Announcing: Slashdot Deals - Explore geek apps, games, gadgets and more. (what is this?)

Thank you!

We are sorry to see you leave - Beta is different and we value the time you took to try it out. Before you decide to go, please take a look at some value-adds for Beta and learn more about it. Thank you for reading Slashdot, and for making the site better!

Learn a Foreign Language As an Engineer?

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 6 years ago | from the math-is-the-universal-language dept.

Programming 1021

Ben B writes "I'm working on an undergraduate degree in computer engineering in the US, and I'm a native English-speaking citizen. In fact, English is the only language that I know. Maybe it's not the same at other schools, but for the engineering program at mine, a foreign language is not required. If my plans are to one day be involved in research, is it worth my time to learn a foreign language? If so, which one?" Learning something new is almost never a waste of time, but how much energy have others found worthwhile to expend with all of the programming/math/tech type courses to be had at a large university?

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

Suggestions... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24090527)

Chinese, Japanese, Hindi, Klingon.

Re:Suggestions... (1)

aztracker1 (702135) | more than 6 years ago | (#24090635)

Honestly, wouldn't mind taking a conversational Klingon course at some point.. ;) Definite geek cred there...

Re:Suggestions... (4, Funny)

trolltalk.com (1108067) | more than 6 years ago | (#24090673)

... Metric ...

At least that way, gas prices won't seem so bad when they're priced in litres instead of gallons.

Re:Suggestions... (5, Funny)

SQLGuru (980662) | more than 6 years ago | (#24091027)

Learn Norwegian......Norwegian hot chicks
Learn Portugese......Brazillian hot chicks
Learn Swiss..........Swedish hot chicks
Learn Japanese.......Cosplay...errr Japanese hot chicks
Learn Khoisan........because noone else will (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Khoisan_languages)


Pig (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24090533)


The language of engineers (5, Insightful)

DancesWithBlowTorch (809750) | more than 6 years ago | (#24091009)

How about German?

  • It has more than 100 million native speakers, at least twice as many people who can speak it fluently. In northern and eastern Europe, it's among the most widely spoken foreign languages, together with English and Russian.
  • It has a very logical structure. Learning German might actually help you with maths.
  • If you are planning to work in the car industry or in renewable energy at some point, going to work in Germany for a while might be a very interesting option. They have a lot of good technical universities, research institutes and engineering companies, some of them among the world's best.
  • Ever wanted to read Einstein's, Schroedinger's, Bohrs, Heisenberg's,... original papers, in the language they were thought out in?
  • In contrast to the French, Germans are actually welcoming, friendly and understanding towards people you don't speak their language fluently. Most people there speak English as a second language, so if you ever go there, you will be able to settle in gracefully.

Where are you planning on working? (4, Insightful)

Breconides (253014) | more than 6 years ago | (#24090537)

It seems to me that if you are planning on working in the United States, your time would be better spent focusing on your Computer studies. Most foreign engineers here speak English.

IF, however, you were planning on going abroad, then speaking the local language would get you a lot of "street cred" that you would otherwise be lacking.

Re:Where are you planning on working? (3, Insightful)

Smoky D. Bear (734215) | more than 6 years ago | (#24090721)

Another way to look at it is "Who will you be doing research with? What do they speak?" It's not just about travel; being able to communicate in other languages opens a lot of doors.

Re:Where are you planning on working? (1)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 6 years ago | (#24090801)

Yah but in the US, just about everyone who is educated enough to be an engineer knows English. Sure there might be a few on business trips who will only speak other languages, but here in the US unless you are traveling a lot you only need to know English.

Re:Where are you planning on working? (0)

falconwolf (725481) | more than 6 years ago | (#24091003)

here in the US unless you are traveling a lot you only need to know English.

Here in the US if you can only speak English you may find your job outsourced. If however you speak another language you might be able to work in another country. The pay would probably be lower but your living expenses would be lower too. For instance an English teacher could live like a king in China. Accountants could too.


Chinese (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24090539)

Learn it, live it, love it.

Re:Chinese (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24090699)

Let's not kid ourselves. To have a decent ability in Mandarin you are going to need at least 3 years of study. You can get the same ability in Spanish with only 1 year of study.

Not a lot of engineering majors can free up 3 years worth of credits. Most can pull of a year or so.

Re:Chinese (1)

Draconix (653959) | more than 6 years ago | (#24090859)

Yes, but what good will Spanish do you as an engineer? China is rapidly industrializing and in need of engineers. What Spanish-speaking country is in need of them?

