Language Requirement for my degree

In summary: Thanks for the input!German would definitely be more useful for a career in mathematics. Russian may be good for reading academic papers, but it may not be worth the time and money to learn it sufficiently to be able to read them in two semesters. Spanish is not useful for this purpose.
  • #1

I've just begun working towards a B.S. in Math, minor in Physics. I'm looking over all of the degree requirements and I have to take a 2 semester sequence of a language.

Of these choices, what would be most beneficial?

~ German
~ Russian
~ Spanish

Thanks so much! :biggrin:
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  • #2
If you have any inclination to go to graduate school, German or Russian could be helpful in reading papers in those languages, and some schools require that you get a reading knowledge of either German, Russian, or French. Spanish is not useful for this purpose.

On the other hand, if you're not planning on doing anything in academia after you graduate, assuming you live in the US, then Spanish is probably the most likely to be useful to you.
  • #3
I do live in the U.S...but, I am planning on going to graduate school. So, sounds like Russian or German would be best?

Any advice deciding between those two? Thanks! :smile:
  • #4
I don't know German or Russian; I am doing French instead. The secondhand thing I can tell you is that I've heard that most Russian papers get translated into English, so it may be less useful than the other languages. Overall this matters much less than it used to; I don't know how much time mathematicians really spend reading papers in languages other than English these days, but most departments still have the language requirement.
  • #5
You also probably won't learn anywhere near enough of either language to actually read papers in only two semesters, so you may be better off just picking whichever one seems most interesting.
  • #6
One thing you might consider is the Math in Moscow program. It has a fantastic reputation as a math program, and they offer Russian language courses. I wouldn't be surprised if a single semester of Russian in Russia translates into two or three semesters of Russian in the U.S.

Of course, studying abroad is a big decision, but it's an option to keep in mind.
  • #7
I am an undergraduate myself, so take my advice with that in mind. Information comes from countless hours of research on graduate programs and talking to multiple teachers however.

If you are planning on attending graduate school in pure mathematics, your definitely not going to want Spanish. The graduate programs usually have some reading proficiency requirement in German, French, or Russian. Sometimes Italian is also on the list. ("Scholarly Languages") From what I've heard, the reading proficiency tests usually aren't that intense, if you know the math it can be easy to fill in the blanks. Though that will vary from school to school.

Beyond the requirement in graduate school, the teachers I've talked to have said most academic papers are being published in English at this point anyway, so they didn't know how much merit there will be in studying a foreign language for academic purposes after a couple more years. They even suggested that graduate school programs are changing this requirement, though I wouldn't bet on that.

If your interested in reading classical texts in mathematics, from my experience German or French might be most useful to that end.

German is supposed to be the 2nd most widely used language on website...not sure where I got that statistic so take that with little faith.

Hope that was some help.

Good luck!
  • #8
Something else to keep in mind is that while you seem set on going to graduate school and all of that, you may find that its not actually something you really wanted to do as much as you thought you did. Knowing a language is that "in demand" such as Russian, Arabic or Chinese might be beneficial to you in a job hunt. There are a good amount of government jobs (and maybe private too) that like people with those language skills.

Just something to consider.
  • #9
Wow! All great info! Thank you so much!

I've had my heart set on graduate school for quite a long while... It's taken a few years to just get to the point of starting undergrad - harder getting to a point where going back to school is fiscally possible in 30's.

I find both Russian and German interesting. I have some German heritage, so that makes it interesting in that light. My hubby also has taken a little German, so I'd have someone to practice the basics with... Growing up I had Russian friends who taught me a little bit...alphabet, basic pleasantries, etc.

This really is a tough call. Mororvia - good point about which would be useful in a U.S. job setting. Hadn't thought of that!

What is a language requirement for my degree?

A language requirement for a degree is the number of language courses or proficiency level in a foreign language that a student must complete in order to graduate. This requirement is usually set by the university or department offering the degree.

Do all degrees have a language requirement?

No, not all degrees have a language requirement. It depends on the university and the degree program. Some degrees, such as in the humanities or international studies, may have a language requirement while others, like in the sciences or business, may not.

How many language courses do I need to take to fulfill the requirement?

The number of language courses required varies depending on the university and the degree program. It can range from one to four courses, and some programs may also accept proficiency exams or prior language experience to fulfill the requirement.

Can I choose which language to fulfill the requirement?

In most cases, yes, you can choose which language you want to fulfill the requirement with. However, some degree programs may have specific language requirements, so it's best to check with your advisor or the department offering the degree.

What happens if I don't meet the language requirement for my degree?

If you do not meet the language requirement for your degree, you may need to take additional language courses or fulfill the requirement in another way, such as through a proficiency exam. It's important to check with your university or department as this can affect your graduation and degree completion.

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