Stories

Language puts up barriers in science

Photo illustration: Axios Visuals

In classrooms in the U.S. and around the world, science is often taught as an idea that began with the Greeks. Now there is a growing movement calling for science to be decolonized, and to acknowledge the contributions and ideas of non-Western peoples.

At the World Conference of Science Journalists last month, South African science writer Sibusiso Biyela spoke about how language inequality can keep people — and ideas — out of science. Axios followed up with Biyela to ask whether colonization still influences science in South Africa today. The interview, edited for length and clarity, is below.

"Do you really understand something if you don't understand it in your own language?" Biyela asks.