The Legacy of European Social Psychology

An online compendium of ideas, schools and people in the field of Social Psychology

The Association and Languages

Language does not seem to be a hot issue nowadays—English comes natural to most of us—but it is important to recognize that such was not always the case. As mentioned earlier, during the very first conferences preceding the actual foundation of the Association most of the papers presented were in English, but some were in French. And when the European Journal was first launched, articles could be submitted in French and German and the published articles were always followed by a summary in Russian, German, and French. The latter practice was stopped at some point, but submissions of articles in French were possible until the late 1990’s. Besides, one should observe that nowhere in the Articles is there a reference to an ‘official’ language of the Association. To further document the point, in reply to a question from a member of the Association, in 1984 the Executive Committee replied: “There is no official language of the Association laid down in the Articles. Everybody should be allowed to present papers in the language of his/her choice at the Association's meetings.”

It also deserves mentioning that at the Summer School of Aix-en-Provence (1981) and Bologna (1986) some of the workshop activities took place in French.

Rather than viewing the above as a battle over the hegemony of English or French (to name but those two), I prefer to view these and similar instances as an expression of the fact that, different from now, having to read, speak or write in a non-native language can be a serious obstacle to becoming a true member of a scientific community. That is also why Summer School organizers often recommended that participants, prior to attending the School, would not only spend time reading the assigned articles, but might also consider taking some language classes. Some Summer Schools even offered such a class themselves prior to the start of the actual School.