Re:Chinese (4, Insightful)

Gat0r30y (957941) | more than 6 years ago | (#24090973)

The Chinese have no shortage of engineers. There's tons of them. They need people who speak English and Chinese and are engineers so the Chinese Engineers can talk to their English speaking counterparts and management. Generally speaking, the Chinese engineers ive met have known English, so I haven't had to learn any Mandrin at all to work with them.

If you're going to live in the US ... (4, Interesting)

trolltalk.com (1108067) | more than 6 years ago | (#24090541)

If you're going to stay in the US, you might as well increase your value by learning spanish.

If you're looking at the EU, learn spanish, italian, german, french, or russian.

If you're looking in asia, mandarin.

If you're looking at india, hindi (or PROPER english).

Re:If you're going to live in the US ... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24090607)

There's nothing proper about Limey-speak as it's known here at my UK owned company. ;)

Re:If you're going to live in the US ... (1)

Dan667 (564390) | more than 6 years ago | (#24090649)

If you live in the Southwest or Texas I agree with learning Spanish. Your marketability goes up dramatically if you have a fairly good grasp of it.

Re:If you're going to live in the US ... (1)

Quattro Vezina (714892) | more than 6 years ago | (#24091051)

If you're in marketing or sales, sure. Speaking languages that are spoken locally helps get the message out to the masses.

If you're in engineering? Honestly, as an engineer in Texas, I've never had a single Hispanic co-worker. You'll mostly work with other native English-speakers, Indians, and probably Chinese (and if you're in Dallas, you'll probably work with some Vietnamese people too).

Re:If you're going to live in the US ... (2, Insightful)

El_Muerte_TDS (592157) | more than 6 years ago | (#24090671)

Pie chart is also a valuable language

Re:If you're going to live in the US ... (-1, Redundant)

JCSoRocks (1142053) | more than 6 years ago | (#24090687)

If you plan on working with robots you could learn binary. After all, there are 10 types of people in this world - those who understand binary, and those who don't.

Re:If you're going to live in the US ... (4, Funny)

SQLGuru (980662) | more than 6 years ago | (#24090893)

There are 1 types of people in this world. Those who waste bits.

Those who don't are considered to be the default case.


Re:If you're going to live in the US ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24090693)

If you're looking at the EU, learn spanish, italian, german, french, or russian.

That's pretty crappy suggestion because you're just listing all the choices. Unless you know where you're going to work then English is the only across-the-board option for Europe.

Re:If you're going to live in the US ... (1)

trolltalk.com (1108067) | more than 6 years ago | (#24090987)

French will get you by in a lot of europe - for example, the benelux countries (belgium, netherlands, luxembourg), switzerland, even *cough* france *cough* ...

Re:If you're going to live in the US ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24090747)

Proper? Seriously? What's wrong with Canadian English?

Mandarin? What about Japanese? For one, Japanese is much easier to learn, being syllabic instead of tonal. Both have complex writing systems, but frankly, from a business perspective Japanese would be much more interesting.

Oh, and you forgot Romanian. Lots of out-sourcing going on there now, 'cause it's cheaper than India.

Re:If you're going to live in the US ... (1)

trolltalk.com (1108067) | more than 6 years ago | (#24091019)

Proper? Seriously? What's wrong with Canadian English?

As long as you can say double-double, two-four, and eh?, you've pretty much got Canadian English covered, tabernac!.

French (1)

2short (466733) | more than 6 years ago | (#24090813)

Chicks dig it.

Re:If you're going to live in the US ... (3, Insightful)

lkypnk (978898) | more than 6 years ago | (#24090889)

As a Canadian, I have had French education since a fairly young age, and despite the general uselessness of French elsewhere in the world (besides France), speaking French is actually useful in Canada, it opens up certain jobs in businesses, government, etc. which are otherwise closed to monolingual speakers. Hell, in Ottawa or Montreal, bilingualism can secure you a job you might not otherwise get at McDonalds!

And so I recommend Spanish for Americans. It's one of the "easiest" languages for a native English speaker to learn. Over 10% of Americans speak it natively. It opens up doors in some State government positions and businesses. Did I mention it's easier to learn? There's considerable exposure to Spanish in American culture, which makes learning easier. How many Russian TV channels do you get from your cable provider?

Which language to pick will ultimately depend on exactly why you want to learn it. If you want to learn because it's fun, for "cognitive exercise", etc., then pick whichever one suits your fancy. If you want to learn a language so as to be able to speak it competently, remember: learning a language is an incredible amount of hard work, especially something like Mandarin or Russian which are quite wildly different from English.

Finally, on language difficulty, the United States government has some useful information on results [nvtc.gov] from its language education programs.

Re:If you're going to live in the US ... (3, Interesting)

subStance (618153) | more than 6 years ago | (#24090901)

> If you're looking in asia, mandarin.

