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I'm studying in Germany. German and English are not my native tongue, but I prefer to write my thesis in English for the following reasons:

  • My English is better than my German (not a good reason).
  • My supervisor's native tongue is English (not a good reason).
  • I'm analyzing the socio-political situations in an Asian country. Although the official language there is not English, the bulk of the existing literature review (written by natives and non-natives) is in English. Also, English is virtually the only foreign language learnt and used over there. It's just easier to find materials in English; thus, if I write my thesis in German, it would be a laborious task to translate any cited materials. These are probably good reasons.

Could you suggest a convincing way to word my reasons as to why I prefer to write in English? I'm filling a form of demand to write in language other than German, and they only give a small space (a line) to state my reasons. How about the following?

The existing literature review is mainly, if not almost entirely, in English; the country's second language is also English.

Is this convincing? Thanks.

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    More people might read it? – Jon Custer Mar 21 '18 at 13:46
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    I am an Asian. I am not convinced by your third reason. In my opinion, the official language of that Asian country is the best choice because your thesis is about the socio-political situations of that country. – scaaahu Mar 21 '18 at 13:53
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    When you write "not a good reason", did the university tell you that these aren't good reasons? Your first reason sounds like a good reason to me. – user9646 Mar 21 '18 at 13:56
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    Why is your English being better than your German not a good reason? With your English being better than your German you should be able to produce a better thesis. A thesis needs to be precise and readable. – P. G. Mar 21 '18 at 14:01
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    I wrote my master thesis in english back in Spain because "I wanted to". Do you need to give a reason to convince them or is it just an explanation of why. I.e. Can they actually do something about it if they don't like the reason? – Ander Biguri Mar 21 '18 at 14:33
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Clearly, in the time you have performing research and interacting with other people in your field, you were using at least one language, likely more than one given your research on a country that (likely) does not speak either English or German. However, your thesis has some specific audiences to address. If written in German, it certainly addresses your local university department, and the academic community in Germany. Writing it in English will dramatically broaden the potential audience, since many more people in the world can read English as compared with German. But, do those additional people count much? That is up to you to determine, and the university to agree to.

Look at your references, fellow academics you've met at conferences, and those you wish to interact with. Write in the language most likely to be accessible to them.

  • “fellow academics you've met at conferences” Does this assume OP is writing a PhD thesis? – Andrea Lazzarotto Mar 21 '18 at 22:52
  • @AndreaLazzarotto - if for undergraduate the question would be off-topic, so I assumed masters or PhD. In general, the point still holds - one is writing a thesis for an audience, so it should be written to be accessible to that audience. – Jon Custer Mar 21 '18 at 22:55
  • Yes I do agree with you, I was just wondering whether I missed that OP was talking about a PhD... :) – Andrea Lazzarotto Mar 21 '18 at 23:00
  • I've just realised that I forgot to mention that it's for my PhD thesis, as @JonCuster pointed out correctly. – Maya Mar 22 '18 at 13:27
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I am answering your main question (what should I put on the form?), rather than the question of your title (why should I use English?).

The fact that you have to seek permission to submit in English suggests that this is not the done thing in your institution, although it is possible. You should read the form and academic regulations carefully, as these should explain when it is permissible to use a foreign language; if these do not make it clear, ask the relevant academic or administrative staff for clarification. Tailoring your reason on the form to meet their list of acceptable circumstances will increase your chances of being permitted to use English. If do not fall into one of the permitted reasons, you may not have any chance of submitting in English, unless the regulations provide some leeway for discretion.

With the information you have provided, it is impossible to know what the permitted circumstances might be, but here is some speculation:

  • If your registered language of instruction is not German
  • If appropriate German-speaking examiners will be difficult to find
  • If your supervisor is not a German speaker, and cannot adequately support/supervise a German-language thesis
  • If you are studying another language, and it is appropriate to write your thesis, or a part thereof, in that language/if you are completing a PhD by translation
  • If you are completing a PhD by publication, and your publications are not in German

Given that you state the space available for the justification is small, it's clear that they're expecting a form reason, such as above, rather than a discussion of the peculiar circumstances of your research. As far as I can tell, you've registered at a German institution, where the default language of instruction is German. Unless you were given undertakings to the contrary when you matriculated, I'd say you should be prepared to write a German-language thesis.

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    I would imagine the examiner/reader question is important. It's common for dissertations in the US in foreign language/literature departments to be written in English because of the need for readers from outside the department, even though the vast majority of cited texted is, e.g., in Spanish and about a Spansih-speaking author who writes in Spanish. – user0721090601 Mar 22 '18 at 2:09
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In many cases, such a form will be a mere pro-forma requirement. If this is the case at your institution, filling in any of the reasons you mention in the question will do. You wouldn't need to convince anyone, you merely need to provide what is necessary for the box-ticker to tick the box.

However, it could also be the case that there is some real reluctance to let people write in English, and that you actually need to convince whatever decision maker there is. What is a good reason then depends on whatever views these decision makers have. If they are reluctant to allow writing in English, they definitely have weird views, so their notion of good argument might differ from mine.

To figure out whether you fall into Case 1 or into Case 2, and if you are in Case 2, what the succesfull arguments are, speak to your supervisor and to students currently writing their thesis in English.

5

From my experience at German universities (Computer Science) it's pretty irrelevant German- or English-languaged thesis. It's more a matter of personal taste and lowering the effort. Like, if you are combining multiple English papers into a PhD thesis or plan to rework the MSc thesis in a paper, it's easier to target English.

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    The conventions in the humanities in germany are not (yet) quite as international as in CS. A few years ago, the OP might have had an easier time convincing her department to let her write in Latin than in English... – S. Kolassa - Reinstate Monica Mar 22 '18 at 9:58
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The international research community primarily uses English. Unless there's a particular reason that you want your thesis to be understood in another language, it would be recommended. While, there are some benefits in some fields for writing in another language, I'd recommend English for the following reasons:

  • The international research community will be able to read and critique your work. Most of the international community works in English and works already published in English can be quoted accurately.

  • Your thesis may be examined by international examiners who may not be in your immediate research field. It will be a lot easier to find an examiner with expertise in your research techniques to assess your capabilities as a research if it is written in English. Writing in another language will delay the examination process.

  • The role of your thesis is to demonstrate your ability as a researcher. It serves as part of your resume for future job applications throughout your career. Even if your change discipline, it is important for future employers to be able to assess the quality of your past work. If your English skills are stronger than writing in other languages, you will also be able to present your ideas more clearly and the writing process won't take longer than it needs to. Demonstrating your English skills will also be valuable for your career if you wish to work in another country. Applicants for postdocs to some countries are requested by immigration to show their thesis to show that they can conduct research in the field they've been hired for in English.

  • You may have discovered important trends or made insights that are not specific to the case study or country that you are studying. If you write these results in the language specific to that country, it will be more difficult for other researchers to include these in their comparisons between countries and are less likely to attempt to replicate or contrast your findings with other countries in the future.

The purpose of a thesis is not to communicate your findings with the country that you're studying. It's to communicate them with the rest of the research community. It's not uncommon to write an abstract, summary, or press release in another language to inform the wider public.

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