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How useful would knowing German or Japanese be for an EE?

  1. May 4, 2010 #1
    Note: I learned German while I lived in Switzerland for 2 years. I'm studying to be an EE right now.

    From your professional experience in the industry, would German be a very useful language to know? Is there much of a demand for bilingual engineers? From my experience in Switzerland, almost everyone involved in international business had great English. Do any of you actually do business with foreign companies? What is it like?

    I want to stay in California after I graduate, but I wouldn't mind living in Germany either if I was well enough compensated for it. All I ever hear about German engineering is their cars.

    How about Japanese? I would love to learn it, but there a tons of things that I would love to do. I want to know how practical it would be and how much I would be able to use it if I invest the time to study.

    Are there other languages that would be more practical than either of these two? (I'm thinking Mandarin.)
  2. jcsd
  3. May 4, 2010 #2
    IF you want to stay in California, the best language you could learn is Spanish. As for other languages, it really depends on the company you work for and the work you are doing, but chances are knowing a language like Japanese isn't going to do a lot for you unless you work in Japan.
  4. May 4, 2010 #3


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    Staff: Mentor

    In my current position (senior EE in R&D Lab), I end up working with Japanese customers a fair amount. I know a little Japanese (I was an Army brat, and lived in Japan for a couple of years in the late 60's), and that helps me in my interactions with those customers.

    But unless you know that you're going to be working with Japanese folks in the future, it's hard to justify learning the language now, IMO. If you end up in a position where learning it would help you, they you could learn enough to be useful in just a few months of study on your own.
  5. May 4, 2010 #4
    I'm surrounded by hispanic people every day in Southern California, but more specifically when would Spanish be useful in Engineering?
  6. May 4, 2010 #5
    I feel that way about German too. I don't think it will be very practical unless I want to actually live there.
  7. May 6, 2010 #6
    from my personal experience it is better to have Chinese instead- it is very
    popular - especially if you in hi-tech biz. to travel to production sites in Asia and it is mostly in mainland China or Taiwan. I think this will help you in many areas of businesses.
  8. May 7, 2010 #7
    I'm currently learning Chinese, and holy cow is it a tough language. Unlike English, the written language has really no phonics or roots. Absolutely everything about the language is pure memorization.
  9. May 7, 2010 #8
    I wanted to find out if any EEs that know a specific language are in particular demand. It doesn't sound like it, so I'm moving on. If the company I work for ever wants to pay me to learn Chinese or Japanese I'd be all for it because I enjoy learning new languages, but only if I get to USE it.

    I'll keep up my German since I already know it well and maybe it will come in handy in my career someday.

    Thanks for the info.
  10. May 10, 2010 #9
    So if I understood you correctly, you feel the desire to learn an exotic language, preferably Japanese, because it looks like fun to you, but you need some excuse to justify the time investment?
    Ask yourself, how much time do you waste each day with TV, Internet, etc.? Now that is all time that you could use learning a language that interests you even if it might be a waste of time, since you would have wasted that time anyway.
    Plus remember that learning something, no matter what it is, is always better then watching TV for obvious reasons.
  11. May 11, 2010 #10
    Good point DrZoidberg. I have a list of interesting things that I want to do besides wasting time on the internet. I'm not going to take up Japanese right now, but I am learning to play the piano.

    Why is it so easy to waste time?
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