Hmmm ... I wouldn't say it's as simple as that. As an english speaker who picked up japanese so I could work in japan, I can say from experience that the chinese language speakers I had around me learning japanese had it tougher than I did, mainly because they were subconsciously trying to treat japanese as a dialect of chinese. It took them twice as long to get productive because of how much they had to unlearn, and they usually ticked off most of the japanese people they were trying to help them learn because of the chinese thing. The korean guys ? they picked up japanese *really* quickly. My guess is that their language is much closer (and they seemed to try a lot harder than the rest of us did).

I'd advise that despite what you might read in the media about "china being the next japan" economically, learning its language as a shortcut to other languages in the region is probably going to hurt you more than help in practice.

That said, mandarin does cover a larger geographic area of asia, so I guess the moral is that mandarin will help you if you land in a mandarin speaking country, but hurt you if you don't.

Re:If you're going to live in the US ... (1)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 6 years ago | (#24090945)

If you're going to stay in the US, you might as well increase your value by learning spanish.

Except for the fact that most of the people speaking Spanish over here, aren't engineers nor can they afford an engineer. Sure, if you were a store clerk, being able to speak Spanish might be nice, for a manager sure, for an engineer? It isn't worth your time.

If you're looking at the EU, learn spanish, italian, german, french, or russian.

If you are going to Spain, Italy, Germany, France or Russia, if you don't know you are going to one of those countries it is rather useless to learn the language.

If you're looking in asia, mandarin.

And Japanese. Both China and Japan are in need of engineers and in Japan human rights aren't sacrificed as much as in China. Plus, the US government are friendly with them.

Re:If you're going to live in the US ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24090947)

hahaha, they don't speak proper English in India, "isn't it?"

Re:If you're going to live in the US ... (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 6 years ago | (#24091001)

From my experience with tech support from India, I am fairly sure that proper English doesn't help you at all there.

Re:If you're going to live in the US ... (3, Insightful)

Quattro Vezina (714892) | more than 6 years ago | (#24091013)

Hindi? I'm not sure about that...most Indians in the tech industry are south Indians. In other words, they speak Kannada, Telugu, and Tamil. Not Hindi.

No, really. Look at all of the cities that are described as "the Silicon Valley of the East". They are Bangalore (Kannada-speaking), Hyderabad (Telugu-speaking), and Chennai (Tamil-speaking).

If you're going into engineering and want to move to India, look to the south.

stick to english (5, Insightful)

Surt (22457) | more than 6 years ago | (#24090551)

There are publications in basically every language in CS/CE. If you really want to learn one, pick from Japanese, German, French, Russian, Chinese.

But it won't do you much good, and in reality, you'll never have time to read foreign journals (or looked at another way, it would be a comparative waste of your time given the quantity of good material you could be reading in English).

Re:stick to english (3, Insightful)

Otter (3800) | more than 6 years ago | (#24090819)

There are all sorts of great reasons to learn foreign languages (travel, business, enjoyment, meeting college requirements). But for doing it for your research isn't a good reason, unless you're interested in doing a research stint abroad (which well you might if you're interested in supercomputing or botnets).

Re:stick to english (1)

bugnuts (94678) | more than 6 years ago | (#24090943)

In all seriousness, English speakers have an easy gig.

Nearly all Europeans under about 30yo can speak English reasonably well. I have worked with many world-class researchers from all over the world, and they all have passable English (if with an accent).

If you ever get lost in Europe, find a teenager and ask for directions in English. They love to speak to native English speakers. (I made the mistake of asking in really bad German once, and got answered in really good German... and had no clue what he said.)

Absolutely. (4, Informative)

TJ_Phazerhacki (520002) | more than 6 years ago | (#24090555)

Russian, Chinese, or Arabic. Bilingualism is a FANTASTIC resume skill, and it will likely pop up more than you think. If I spoke Russian instead of Spanish as a 2nd language, I could have taken a 3 month trip to Moscow with the QA team.

Re:Absolutely. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24090643)

I'd agree and probably say pick an asian language.
There is quite a bit of great engineering going on in any of the big 3.
IMHO, Korean is the easiest. (Speaking from experience)

Re:Absolutely. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24091015)

For your resume? Well, probably not /directly/ in a CS discipline. I speak Spanish and some German. It has never been more than a curiosity in my employment. That said, I think the skill is valuable in the sense that learning Math or Physics will help you in computer science. Physics opened the door to my first two jobs, even though the only work I did at those places was non-physics programming. My third job was in a Spanish speaking country, and they hired me because English was my first language. Go figure.

