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The enduring value of the local-language journal

August 12, 2021

By Freya Weise, MD, PhD

national working languages map

Local-language journals continue to offer considerable value, despite research becoming increasingly global and most articles being published in English

Caption: National working languages from Ethnologue 2016, based on UN population data and data from the British Council.

Scientific journals that do not publish in English undoubtedly have value when you assess the contribution they make to the understanding and application of science and medicine in their disciplines and communities. However, I think it’s also fair to say that their value is not always reflected in the traction and citations their articles receive. This prompts important questions about how to demonstrate the true value of local language journals — and how to ensure that authors receive recognition for publishing with them.

Adhering to international standards

According to Dr Christophe Baudouin, Professor of Ophthalmology in Paris and Editor-in-Chief of the Journal Français d’Ophtalmologieopens in new tab/window, the official publication of the French Society of Ophthalmologyopens in new tab/window:

There are French CME [continuing medical education] journals which publish review articles, but they are not peer-reviewed. They accept what comes in, they pay the authors, and they don't control the content. Our review articles respect international quality standards, all we publish is peer-reviewed and by publishing in French we respond to the demand of the readers.

Reflecting its value, the Journal Français d’Ophtalmologie, which publishes original research, quality review articles, images and letters to the editorhas seen submissions rise to nearly 1,000 in 2020. What’s more, it is referenced in PubMed/Medline and has a CiteScore and Impact Factor.

Christophe Baudouin

Prof Christophe Baudouin, MD, PhD

Reflecting its value, the Journal Français d’Ophtalmologie, which publishes original research, quality review articles, images and letters to the editorhas seen submissions rise to nearly 1,000 in 2020. What’s more, it is referenced in PubMed/Medline and has a CiteScore and Impact Factor.

Christophe, who is also a department head at the Quinze-Vingts National Ophthalmology Hospital opens in new tab/windowand director of several research units at the Institut de la Visionopens in new tab/window, goes on to say:

It remains that there is a problem with our metrics because French articles are not as well cited as articles written in English of the same quality. We could join the large number of English ophthalmology titles, but here again, do we want to be useful to the French-speaking readers and authors or will we slip into the great anglophone melting pot? We think it’s difficult to fight with the others when we don't have their weapons. As Julius Caesar already said, I would rather be first in a village, than second in Rome.

Bridging the gap between research and clinical practice

Dr Michel Geddaopens in new tab/window, Editor-in-Chief of French-language journal Kinésithérapie, La Revueopens in new tab/window, talks about the broader importance of language:

By its history, by its structure and by its acoustics, the spoken language shapes the brain of its speakers and influences their perceptions and involvement in the world, creating an affinity. This affinity should be respected, just as any difference has to be protected.

To ensure research is better understood in a clinical setting, Michel, who is also Director of the Physiotherapy Training Institute at Berck-sur-Meropens in new tab/window, Associate Researcher, and head of projects of the Best Practice Department of the French National Authority for Healthopens in new tab/window, has translated the 10 main EQUATOR reporting guidelinesopens in new tab/window into French and made 10 recommendations to promote the use of French language in health communications.

Michel Gedda

Michel Gedda, PhD, HDR

Michel believes that the use of English terms (“Franglais”) is starting to threaten the quality of discussion among health professionals in their own country simply because their language skills are poorer and less specific in English than in French:

It is now widely understood: the use of a single language penalizes actors at all levels of healthcare, consumption and production. Facilitating the implementation of knowledge, requiring diversity, demanding respect for one's own language, improves the quality of care — if only because of the principle of reality, in which the impact of the language and the liveliness of its speakers are intertwined.

Further evidence of Michel’s focus on the reader comes in the form of the journal’s format. Despite providing online access, Kinésithérapie, La Revue still distributes a significant number of print copies, respecting the fact that 35% of its subscribers are students and young professionals who prefer this format.

Giving a voice to diversity in research

As we know, English is not the only native language for researchers and healthcare professionals. Beyond English, the most spoken languages in the world are Chinese, Spanish, Portuguese and French, and the latter is the first or second language of a number of the world’s fastest growing populations: by 2050, French will be spoken by 85% of the African continent.

With the COVID-19 pandemic, we understand more than ever the global nature of the research world, but the ability to communicate and act effectively at a local level is also critically important. Maintaining non-English journals adds diversity to global knowledge and disseminates vital research outcomes between communities. Further, publishing in their native language allows young or less experienced authors to receive substantial feedback by reviewers and editors in their first language, which in turn helps them progress.

As a publisher of French language journals myself, I am very lucky to be able to see firsthand the value they bring. Long may they live!



Freya Weise, MD, PhD


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