I will present work of mine in form of a poster on a national convention/congress/conference in my broader (STEM-related) field.

A manuscript has already been submitted by me, in english. Manuscripts will be available online for members of the society organizing the conference, and to everybody with internet access after some years. This is why I chose the manuscript to be in english

Last year I have also attended the conference, but presented in form of an (english) talk. In my session, this was the only english talk, but someone approached me afterwards in english. My impression is that only a small majority of the attendees were non-native speakers of my language, though.

I am fluent in both english and my native language.

On the convention/congress website it says (roughly):

"The conference language is native language, but english contributions are welcome as well.

My question is:

  • Should I write the poster in english to make sure everybody will understand it, or rather chose my native language in order to make it easier for the majority to understand and talk about?

(Also be informed that I would like to have a reasonable change of being considered for the events' poster award)

  • 1
    Is your field humanities or STEM?
    – mirrormere
    Commented Dec 3, 2019 at 18:41
  • @mirrormere It is STEM-related. Commented Dec 3, 2019 at 18:45
  • 1
    To me, this depends on the specific country. My experience (25+ years ago) in the Netherlands is that the science was done in English. In fact, it was kind of funny the one time I went to a local meeting where people tried to present in Dutch, but some 50% of the words were English since that is what they always used.
    – Jon Custer
    Commented Dec 3, 2019 at 19:26
  • 1
    I have been to many local workshops and conferences in Germany where most participants where native speakers. Most people presented in German, but had slides/posters in English. People reuse slides (or poster boxes/figures) from other presentations, and many do not find translating the slides worth the effort.
    – wimi
    Commented Dec 4, 2019 at 8:21

2 Answers 2


"The conference language is native language, but english contributions are welcome as well.

The conference organizers have made it clear that both native language and English are acceptable and welcome for your conference materials.

That means it’s entirely up to you. If you have strong feelings about supporting your local language, you can feel completely free to use that language for your poster. I am sure many of the native speakers present would find that an agreeable decision and would be somewhat grateful. On the other hand, there will likely be some foreign participants who would find your poster unaccessible and will miss out on learning about your work. Perhaps some of those people are academics you will be interacting with further down the road of your career (e.g., if you end up applying for postdocs overseas).

If you just want your work to reach the largest number of people and don’t care about anything else, I’m guessing English is the way to go (assuming you are in a country such as Germany with a very high proportion of English speakers).

It is a choice to make; neither option is any more right or wrong that the other.

And if you really can’t decide, how about preparing a bilingual poster?

  • 1
    I was scrolling down just to suggest bilingual poster. It is completely doable, I've done it. My main tip would be to put to choose a main langage and put the second, slightly smaller and in a visible grey color.
    – Emilie
    Commented Dec 3, 2019 at 19:49

Many conferences specifically state that The Language of the Conference is X for some suitable choice of X. If so, then use that language. Here, they state that the native language is preferred, so use that.

But, if this conference is in Germany you can be pretty much assured that every academic, and many other people, will understand English. This is true for most of Europe and for many other places.

If it is a physical poster, you could provide an online version in whichever language you don't choose if you have any doubts. So, probably make it in the local language (German?) and then provide an English version online. Or, possibly a handout in English.

  • 1
    I have a lot of friends who are very well educated, in Europe and don't understand English... But they speak 2 or, in some cases, more languages. Why do you assume that they will automatically have English?
    – Solar Mike
    Commented Dec 3, 2019 at 18:09
  • 3
    @SolarMike, not an assumption. I've travelled extensively in Europe and worked with a lot of academics there. I've never actually met any that weren't also English speakers. There must be some, I suppose, but not that I've come across. In France, there are those who don't like to converse in English, but can.
    – Buffy
    Commented Dec 3, 2019 at 18:12
  • I live in Europe so I spend more time there, and, consequently meet more educated people on a daily basis... If you restrict this to academics ... But there are other educated people who publish such as doctors, dentists etc... and I converse with them in French as I don't speak German etc...
    – Solar Mike
    Commented Dec 3, 2019 at 18:15
  • @SolarMike, yes, most of my contacts (and co authors) are academics or engaged in somewhat similar things (software developers, say), so I was, perhaps too broad. I'll make a small edit.
    – Buffy
    Commented Dec 3, 2019 at 18:17
  • 1
    Voted for your answer anyway...
    – Solar Mike
    Commented Dec 3, 2019 at 18:19

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