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German or French for Engineering?

  1. Dec 30, 2011 #1
    I'm looking forward to beginning studying a new language next year, mostly because I want to broaden my career choices, but also because it's an old dream of mine. I was thinking about studying French, since my native language is also a romance language which makes things a lot easier, but a friend of mine who is already in college has told me that most of his colleagues who are heading to engineering are studying German - which is making me considering studying German instead.

    Considering the current job market and your expectations, would you recommend me French or German? Which language is considered more valuable for an Engineer-to-be? I plan to major in Electrical Engineering.
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 31, 2011 #2
    My experience is that the french are more likely to use or switch to their own language, in (scientific) writing and in speaking. So from a practical point of view, I would definitely choose french. On the other hand, I would rather work in Germany than in France.
  4. Dec 31, 2011 #3


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    Arabic or Chinese.
  5. Dec 31, 2011 #4


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    Where do you live? In the US, the most useful second language for most people is Spanish.
  6. Dec 31, 2011 #5
    As much as I know the economic potentials of those areas, learning those rather exotic languages is not an option for me. Where I live, I can easily find courses in English, Spanish, French, German and Italian. But I don't know any Chinese or Arabic courses in my area, and I would not venture going to those languages without guidance.
    Last edited: Dec 31, 2011
  7. Dec 31, 2011 #6
    I live in South America, but I don't feel restricted by my geographical area - I would definitely enjoy working abroad or working in a multinational company. Plus, I know that not all of the literature is in English.

    Portuguese is my first language, and I've studied Spanish before (although, I must admit I need to brush it up).
  8. Jan 1, 2012 #7


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    I have studied Spanish (high School), Russian, Japanese, and Chinese. I lived in Japan for three years and consuidered myself fairly fluent. I studied Chinese while working for a company that was opening signicant work in Taiwan. However, in actually using my language skills in technical discussions I found it very helpful that my contact spoke English. Every language has its technical jargon and abreviations and simply studying general language courses has not been all that good of a preparation for technical discussions. You really have to use a language to learn.

    In any case, you gain a lot of respect by trying to use the language skills, even if you have to switch to English for the real meet of the discussion. And remember, you don't have to stop studying languages after you graduate.

    Based on my experience in the nuclear industry, either German or French are useful, but I have talked with engineers at EDF and Siemans and never had a problem with the fact that I didn't study either of those languages.
  9. Jan 1, 2012 #8


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    If one can, learn German and French, and Spanish, Russian, Japanese, Chinese, Korean, . . . .

    It's nice to be able to read articles in their native language.
  10. Jan 3, 2012 #9
    If Portuguese is your first language, I don't think you would have much trouble with French technical documents, So German may help you more.
  11. Jan 3, 2012 #10
    Hm, I also thought so in the beginning, but reading a few web pages in French were enough to convince it wasn't the case. French is the odd guy in romance languages. It's easier than German, but it's not transparent enough for who doesn't know the language. For instance, I can understand written Italian way better.

    At this point, I don't care a lot about which of the two languages is the easiest. I want to know which of them would be more advantageous from a professional point of view. Which of them is the most valuable in the job market?
  12. Jan 3, 2012 #11
    I couldn't agree more. Eventually, I want to learn a few European languages, because it's an old dream of mine (Asian languages also seem interesting/useful, but I can't get the tones right. And there are less courses/resources for learning). I'm asking which of the two is the most useful simply because I know college + working part time to pay my studies (full time during breaks) will be time consuming, and it seems I will have to stick with only one of them for a while. In short, if I will be limited to one language, it better be useful and competitive in the job market.

    So maybe I could add this to my original question: are there more articles and important science/engineering publications in French or in German?
  13. Jan 3, 2012 #12
    As was indicated by Bigfooted, the germans tend to publish their science in english, the french on the other hand have some very protective laws concerning their language, which means much of their science is still published in french. Furthermore, even if french is the odd language out when comparing it with spanish, portuguese and italian, there is still major lexical and grammatical overlap, being a native speaker of portuguese you will pick french up much faster and with much less effort than you would german.
  14. Jan 3, 2012 #13


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    Acut, If you have the opportunity to learn another language then, in my opinion, you will positively personally gain from making the effort. I will not suggest one language or the other, but in these days of globalization we are all citizens of the world. So whichever language you can learn will help you for your future career.

    English is my first language. I have learned and spoken six other languages during my lifetime and I promise you there are great benefits. Here are some advantages you can acquire from learning a new language:

    Has a positive effect on your intellectual growth.
    Enriches and enhances your mental development.
    Leaves you with more flexibility in thinking, greater sensitivity to languages, and a better ear for listening.
    Improves your understanding of your native language.
    Gives you the ability to communicate with people you would otherwise not have the chance to know.
    Opens the door to other cultures and helps you understand and appreciate people from other countries.
    Gives you a head start in language requirements for college.
    Benefits your higher order, abstract and creative thinking.
    Enriches and enhances your cognitive development.
    Increases job opportunities in many careers where knowing another language is a real asset.
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2012
  15. Jan 4, 2012 #14
    If economic and technical practicality matters: Chinese
  16. Jan 4, 2012 #15
    My understanding is that technical German can be a whole different kettle of fish to 'standard' German.

    If anyone is interested in learning more than one European language, I would recommend some study of Latin as well, which of course has many benefits for scientific reading as well.

    I only did 'schoolgirl' Latin and have found it a massive help towards at least getting the gist of many written European languages, which is something that can be built on.
  17. Jan 5, 2012 #16
    Guys, as I've said before, I don't have the necessary resources to learn an exotic language, nor the time to learn both of them at the same time while I am in college. I'll need to choose from either one of those two (not Arabic, Chinese or Latin, although I would definitely be interested in studying some of them in the future).

    So far we have:

    Votes for French: bigfooted, Poopsilon
    Votes for German: johnbbahm

    Anyone got a vote for either one of them? If you worked in a multinational company, or one that made businesses around the world, did you have more contact with French or German companies/products? What languages fellow Engineers usually choose to study? Which of them looks better in a curriculum?

    I'm sorry if I seem rude with some of the previous answers, it is not my intention. I just have limited resources, and I need to make my decision wisely.
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