with information concerning the correct use of Standard English in a scientific context. For this reason, we do not give any indication as to how words are pronounced. Rather, we focus our attention only on the written language since we believe that if you mispronounce a word during a presentation, your native-speaker English audience will in all probability forgive you for doing that [my highlighting]. There are, though, two aspects of English pronunciation which you must bear in mind: 1) z is pronounced [zi:] in AmE but [zed] in BrE; and 2) in telephone numbers, 0 is pronounced like the letter o in BrE but zero or o in AmE.')

This is just absurd! How could the author have possibly written this?!

I’ve been teaching English phonetics to health care professionals both at the University of Tor Vergata and the Nursing Board of Rome (OPI) for several years now and I know how vital it is for my students to be able to master pronunciation in English. My experience with doctors and nurses has also led me to write two books on the importance of English pronunciation in medical science. Please see my L’inglese medico-scientifico: pronuncia e comprensione all’ascolto (EdiSES, 2014) and my Health Care Professionals Speaking (EdiSES, 2015). For further info, also check this link.

An excellent example which illustrates the fallacy of the author's argument and highlights the crucial role English pronunciation plays in the science sector, is provided by Professor John Wells in his book Sounds Interesting (CUP, 2014; pp. 86-87):

"Much would be accomplished if medical school staffs emphasized orthoepy more" (Bradford N. Craver, Wayne University; Science, New Series, Vol. 96, No. 2490, Sept. 18, 1942, p. 273).

1 comment:

  1. I suspect the authors were just having a laugh when they wrote that the most important thing to keep in mind in terms of English pronunciation is to pronounce the letter z as zet in the UK and zee in the US. Perhaps the poor author was just told 'oh, by the way, you should also write a section on English pronunciation for Italians. But no more than 10 lines of text!' 'What! But that's impossible!' 'Just do it or you won't see a penny' 'All right boss, I'm on it.'