Whatever you do, don't be stagnant either with your intellect nor with your career. Pursue your personal interests. Who knows, some day you may be working in a completely different field of work. Ask yourself now, what do you want to do.

It depends... (3, Insightful)

aztracker1 (702135) | more than 6 years ago | (#24090565)

With the shear number of outsourced and H1B workers in the IT community, it may well be worthwhile. I haven't taken any foreign language courses myself. But the more I've worked with Russian, and/or Indian programmers, the more I think about it.

I wouldn't let it distract you from your main coursework though, that is most important. Foreign language study should be in line with business courses. Not necessary for starting out, but helpful in moving up.

Find something (4, Insightful)

77Punker (673758) | more than 6 years ago | (#24090571)

When I was getting my BS in Computer Science (class of 08!), I took 3 semesters of Spanish and 1 Chinese. Taking foreign languages forces you to think in new ways, which is what problem solving is all about. Also, Spanish and Chinese are both fairly similar to English, but Spanish was fun for me while Chinese was just a pain in the ass since very few of the words are cognates.

Yo hablo, tu hablar, nos hablamos (2, Interesting)

www.sorehands.com (142825) | more than 6 years ago | (#24090773)

I think Chinese is an easier language. You don't have to deal with verb conjugation and tenses. Grammatically, it is a simpler language.

It is an easy language to learn. I went to China and saw little kids speaking it, therefore it must be easy.

Chinese (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24090581)

Chinese currently has the largest "market share".
Yes even compared to English.

And there is probably going to be more hi-tech business between China and the US in the future.

Plus it will give you exposure to a tonal, non-romance language.

If it's just for career purposes... (4, Insightful)

Zarhan (415465) | more than 6 years ago | (#24090589)

Mandarin Chinese.

If you actually want to enjoy, pick something that you actually have an interest in. Ton of anime junkies have picked up Japanese for example. If you like Bollywood, learn Hindi. And so on...

Qu'vatlh ghuy'cha' jay'! (5, Funny)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | more than 6 years ago | (#24090597)

Hab SoSlI' Quch!

Let me guess... (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24090691)


Re:Qu'vatlh ghuy'cha' jay'! (1)

Idiomatick (976696) | more than 6 years ago | (#24090823)

She's human so that is pretty standard.

Questioned Answered (5, Funny)

Archangel Michael (180766) | more than 6 years ago | (#24090639)

is it worth my time to learn a foreign language? If so, which one?


I'm currently living with four (4) girls (three daughters, wife) all of which are able to speak in riddles and conundrums that they themselves understand, while leaving me completely at a loss of any valuable information.

Interestingly enough, this Girlspeak language transcends cultural boundaries! It is simply amazing how two girls can communicate without actually knowing the native tongue of the other.

The fact is, I've spent half a lifetime trying to understand girlspeak without much progress.

Re:Questioned Answered (1, Funny)

bugnuts (94678) | more than 6 years ago | (#24090853)

The fact is, I've spent half a lifetime trying to understand girlspeak without much progress.

There's a reason you can't learn it.

If the OP wasn't born a female, the learning procedure for girlspeak is extremely painful, and involves scalpels.

The most painful part isn't when the doctor removes his manhood ... it's when they scoop out half his brains!

(okok, old joke, apologies to the geekgrrls :-)

Re:Questioned Answered (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24090855)

To understand girlspeak you need to soften up, you insensitive clod!

Re:Questioned Answered (3, Insightful)

UnknowingFool (672806) | more than 6 years ago | (#24090965)

Incidentally there is a universal guyspeak. To females, it sounds like grunting, belching, farting, and mumbling. Females just can't understand the beauty of simplicity.

Could be useful (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 6 years ago | (#24090645)

It could be useful depending on where you want to work. If you want to work just in the US, I don't think another language would be all that much of an advantage. If you want to go work in Europe, or some other place with lots of cultures, then English should be somewhat standard. Other good languages to know would probably include French, German, Spanish, Hindi, Cantonese, or Mandarin. For an English speaker, the first three would probably be the easiest to learn, because you already know the character set. I wish my university would have pushed this more. I'm in Canada, and it was a fully billingual university. But they wouldn't let you take second language courses for credit. I think the logic was that it would be too easy for a native speaker to take a course in their native language and get an A+. I think that a rule like that hurts the learning of more people than those that would end up taking a course in a language they already knew. Besides, is it any different than a student taking a C++ language course when they already taught themselves the language in high school?

How else are you going to meet girls (4, Interesting)

Yergle143 (848772) | more than 6 years ago | (#24090651)

This X-engineering student notes that adding German to my curriculum tacked one extra semester onto my studies. To say it was not encouraged is understating the case: I was told not to waste my time. Years have passed and the rest of my studies are some vague blur involving plumbing; but I can still speak German. Learn Mandarin. ---537

Chinese (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24090653)

Because I for one welcome our soon to be new lemon chicken eating overlords.

