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Why I don’t plan to publish in Spanish anymore (in 2015 and beyond)

When I wrote my post on why I believe it is important that we take holidays and weekends off, and how overwork really tired me, I mentioned 5 goals I had for this year. Among these, I mentioned how I wasn’t planning to publish book chapters, and write in Spanish. A few Mexican colleagues of mine have raised their eyebrows and wondered why I was planning to do this. Their argument (very valid) is that by publishing only in English, my writing benefits a smaller portion of the Mexican population (given that Mexico’s language is Spanish).


I understand my colleagues’ argument and agree with it to a certain extent. I teach students (at the undergraduate and graduate level) whose command of English may not be perfect, and I would probably want to publish key pieces for them to read in Spanish. I live in a country where the main language is Spanish, where the literacy in English may be reduced. I want to have policy impact in Mexico, and it is quite likely that legislators, senators, government officials will only read Spanish. But there’s also the other side of the coin, and one that I’ve been thinking about for a very long time.

The reason why I decided to stop writing and publishing in Spanish has to do both with the perception that the only language in which I publish is Spanish, and the reduced readership (as English is, whether we like it or not, the lingua franca of academic publishing). Another colleague told me last year “but … you’ve ONLY published in Spanish” (this isn’t true, as I’ve published a lot of pieces in English). I have to admit that hearing this really stung me (particularly for the implication that publishing in Spanish would somehow be easier). But, once I overcame the sting of being told I didn’t have enough publications in English, I realized that I want my work to have GLOBAL impact. I want my scholarship to have international influence. I want my work to be widely cited. And yes, if you look at my Google Scholar Citations profile, my pieces in Spanish have been more widely cited than my articles and book chapters in English. But I have to admit, I do think that in due time, my English-language publications will be more cited.

Working and filing journal articles

For better or worse, English is the main language of academia nowadays. I think publishing at least one or two pieces in Spanish makes sense for a foreign scholar who studies Latin American countries, or a scholar whose first language isn’t Spanish (even if they’re based in Latin America). It legitimizes their scholarship as “being in the know” (given that they are able to publish scholarship in the language of the countries they study).

But in my case, I’m 100% bilingual (Spanish and English), and quite frankly, I have made the decision that I prefer to have international recognition and have my work be more global rather than just seeking policy impact in Mexico. Given that the vast majority of academics worldwide will read English and not Spanish (unless they study Latin America), the probabilities of me getting cited would probably increase if I publish more in English. This is completely a gamble, as I don’t actually know if this exercise will be deleterious or not.

But I want to take the risk. I want to see if I can increase my citation counts by publishing more in English than I do in Spanish. I have a few pieces forthcoming that are in Spanish (in press, particularly), and I already had committed to two additional pieces in Spanish (and a book). But my writing in 2015 will be entirely in English.

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