Non-native fluency

November 11, 2010

Brian Bloch suggests that "non-native speakers are generally unable to write an acceptable level of English for academic purposes" ("Trips and falls of the tongue", 21 October).

Putting aside definitions of "acceptability", this generalisation is unfounded. It is simply not the case that the English writing of non-native speakers is typically below academic standards. On the contrary, many for whom the language is a formally acquired competence are highly accomplished writers, precisely because of the careful and sustained attention they have brought to bear on it.

As a long-time journal editor, I have learned that attempting to guess which submission - the one from Stanford or the one from Lagos - will prove to be the more fluent is rather pointless. Although, if I had to choose...

John Edwards, St Francis Xavier University, Antigonish, Nova Scotia.

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