Spanish (1)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 6 years ago | (#24090661)

If you intend to stay in the US you'll want to learn Spanish.

Re:Spanish (1)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 6 years ago | (#24090995)

Except, where do most of the people who come to the USA and don't know English work? Manual. Labor. They don't have a need for an engineer, few of them are engineers and honestly, it would be a waste of your time. Learn something from a language that has need of engineers (Japanese, Chinese, Russian, German, etc.)

Esperanto (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24090675)

With all the leftists on Slashdot these days, I'd say your best bet would be to learn Esperanto.

Try student exchange (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24090681)

You can always learn another language by living in another country. That way, your time won't be wasted too badly.

I went to France for one year. I did quite nicely at school and picked up the language okayish.

I think you should choose the language depending on the subject you want to specialize in.

They have nice engineering schools in Germany, for example. Although with the current purchasing power of the US dollar you better have big pockets.

Ps. As you can probably guess, English isn't my native language either. It is the third language I have tried to learn...

Re:Try student exchange (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24090879)

Yes, I can tell that English is not your native language. You use it too well. I could be a nit-pick and find one error (never end a sentence with a preposition ["...the subject you want to specialize in."]), but that's one about which most people either don't know or don't care, so it's forgiven.

German or Japanese. (1)

jcr (53032) | more than 6 years ago | (#24090701)

Most of the R&D in the world is being published in English, but adding either of those languages will get you a pretty big chunk of the rest.


Re:German or Japanese. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24091033)

As long as you don't learn to code in Japanese - and I'm not referring to nomenclature or comments (but I could). Yikes!

plus 5, t,roll) (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24090705)

is the group that

When the time comes. (4, Insightful)

wild_quinine (998562) | more than 6 years ago | (#24090723)

A friend of mine is deeply embroiled in a PhD Thesis, in History. He's interested in the history of an order of monks. At the beginning of this, it became obvious that he was going to need to be pretty damn fluent in French. It's amazing what you can do when you have reason, and put your mind to it. He was reading in six weeks, and genuinely fluent in half a year. The motivation was clear.

Concentrate on what you need to concentrate on, and expand your horizons when it becomes necessary. This will provide the most efficient use of time in almost all cases - provided you don't become so focussed on whatever you're into that you genuinely don't notice when a new skill is required. (That's the only real risk of getting in too deep).

Despite this view on life, I've always had a great admiration for those who enjoy learning activities in their lesiure time. Personally I've always preferred video games.

Translation (1)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 6 years ago | (#24090983)

He was reading in six weeks, and genuinely fluent in half a year.

"I beer liking please. Can you to me to have?" fluent.


Latin, Esperanto, or (1)

Rinisari (521266) | more than 6 years ago | (#24090727)

Study Latin. You'll learn more about English and other Romantic languages than you could ever learn learning a single one of them. However, if you can't be convinced to take up Latin, but want another language quickly, check out Esperanto. If you want another language with which you can communicate with people immediately, find a large contingent of native something speakers at your school and befriend them, i.e. learn a language which your peers can help you learn and practice. It might even score you a girlfriend/boyfriend.

uhh.. english (1)

smadasam (831582) | more than 6 years ago | (#24090737)

If you want to do research and work internationally, you will need to be able to speak and write English. Oh wait, you already do. English is more or less the lingua franca for international communication and research.

Yes, yes and yes! (1)

Toreo asesino (951231) | more than 6 years ago | (#24090751)

Steps to guaranteed happiness:

1. Learn basics; enough to buy beers, etc
2. Go live in foreign country
3. Put advert out for "language interchange"
4. Reply to females only
5. Get them drunk (it helps with learning don't-you-know)
6, 7....at some point... Profit!

Even works for geeks! Trust me I know!

Keep in mind... (1, Insightful)

HungWeiLo (250320) | more than 6 years ago | (#24090753)

To attain the fluency required to read academic papers in their respective native languages, you're looking at going to said country and going native for 10 years. 5 at the very minimum.

Re:Keep in mind... (3, Funny)

Larryish (1215510) | more than 6 years ago | (#24090923)

Can't we just use Babelfish?

For example, a German news story [yahoo.com]

See? Totally easy to understand...

Er, do you want to? (1)

Curmudgeonlyoldbloke (850482) | more than 6 years ago | (#24090757)

If so, go right ahead.

If in the long term you do want to do research somewhere, or in the short term just visit, it makes sense to speak a bit of the language, even if it's just food and beer. I don't think that I'd bother if you're never going to use it though, unless you want to e.g. understand Bergman films in the original Swedish.

