How important is a foreign language in a mathematical career

Forum for the GRE subject test in mathematics.
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mindreader
Posts: 90
Joined: Sat Oct 13, 2012 11:12 am

How important is a foreign language in a mathematical career

Post by mindreader » Tue Mar 19, 2013 2:07 pm

I am curious whether there are PhD students in this forum who'd like to give their take on this matter. How important is learning a foreign language (French, German, or Russian) in a mathematical career in this modern age? My interests are in applied analysis (diff equations) and connections to probability and am concerned whether learning French would be of great value. My focus is on applied math but I'd love to study the theory in depth. The school I've been admitted to so far does not impose a language requirement for the completion of the PhD degree.

I am wondering if, among those of you who have taken language courses during your PhD program, you remember anything you learned due to lack of practice. After all, there really arent courses like French for Math PhD students in a university, it's most probably a general language course. It is inevitable that you'll forget most of it after not being able to practice it...So is it worth it?

kuz
Posts: 56
Joined: Wed Jan 18, 2012 3:32 am

Re: How important is a foreign language in a mathematical career

Post by kuz » Tue Mar 19, 2013 2:14 pm

Not important at all.

I mean, sure, it's always nice to be able to speak and read in another language; it makes it easier to communicate with academics in other countries (especially if you end up working at a non-English speaking institution, or even just visiting for an extended period of time), and some papers are only available in a foreign language. But that's pretty rare, and usually you can get by with Google Translate for papers.



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