While I was editing a journal manuscript for one of my authors from Japan who is a non-native English speaker, I was having trouble understanding what he meant to say in one particular sentence. The topic was imaging in spine surgery. He had written:
In spinal deformities, image quality is inferior because radiation does not incident parallel to the vertebrae endplates.
I e-mailed him and asked him to explain it to me, so he drew and then e-mailed a helpful diagram to me (shown here at left). I immediately understood that this was what he wanted to say:
In spinal deformities, the image quality is inferior because some of the vertebral endplates are oriented obliquely to the radiation source rather than parallel to it.
I wrote back right away to thank him and tell him that he is an excellent teacher. I was delighted that he had realized that the best way around the language barrier between us was visual. Close collaboration like that is one of the many reasons I find it so satisfying to work with researchers who are non-native English speakers.
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