I can't speak for the rest of the world, but across Europe in business there's generally a reasonable grasp of English - I've heard of people living and working in some non-English-speaking countries speaking only English. I suspect that the educational world will be the same, only more so - people will often understand English but it's only polite to "have a go" and speak the local language as well (even if it is only food and beer).

Maybe you need to say where you're planning to study or work so that someone can give more specific info? The world's a big place...

Depends on what you want to do (5, Informative)

Yold (473518) | more than 6 years ago | (#24090759)

English is the lingua franca, so from a business standpoint, if you want to be an engineer type dude, you are probably set.

Chinese would be smart if you want to make more money learning a foreign language, so is Arabic. Russian is damn hard, but that would greatly increase your marketability as well. Like if you want to be a consultant or something later on.

If you want to learn a language for the hell of it, I'd recommend a romance language. Pick one that seems interesting, French and Italian are very pretty sounding. IMHO, German is very cool from a logical standpoint, many words are simply conjugations of smaller words.

Here is a list of the 30 most spoken languages: http://www.krysstal.com/spoken.html [krysstal.com]

Re:Depends on what you want to do (1)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 6 years ago | (#24090863)

German is very cool from a logical standpoint, many words are simply conjugations of smaller words.

German is not logical. It has lots of rules, but they largely make no sense.


Re:Depends on what you want to do (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24091057)

From a business standpoint you may want to practice English, if you have the time. Communicating clearly and concisely is difficult, particularly between disciplines.

Programming without computers (1)

flaming error (1041742) | more than 6 years ago | (#24090761)

> is it worth my time to learn a foreign language? If so, which one?

Is it worth your time to live in a foreign land? Taking language courses will give you academic credits, but practical linguistic skill comes bundled with learning the culture.

Emersion (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 6 years ago | (#24090763)

The problem with learning a language is that unless you are gifted that way, you have to immerse yourself in the language AND culture to learn it well enough to be useful. Doing it half-way is usually a waste of time. Be prepared for the long-haul. If you have a favorite country you like to visit regularly, then go for it. If you are single you have an added bonus: chicks dig "foreigners".

(If you live in LA, you'll always get a chance to use Spanish.)

Re:Emersion (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24090985)

Looks like somebody needs a little English immersion...

Too Late (2, Interesting)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | more than 6 years ago | (#24090765)

It is much easier to learn a foreign language when you are younger. By the time you get to university the effort is probably not worth it from a career point of view, if you are an English speaker. English is the primary language used in technology fields world wide so you already know the language that almost all research is published in.

That being said, studying a foreign language is enjoyable from a personal enrichment point of view. I studied French in high school and hated it. But later in life I went to work for a French owned company that paid for French lessons - that high school stuff came back quickly, and it made the times I traveled to France on business a more enjoyable because I could interact more easily with the people and surroundings than if I had no understanding of the language. Because of that experience I now enjoy reading and watching French language books and movies.

Chinese is the way to go (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24090769)

I am also an engineering student (PhD student at MIT) and have pondered this same question recently. I concluded that learning Chinese is going to be important in the really near future. A few things have pushed me in this direction. First, a company that I co-founded has a few of our first customers in China, which really surprised me. I have had a chance to interact with these engineers in China and I really think that they are soon to be a large engineering powerhouse. I also have realized that I have had an exceedingly hard time trying to understand what they are saying even when they are speaking english. I realized this about a year ago and started taking undergraduate level Chinese classes here. From just this one year of studying I understand why it is difficult for them to learn English. I have to tell you that it is pretty hard learning Chinese though. I just returned from a trip over to China and was amazed by how much engineering was being done there. While most of thier engineering teams are pretty young and not as mature/experienced as in the US, they make up for a lot of it with the sheer numbers of engineers and they are very enthusiastic.

So I guess I would recommend trying to learn Chinese. As far as doing research, etc, all of the western world speaks English well enough and all of the academic publications and conferences are in english. If you are going into math it might be worth learning German as I definitely have found some math books only in German in higher level math subjects. Good luck.

Two types of people (1)

Idiomatick (976696) | more than 6 years ago | (#24090799)

There are two types of people. Bilingual people and Americans. Please learn another language, it is good for the brain. It will increase your marketability even if its not that useful a language employers respect it. More useful languages would probably be asian (mandarin, japanese). But it depends what field you are going into and if you intend to leave the country.

I need to learn... (1)

VGPowerlord (621254) | more than 6 years ago | (#24090817)

Quick, I need to learn how to translate the following quotes:

"Buildin' a sentry!"
"Teleporter goin' up!"
"Dispenser goin' up!"
"A spy's sappin' mah sentry!"

