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Science beyond English: to what extent do Vietnamese scholars publish in non-English languages?

Article information

Sci Ed. 2022;9(2):105-111
Publication date (electronic) : 2022 August 19
doi : https://doi.org/10.6087/kcse.275
1Department of Training Management, Ho Chi Minh National Academy of Politics, Hanoi, Vietnam
2Vietnam National Institute of Educational Sciences, Hanoi, Vietnam
3Center for Research and Practice on Education, Phu Xuan University, Hue, Vietnam
4Reduvation Research Group, Thanh Do University, Hanoi, Vietnam
Correspondence to Hiep-Hung Pham hiep.pham@pxu.edu.vn
Received 2022 April 27; Accepted 2022 July 14.

Abstract

Purpose

Although English has become the lingua franca for scholarly communication, scholars worldwide publish in other languages. Nevertheless, few studies have answered the question, “To what extent do scholars publish in non-English languages?” This study addresses that question, limiting its scope to Vietnamese scholars.

Methods

We reviewed 833 non-English documents authored by at least one scholar from Vietnam between 1960 and 2021, exploring aspects such as the language of the publication, the year of publication, the document type, number of document citations, the most prolific and most cited authors, and the primary research themes.

Results

Among non-English languages, French, Russian, and Chinese were the three most often selected by Vietnamese scholars for their publications. The year 2015 was a pivotal year when non-English publications from Vietnam significantly increased. Journal articles were the most common type of document, and the most frequent subject areas were medicine, agricultural and biological sciences, engineering, energy, and environmental science.

Conclusion

Although English is the primary language of science, the number of non-English documents by Vietnamese researchers has been increasing. This suggests that collaborative work between Vietnamese researchers and foreign researchers has also increased.

Introduction

Background

English is currently regarded as the lingua franca for scholarly communication [1]. For non-English speaking scholars, mastering at least a minimum level of English is a must to facilitate communication with and recognition by international peers [2]. Vietnam is not immune from this phenomenon. In Vietnam’s current academic landscape, when people say “international publishing,” they imply scientific documents written in English [3]. Nevertheless, anecdotal evidence shows that Vietnamese scholars publish in languages other than English, including Russian, French, and Chinese. Non-English publishing is also important in the social sciences, arts, and humanities [4]. Vietnam, in particular, has long historical, social, economic, and political relationships with several non-English speaking countries, including China, France, and Russia. Therefore, it is important to understand the role of nonEnglish publishing among Vietnamese scholars.

Objectives

This study investigates the patterns and dynamics of nonEnglish scientific documents (co)authored by Vietnamese scholars in terms of the language of publication, year of publication, type of document, number of document citations, number of author citations, and primary research themes.

Methods

Ethics statement

As a literature-based study, approval by the institutional review board and informed consent were not required.

Study design and setting

This is a bibliometric study based on the Scopus database. The search query was conducted at 10:00 AM on February 10, 2022.

Data source/measurement

The Scopus database was selected because it is one of the largest scientific indexed databases covering documents in English and other notable languages. Our search included all authors affiliated with “Vietnam” or “Viet Nam” who published documents in non-English languages. All documents published in 2022 were excluded. We obtained 833 non-English documents authored by at least one scholar from Vietnam between 1960 and 2021. The year 1960 marked the start of our study because this was the first year that a non-English document was found in our search [5]. The retrieved raw data are available from Dataset 1.

Variables and bias

The study variables were document language, yearly number of documents, document type, subject area, author, and research themes. No bias was present.

Statistical methods

The data, including bibliometric indicators, were downloaded in comma-separated values format, and subsequently analyzed with VOSviewer ver. 1.6.8 (https://www.vosviewer.com).

Results

Language of publication

The number of non-English documents (co)authored by Vietnamese scholars obtained from the Scopus database between 1960 and 2021 is presented in Fig. 1. Notably, French led with 320 documents (38.42% of the total 833 documents) followed by Russian (233 documents, 27.97%), Chinese (99 documents, 11.88%), German (82 documents, 9.84%), and Japanese (23 documents, 2.76%) (Suppl. 1). A further investigation revealed that 13 Vietnamese-language documents were obtained from two sources: five documents from a Scopusindexed conference (i.e., the International Society for Rock Mechanics and Rock Engineering, VietRock International Workshop, 2015) and eight documents from a no-longer-active journal (Tap San Nhan Khoa) (Suppl. 2).

Fig. 1.

Distribution of non-English documents (co)authored by Vietnamese scholars 1960–2021.

