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Re: advice for the undergrad

----- Original Message -----
From: "Sarah Werning" <swerning@gmail.com>
Sent: Monday, June 30, 2008 9:17 PM

German would be nice, except that most
scientific texts written 50 years ago and earlier were written in a form of
German that is largely undecipherable, even to those who have a decent
understanding of the German spoken/written today (ask Mike Taylor about
translating some of his texts).

That's not true. It's just a slightly exaggerated version of what is considered good style even today -- but practical things like short sentences have never been considered good style in German! Some scientific works are more or less impossible to translate and, yes, very hard to understand in the original.

I advocate sticking with Spanish.

A lot of literature from South America is in Spanish, even today. But... knowing French and having had Latin at school, I have found I can basically just read scientific articles in Spanish and Italian. In other words, for me it wouldn't be worth it to learn Spanish just for the scientific literature.

On the other hand, if I were supposed to go to a Spanish-speaking country to do some digging, I'd start learning immediately.

As an undergrad, my academic adviser recommended French since
I was going into the sciences, but so far I've seen no evidence that French
serves today's academics better than Spanish.

Although this, too, depends on the field, I think it is generally correct.

(That said, France is said to be the easiest place for starting an academic career, considerably easier than the US.)

I also find that learning Spanish carried a bonus of me being able to
decipher the important points of articles written in French or Portuguese
(and, to a lesser extent, Italian).

Italian to a lesser extent than French?

Many programs also accept computer programming languages as second
languages, and believe me, one skill that is incredibly valuable (and one
that I wish I had) in grad school is programming. So perhaps you should
consider that instead of, or in conjunction with, another language?

Good point. Very good point.