Oh, and everything here [half-life2.com] .

Which one? (1)

KokorHekkus (986906) | more than 6 years ago | (#24090831)

My advice would be the one which you can find a decent degree of personal interest in. Your choice in education is hopefully a result of your personal interests and not something you've simply been told "is good" for you and this of course increases your chances in succeding both with education and career. I believe the same thing goes for learing anything else that might be somewhat tangential to your direct goals.

As for what counts as personal interest of course depends entirely on yourself. Wanting to use it to further an international career, or being of use in a multicultural setting where you live or just having an interest in the countries where it's used in general are all valid reasons in my book. Just to mention a few reasons.

Ncock (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24090845)

First choice.... (3, Funny)

PPH (736903) | more than 6 years ago | (#24090847)

.... Elbonian.

Most definintely! (3, Interesting)

$criptah (467422) | more than 6 years ago | (#24090871)

Foreign languages are priceless in today's world of constant internationalization. I work with people form Germany, Russia, Japan, Norway and Brazil. I speak one foreign language and I wish I knew more. In fact, not knowing Spanish has bitten me in the rear because I could have advanced my career by moving to Latin America where I would fly up the corporate ladder. As somebody who got hired (at least once) for my foreign language and IT skills, I firmly believe that speaking a foreign language is a good career boost.

We have been in many situations were customers from Asia and other parts of the world love to pay extra big bugs for specialists who speak their langauge. It is not that they don't want to speak English, it is the fact that they prefer to deal with people who can speak English and their own language just in case. Technical people who know English + one of CJK or Spanish are becoming priceless because Latin American and Asia are booming. When our company was rapidly expanding, we could not hire enough engineers who were fluent in several languages. Those who got hired received more than generous packages and relocation opportunities. While this may not be appealing to a married person with a couple of kids, a young single college graduate will sure appreciate a six month gig in Japan paid for by an employer. This really helps if you end up working in a small (but well paid) field. You help your employer with building a new customer base in a remote part of the world and suddenly you go from a college graduate to a young professional who brought a company XYZ to a new country. As you can tell from my post, I am all about speaking as many languages as possible.

The bottom line is: Learn language if you would like to be qualified for more opportunities when it comes to travel and corporate mobility. If you believe that your current town/city/country is the best place in the world, then do not bother.

Hebrew. (1)

NeutronCowboy (896098) | more than 6 years ago | (#24090877)

No, really. There's a ton of R&D done in Israel or with Israelis in the US, and knowing Hebrew will give you a massive leg up during discussions with them.

Alternatively, Chinese. At some point, they will have quality R&D of their own, and knowing Chinese will again be invaluable.

Actually, any second language will help you. It's how you get into fun business trips that will expand your knowledge.

Learning a Programming Language as a Foreigner? (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 6 years ago | (#24090887)

Are you a foreigner with a native language other than English who's learned a programming language? Before you learned English (or how are you reading this post)? What language is native for you?

How hard was it to learn the programming language without English as a starting point? Harder than it seems for English speakers with other skills similar to yours? Was learning English after learning the programming language easier for you than for people you know who share your language who don't program?

English (1)

Quattro Vezina (714892) | more than 6 years ago | (#24090903)

If you're staying in the US, there's no need to speak anything other than English, regardless of the native language of your co-workers.

I work at my company's headquarters in the US. The vast majority of my co-workers in the same office are Indian. We also have an office in India that we communicate with all the time. We all talk to each other in English all the time. All business is done in English. Some of them might use their native languages privately over IM, but that's it. Not speaking their native languages puts me at no disadvantage.

The only reason for me to learn, for example, Telugu would be for "street cred" as one of the earlier posters put it.

Common language for this group... (1)

Sponge Bath (413667) | more than 6 years ago | (#24090909)

Klingon! Choice of nerdlings everywhere.

You have to live there (3, Insightful)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 6 years ago | (#24090915)

You can go to as many classes as you like, but it's an entirely different thing to actually use a language.


is it worth my time to learn a foreign language? (1)

falconwolf (725481) | more than 6 years ago | (#24090925)

It's almost always worth it to learn something new. However in today's economy knowing a language other than just English is a good idea. Perhaps good languages to learn is Portuguese, the official language of Brazil; Hindu, India's main language; Mandarin, the official spoken Chinese language; or maybe Russian.


yes (1)

Goldsmith (561202) | more than 6 years ago | (#24090927)

If you want to do academic style research, there are many languages that could be useful.

Any language spoken by a large number of technical people is always good, as is a language spoken by prospective graduate students. For example, learning Mandarin Chinese would be very helpful for an academic in the US for recruiting Chinese students. In the next 20 years, where are US companies and universities going to be importing foreign talent? Figure that out and learn that language.