Growth trends

The growth trends of all non-English documents (co)authored by Vietnamese scholars are shown in Fig. 2. Fig. 2 shows the growth trends of documents in the three most dominant languages, including French (blue columns), Russian (orange columns), and Chinese (gray columns). As shown in Fig. 2, the growth trends between 1960 and 2014 were slow and unstable and the number of publications per year never exceeded 30. The year 2015 marked the first time the number of publications exceeded 30 (44 publications). Although there was a decrease in 2016 (27 publications), the trend continued to increase in subsequent years.

Fig. 2.

The growth trends of non-English documents (co)authored by Vietnamese scholars 1960–2021.

Document types

Regarding the types of documents, most non-English documents written by Vietnamese scholars were 754 journal articles (90.52%), followed by 36 reviews (4.32%), 26 conference papers (2.12%), and 9 letters (1.08%) (Fig. 3).

Fig. 3.

Non-English documents (co)authored by Vietnamese scholars 1960–2021 according to the type of documents.

Subject areas and research themes

The number of non-English documents (co)authored by Vietnamese scholars according to subject area is presented in Fig. 4. The leading subject area was medicine, with 288 documents (34.57%). Other major subjects included 132 agriculture and biological sciences (15.85%), 96 engineering (11.52%), 90 energy (10.80%), 83 environmental science (9.96%), and 82 earth and planetary sciences (9.84%).

Fig. 4.

Non-English documents (co)authored by Vietnamese scholars 1960–2021 according to the subject area.

Fig. 5 presents the key topics and keywords found in the study documents. A single topic extracted from these documents corresponded to several keywords. Understandably, all keywords were from documents written in the major non-English languages (i.e., French, Russian, and Chinese). The topics were diverse and fragmented (Suppl. 3).

Fig. 5.

Key topics and co-occurring keywords of non-English documents (co)authored by Vietnamese scholars 1960–2021. Total number of keywords, 55; the number of co-occurring keywords, at least 3.

Top documents and authors

Suppl. 4 shows the top 10 non-English documents (co)authored by Vietnamese scholars according to the number of citations. The documents written in French received more citations than the documents written in other languages. Specifically, seven French documents were among the top cited documents (numbers 1–4, 7, 9, 10), followed by two documents written in Chinese (numbers 5 and 6) and one written in Russian (number 8).

Table 1 presents the top 10 authors based on two categories: number of documents and number of citations. Six authors appear in both categories, including Thanh NV, Tran MD, Nguyen TH, Tran L, Hieu PT, and Nguyen T, whereas four authors appear in only one category. In total, there were 14 authors appearing in at least one category. These authors all used the top three non-English languages identified in Fig. 2 (French, Russian, or Chinese) to publish their research. One scholar published in all three languages (Nguyen TH), and three scholars used two languages (Tran L, Nguyen T, and Bach TT).

The top 10 authors published in non-English languages according to the number of documents and citations

Discussion

Key results

This study seeks to answer the question, “To what extent do Vietnamese scholars publish in non-English languages?” using 1960 to 2021 data from 833 non-English documents collected from the Scopus database. The most frequent language was French (38.4%). In 2015, the number of non-English documents was 44. Medicine, agriculture and biological sciences, and engineering were the top-ranking fields of study.

Interpretation

Language

Vietnamese scholars published their documents in both English and non-English languages. The major non-English languages were 320 French (38.42%), 233 Russian (27.97%), 99 Chinese (11.88%), 82 German (9.84%), and 23 Japanese (2.76%). It is reasonable that these were the dominant languages as they are all languages of leading academic systems with long histories of collaboration with the Vietnamese academic system [6]. The French, Russian, and Chinese languages not only reflect established academic relationships with Vietnam but also historical political ties. Fig. 1 presents 13 documents written in Vietnamese.

Growth trends

Prior to 2014, the number of non-English documents (co)authored by Vietnamese authors was modest. Nevertheless, the trend appears to increase from 2015 onward with varied contributions in the three dominant languages. From the beginning years of this study, documents written in French have consistently contributed to the overall non-English documents (co)authored by Vietnamese scholars [710]. In contrast, the first document written in Russian was published in 1976, 14 years after the French, and there was a minimal contribution of Russian documents between 1976 and 2014. After 2015, the number of Russian documents increased significantly and contributed to the overall increase in non-English documents. Compared to documents written in French and Russian, the first documents written in Chinese appeared much later in 2006 [11,12].

Document types

Journal articles were the most common non-English documents by Vietnamese authors, with 754 published between 1960 and 2021 (90.52%). Other document types included reviews, conference papers, and letters. This finding implies that Vietnamese authors have not explored the full range of Scopus-indexed document types in non-English languages. This finding is similar to previous studies that explored the types of documents written in English by Vietnamese authors [13]. In the future, Vietnamese authors who want to publish their works in non-English languages should consider submitting their work to outlets other than journals (e.g., conferences).

