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Re: advice for the undergrad

[...] several websites recommend having at least a literary proficiency
in a 2nd language before you apply for grad school. [...] What language
would you recommend? My top two options open are Chinese and German. Is
either better? With all the cool fossils popping up in China all the time, I
would think Chinese would be.

I agree -- except that _literary proficiency in Chinese_ will take you something like ten years of dedicated study. The language itself isn't that hard once you get the pronunciation right and once you manage to wrap your mind around a grammar that is simple but fairly different from anything you have ever imagined.

I recommend reading this essay by a sinologist on "Why Chinese Is So Damn Hard":

Again, I agree that Chinese is more practical than German (and maybe even French) these days, unless maybe you plan to specialize on sauropods from Tanzania or on branchiosaurid temnospondyls. Just be aware what to expect.