You could learn Spanish. If you plan on being grant supported, it's very useful to recruit "diverse" workers and students. That usually means women, African-Americans and Latinos. Latin America may also be the answer to the question above.

I would have found Chinese, Japanese, French, Spanish, Russian or Italian useful in specific circumstances (dealing with people I've worked with or at conferences I've been to). Of course, my university allowed me to take three years of music instead of language, and that's been useful too.

So, why do you need a second language? (1)

shankarunni (1002529) | more than 6 years ago | (#24090931)

The answer to which language you should learn depends, naturally, on why you need/want to learn such a language:

* Communication with (not necessarily geographically distant) colleagues, or customers?

Certainly it's useful to know a little Mandarin, Japanese or Spanish. Even if you aren't fluent, you'll at least be sensitive to internationalization issues.

* Understanding professional literature from other countries?

This used to be very important, years ago, for Physics and Chemistry, where the premier journals used to be in German. Not so important in computer science, where the major publications are all in English.

* Simply expanding your mind? Tourism? Pleasure?

Studies have shown that simply learning a second language trains your mind to look at problems in different ways, opening it up to seeing new solutions (and problems!). So learn some language - any language - and just enjoy the process.

(I learned a little broken French when I lived next door to the Alliance Francaise in Bangalore, and it has been pretty rewarding to me, anyway. I certainly don't read novels in French or anything, but it has been culturally enriching..)

Study Abroad (4, Insightful)

Dolohov (114209) | more than 6 years ago | (#24090937)

Don't just learn the language, study abroad -- I took Japanese and spent a term at Kansai Gaidai. The experiences of a) being put into an entirely new environment and b) being forced to set aside engineering for a term, were both invaluable. It was a tremendous aid as well in terms of getting into grad school.

Easy (1)

DieByWire (744043) | more than 6 years ago | (#24090959)


unless ( $moderator{$sense_of_humor} ) {
$mod =~ s/troll|flamebait/funny/;

In the 1920s... (1)

TransEurope (889206) | more than 6 years ago | (#24090977)

...i would have answered: Learn German.

Today: Learn English. It's definetely the language of technicians and scientists all over the world. Since it's your mothelanguage there is nothing more to do for you.

But if you're want to to go to a foreign country for some years, you should learn the language of the people there. In first line not for the work with other technicians/scientist there,
but for fighting the everyday life. Maybe you want to go shopping there, deal with the local bureaucracy or converse with some chicks at a party :-D

Only useful if you can practice it/use it regulary (1)

kohai_ut (1137695) | more than 6 years ago | (#24091017)

I lived in Japan for two years and learned spoken Japanese. I have forgotten a lot of it because I simply don't have the opportunity to use it very much. If you don't have the opportunity to regularly use it, then you will always struggle to maintain it. If you choose to learn a second language, choose one that is spoken by people around you or in your community. It makes a huge difference!

2nd language of the USA (1)

flyingfsck (986395) | more than 6 years ago | (#24091035)

Well, I always thought that the second language of the USA is Spanish, so maybe you should learn that so that you can speak to the other half of your fellow citizens.

Use the language that you learn (1)

cshipley (1321363) | more than 6 years ago | (#24091039)

As someone who has studied Mandarin, Cantonese, Malay, Italian, Spanish and French, I have two answers for you. First, yes, do learn another language while you are still relatively young and it is not as difficult. As you get older, brain plasticity decreases and it gets a lot harder to learn a language. The experience you get being able to understand another culture through their language provides benefits far beyond more opportunity and salary. It's life experiece. Do it! The second answer has more to do with you figuring out what sort of lifestyle you want to have. There are a lot of good suggestions about what language to learn - Spanish, Mandarin or French are all good. However, the most important aspect of whatever language you decide to learn is you have to use it, or it will atrophy. So, choose a language based on where you would like to work or who you would like to work with, then go there and use it.

Russian (1)

collywally (1223456) | more than 6 years ago | (#24091043)

I have a linguist friend that knows about 7 languages and he told me that by far the Russian language is the best to pick up chicks with. Something about whispering softly to them was the trick.

Japanese (3, Informative)

caywen (942955) | more than 6 years ago | (#24091047)

Japan is going to make a huge comeback. And their 3-way writing system is good for your mind. Hiragana will teach you elegance and harmony. Katakana will teach you adaptation. Kanji, though, will just drive you nuts.

Well, for starters, learn C. (2, Funny)

robbo (4388) | more than 6 years ago | (#24091049)

Once you know C you can learn any language. ;-)

Load More Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?