Subject areas and research themes

When analyzing the top subject areas and research themes, this study did not find a significant number of non-English documents in the social sciences or the arts and humanities, contrary to our initial expectations. A similar study, using documents obtained from Web of Science between 2001 and 2015 that were written in English and (co)authored by Vietnamese scholars, identified engineering and technology, biomedical sciences, physics, and mathematics as the top subject areas [6]. Thus, the above mentioned gap in documents related to the social sciences and the arts and humanities reveals that there is still room for future Vietnamese scholars to publish in these non-English outlets.

Top authors and documents

The lists of top authors (according to the number of publications and citations) and top documents (according to the number of citations) are important references for future Vietnamese scholars who want to publish their works in nonEnglish journals.

Limitations

This study had several limitations. First, due to the limited text available for each study, we did not utilize all aspects of bibliometric analysis, such as science mapping. Future studies could employ science mapping to further investigate the topic. Second, bibliometric analysis does not provide insight into the content of the studied documents. Future studies could avoid this limitation by adopting content analysis.

Conclusion

In recent years, Vietnam has implemented several initiatives aimed at boosting publications in international journals. In addition, academic scholars in Vietnam have studied various aspects of how to publish their works in international outlets. Nevertheless, these efforts have primarily emphasized documents written in English rather than non-English languages. Although our study confirms that English is not the only means of scholarly communication in Vietnam, there is still room for further investigation of this topic.

Notes

Conflict of Interest

No potential conflict of interest relevant to this article was reported.

Funding

The authors received no financial support for this article.

Data Availability

Dataset file is available from the Harvard Dataverse at: https://doi.org/10.7910/DVN/C9VHWF

Dataset 1. The retrieved raw data of 833 non-English documents collected from Scopus with search terms.

Supplementary Material

Supplementary files are available from: https://doi.org/10.7910/DVN/C9VHWF

Suppl. 1.

Top 10 non-English languages used by Vietnamese scholars according to the number of citations.

kcse-275-suppl1.pdf
Suppl. 2.

Thirteen documents written in Vietnamese.

kcse-275-suppl2.pdf
Suppl. 3.

Major topics and co-occurring keywords extracted from non-English documents (co)authored by Vietnamese scholars.

kcse-275-suppl3.pdf
Suppl. 4.

Top 10 non-English documents (co)authored by Vietnamese scholars according to the number of citations.

kcse-275-suppl4.pdf

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Article information Continued

Fig. 1.

Distribution of non-English documents (co)authored by Vietnamese scholars 1960–2021.

Fig. 2.

The growth trends of non-English documents (co)authored by Vietnamese scholars 1960–2021.

Fig. 3.

Non-English documents (co)authored by Vietnamese scholars 1960–2021 according to the type of documents.

Fig. 4.

Non-English documents (co)authored by Vietnamese scholars 1960–2021 according to the subject area.

Fig. 5.

Key topics and co-occurring keywords of non-English documents (co)authored by Vietnamese scholars 1960–2021. Total number of keywords, 55; the number of co-occurring keywords, at least 3.

Table 1.

The top 10 authors published in non-English languages according to the number of documents and citations

Rank Top 10 authors according to number of documents
Top 10 authors according to number of citations
Author (language) Affiliation Documents Author (language) Affiliation Citations
1 Thanh NV (Russian) Vietnamese Academy of Sciences and Technology 36 Tran MD (Chinese) Hanoi University of Mining and Geology 93
2 Tran MD (Chinese) Hanoi University of Mining and Geology 6 Tran L (Chinese, French) Quang Binh University 71
3 Nguyen TH (Russian, Chinese, French, German) Le Quy Don Technical University 6 Thanh NV Vietnamese Academy of Sciences and Technology 47
4 Hung TL (Russian) Le Quy Don Technical University 6 Bui M (Chinese) Hanoi University of Mining and Geology 36
5 Tran L (Chinese, French) Quang Binh University 5 Hieu PT (Chinese) Vietnam National University, Ho 30
6 Hieu PT (Chinese) Vietnam National University-Ho Chi Minh City 5 Nguyen T (Chinese, French) Ho Chi Minh City University of Industry 29
7 Nguyen T (Chinese, French) Ho Chi Minh City University of Industry 5 Nguyen TH (Russian, Chinese, French, German) Le Quy Don Technical University 22
8 Van Tien D (French) Hanoi University 5 Bach TT (Korean, French) Hospital Viet-Duc 20
9 Nguyen Duc Hanh (French) Institute of Pasteur Viet Nam 5 Le HT (Chinese) Hong Duc University 16
10 Nguyen Van Ai (French) Institute of Pasteur Viet Nam 5 Quang DD (French) Van Phuc Diplomatic Compound 15