While the ‘global countryside’ advocates networked and differentiated rural realities, the platform of discussing and disseminating those is usually, and sometimes inevitably, monolingual. The language of academic research creates its own politics, exclusions and inequalities: ubiquitous and universal uses of the term ‘rural’, particularly in non-Anglophone contexts (through translation for example), mask a series of nuanced, but critical understandings which reduce the quality of debate in rural studies. Drawing on the literature around language politics, we explore interpretations of rurality in Greek and Japanese linguistic contexts and we contrast those with English. We call for more critical approaches on how rural scholars use, and translate, notions of ‘the rural’. In certain contexts, this might mean avoiding the term ‘rural’ altogether and using original and informal terms in the languages of actual fieldwork. We thus support terms that communities use to describe their own spatial identities. Such actions undermine the hegemony of Anglophone ‘rural’ research and introduce nuances that are needed in international debates – despite the challenge of explaining those in a single (in fact, any) language.