Category Scientific English

Feynman was a fine man – how to pronounce Feynman

Most scientists are very familiar with the name and work of Richard Feynman. Among his many achievements and contributions, let me mention Feynman diagrams, the Feynman path integral (an alternative formulation of quantum mechanics), and his work on quantum electrodynamics for which he shared the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1965. Feynman is not only

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How to pronounce radius, circumference, diameter

If you ever talk about circles in English, it is useful to know how to pronounce the words radius, circumference, and diameter. radius: Both the British and the American pronunciation is [ˈreɪdiəs], listen to it here. German native speakers should be careful not to pronounce the word in the German way, [‘rɑːdiʊs]. Finally, the plural

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How to write and pronounce metre (meter)

The word metre (the American spelling is meter), the name of the unit of length, only has five letters. Because we use and hear this word so often, we are well aware of the correct pronunciation: [ˈmiːtə] (BE) or [ˈmiːtər] (AE); you can listen to it here. Things become more complicated when we consider words

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Ironic iron – how to pronounce iron

Iron appears to be mispronounced by almost all non-native speakers of English. I don’t remember learning the correct pronunciation in school and most people presumably never notice that there is a right and a wrong pronunciation. I have heard numerous, highly-trained scientists with otherwise excellent English skills who spend their day working with iron consistently

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Give, hold, visit, attend a lecture

In my professional environment (university), I often hear and even read two literal and rather awkward translations from German to English. First, people like to use the expression to hold a lecture because the corresponding German expression is eine Vorlesung halten. However, the correct English expression is (see here) to give a lecture. Similarly, the

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False friend alert: study (Studium)

A remarkable number of German native speakers, including university professors and even Nobel Prize winners, make the mistake of translating Studium into study. For example, they would write 1997-2001 Study of physics in their CV. However, the English noun study translates into the German Studie, but not into Studium. A proper translation to English would

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Fresh from the source…

I just came across a very dangerous false friend while listening to a scientific talk. This time, it’s a false friend for non-native German speakers. Please, do not translate the English word ordinary as ordinär. The former means gewöhnlich (common) or einfach (simple), whereas the latter means vulgär (vulgar).

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