Library of Alexandria


Multilingual Science (English)   Многоязычная Наука (Russian)

Ronald LaPorte, Ph.D., University of Pittsburgh, USA

Ismail Serageldin, Ph.D., Library of Alexandria, Egypt

Eugene Shubnikov, M.D., Novosibirsk, Russia

 For the Supercourse and  Library of Alexandria in Egypt


 WHO Definition of Health

 English:  Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity

 Russian:  Здоровье является состоянием полного физического, душевного и социального благополучия, а не только отсутствие болезней и физических дефектов.




Only 3% of scientific literature comes from developing countries. The literature from developing countries is cited far less. A major barrier is language.  There are 6500 different languages, but only one for science, English. A student in Egypt has to learn both English and Science. Learning statistics in a second language is very difficult. Here we present the case for the Supercourse Library of Alexandria Multilingual Science because of the rapid advancement.

English is the lingua franca of Science. In 1910, 28% of articles were  English.  By 2005 a whopping 93% were in English. 



Figure 1



Human translation is very expensive (~$100 per page). Remarkable strides have been made in Machine translation.  Google began machine translation in 2006 but translations often were gibberish.  Ten years ago, Google started using brute force translation. This approach markedly improved accuracy by providing the “Gist” of materials but accuracy was variable.  In 2015   Google, Microsoft,  and others began AI Neural Machine  Translation producing an enormous increase in  accuracy. This is leading to a bright promise for multilingual science for the future, sharing science across the language barrier.


With these new machine translation tools, we now have the ability to translate articles or lectures into 103  languages. We can present in English and have the audience see and hear the talk in Russian.  There are several excellent MT systems available.  These MT systems unshackle content from English to one's native tongue.  


There several needs and  advances that make Multilingual Science possible

1.       Lack of translation for Major Scientific Journals:

We could find no major journals that are using Machine translation.  However, it is easy to translate journals. Below is the Jan 2 2020 issue of Science Magazine.  It can be  translated into Russian or 100 other languages






2.        Accuracy compared to comprehension:

 Many journals are concerned that translation is not 100% accurate. The reality is that there is never a perfect translation even by humans. However, if we examine this from a different perspective we see the power of machine translation.  If scientists do not have glasses one could only comprehend 5% of Sciencemag, but with glasses the research can comprehend 85%.  If one examined the Russian version of Science, one could comprehend only 5%, but with Machine translation, 85%.    Typically scientists would be most interested research in our own field, but are blind to Russian, Chinese articles. However one could easily comprehend 90-95% of the translations. Machine translation thus can markedly improve English comprehension  for non-english speaking Scientists, and for English speaker understanding articles that are non-English language.

3.       PowerPoint Lectures: 

The translation of PowerPoint lectures is easy and accurate.  Thus one could teach a lecture and have all the slides translated to Russian.

This is demonstrated by a lecture of Nobel Prize Laurette Richard Roberts and 142 other Nobel prize winners that the Library of Alexandria has translated into multiple languages:  Multilingual lecture "142 Nobel Laureates support GMOs" by Richard J. Roberts   http://www.pitt.edu/~super1/lecture/lec56201/index.htm 


Another important example is the Supercourse of Science.  This is a collection of over 200,000 PowerPoint lectures of science prepared by the Library of Alexandria.  Any teacher can use slides or lectures for free.  We just developed it so that any of the lectures can be translated into over 60 languages 



4.        Multilingual lecturing and teaching:

  Machine language and voice translation are becoming more and more possible.  Eugene Shubnikov from Russia can give a lecture in Russian with Russian Powerpoint slides.  The PowerPoint slides are translated into English, and his subsequent voicing translated into English Voice, or English Subtitles.  https://youtu.be/WH_hiWJ3ZA0 . 

5.        Science literature in different languages:  Scientists want to keep track of research in their field. Typically this is exclusively in English Language. With Google advanced search one can find articles in the literature in the Russian literature and have them instantaneously translated.

6.       Learning Management Systems:  Most major universities now employ Learning Management systems to keep track of the teaching materials and courses.  About 20% of college students in our universities do not speak English at home.  Having translation with the original English will greatly aid comprehension

7.        It’s the Law:

 The Limited English Proficiency Presidential Executive Order was issued in 2001 (www.lep.gov).  This law is a part of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.  The Act stipulated that all Universities and agencies receiving federal funds need to make provisions for translation. Many centers are not aware of this, and thus not compliant.  Wide spread use of Machine Translation will enact this Act to a much greater extent.


 Overall significance:  If we can reduce the barrier of language  many more scientists worldwide would be included. Also, for those of us who only speak English, this would give us an understanding of science in China,  Mexico, etc.  Implementation would be simple and of low cost, especially collaborating with Journals and Learning Management Systems. Teaching will flourish as one can teach and learn about any topic in one's native language.  Finally, universities and journals need to be in compliance with the Civil Rights act related to Limited English Proficiency.  We would be on the road to scientific equity.




(Mather J., Cerf V., Omenn G., Roberts R., Sauer F., Marler E.,  Linkov F.)


1.       Ammon, U. “Linguistic inequality and its effects on participation in Scientific Discourse and on Global Knowledge Accumulation –With a closer look at the problems of the second-ranked language communities”  Applied Linguistics Review 3, no.2 (2012):  333-355.

You can try out the multilingual features in the description of our effort at http://www.pitt.edu/~super1/MultilingualSupercourse.htm



Search inside of Supercourse and lectures in HTML and PPT format