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Learning a second language

  1. Sep 22, 2005 #1
    I've noticed that many of the graduate programs I've looked at in mathematics require mastery of a second language. I'm currently studying Mandarin, but have noticed most of them prefer French, German, or Russian. Is there a language other than English that is more useful than others in math and physics?
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 22, 2005 #2
    alot of the european ones probably...but if you learn mandarin maybe you can tap into the asian papers...I wonder why the call it the chinese remainder theorm and not
    name it after the guy like Euler Phi Fx.

    btw are you learning through {"b" "p" "m" "f"} or pinyin or actual chinese characters?
  4. Sep 22, 2005 #3
    Currently I'm just working on the characters, reading and writing only. I've been told by a few friends that learning the pronounciation on your own is a bad idea, as the tones are something that has to be taught through extensive repetition and correction.
  5. Sep 22, 2005 #4
    Seeing as I've studied Asian languages for a hella time, I rather just move to the other country and study it there. Takes way too long if you don't live next door.

    If you want to be lazy, choose your neighboring countries language.
    This would be french and spanish for americans. Some canadian speak french, some mexicans spanish.

    These two languages can be brought over seas also.

    Mandarin Chinese is probably isolated somewhat, except in America cause we have tons of different people here. However for those who don't live in melting pot cities, learning a language without the speakers of the language around you is hard and will often cause one to fail quickly when they go to the destination where the language is mainly used. A thing with Asian languages is that sometimes people create slang and their areas will use the language differently. It's very complex learning Asian languages, that's why I stopped and decided to go back to just learning Science for now.

    By the way, I studied Nihongo.

    -- update --

    The tones can become annoying. That's why I spent a lot of time watching videos, anime, online T.V.

    jref.com and japantoday.com have a whole forum built on learning the Japanese language (Nihongo) Supposedly Mandarin is more difficult than Japanese and if that's the case, I would move to China, but people can't move to china because they have too many people, so moving next door might help. Heck, learning russian might not be a bad idea.

    Last I remember China took over part of russia so if you learn russian, you could move over near China and learn Chinese while you're in russia.

    However Russia itself is a difficult language because of the characters, however they are somewhat closely related to english and probably takes less time to work out than Japanese.
    Last edited: Sep 22, 2005
  6. Sep 22, 2005 #5
    If you are learning Mandarin simply in order to satisfy a graduate math or science program, then spending time learning the writing and the tones will not help you that much. The program probably just requires that you be able to read and translate.

    I doubt that Mandarin is the best choice for a second language though. When I was in the Math program at Temple U., French, German, and Russian were the only choices, and we had to choose two. The test consisted of translating a few pages of a textbook writen in that language.
  7. Sep 22, 2005 #6
    Hmmm, perhaps French would be a better choice. My wife is fluent and could help me practice. From a standpoint of usefullness Spanish would be good since we have so many non-English speaking Mexicans in the US these days. I just liked Mandarin becuase it was non-alphabetic and had simple grammar. Oh well, I've got time to figure it out anyway.
  8. Sep 22, 2005 #7


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    What about German esp. if you're interested in Philosophy.
  9. Sep 22, 2005 #8
    Ich glaube, daß die Deutsche Sprache viel zu viel unausprechliche Vokalen für die Angelsachsen hat.

    La langue Française avec une instructrice personnelle aura la préférence

    Hoewel, Nederlands mag natuurlijk ook
  10. Sep 22, 2005 #9
    llol you don't need to move to china to learn mandarin...toronto/vancouver are very populated with mandarin/cantonese.

    As for the tones...you just have to learn the examples of one sound like "b" and then as a student practice over the other sounds. Then when you meet your teacher you practice with them on the new sounds with tones and then the teahcer should be able to correct you.
  11. Sep 22, 2005 #10
    The German language is difficult to pronounce vowels without what?

    French is best with personal instruction?

    I'm guessing this one is Dutch, but I could be wrong
  12. Sep 22, 2005 #11
    Serbian is very easy, simple language to learn and that will give you a basic knowledge of Russian, Ukrainian, Macedonian, Slovak, and Croatian. I speak all those languages plus German too. Go bro you can do it.
  13. Sep 22, 2005 #12
    As I had stated with being in an area where melting with other cultures/languages occur in the U.S.. I live very close to Chicago and hope to move there once obtaining my A.A.S

    Chicago is a land where the majority are minorities. Great place to learn languages. Even L.A. or NY
  14. Sep 22, 2005 #13
    One more thing about Serbian; your Serbian is going to be like my english, i am sure ppl will understand you:-)
  15. Sep 22, 2005 #14
    Once you learn one slavic language, the others come so easy. Although that can be said for any language. Studying languages is a hobby of mine. I can speak Spanish, who can't, Italian, some Brazilian Portuguese, some Russian, Chinese, Greek, what else....., very little Farsi and Thai, the others are not event worth saying. I would have hard time choosing a language to stick with.
  16. Sep 22, 2005 #15
    I would really like to go into Latin.
  17. Sep 22, 2005 #16
    I'm learning Japanese. Everyone seems to think that it's difficult, but if you have a somewhat flexible mind, it's quite simple. I covered the BSU curricula for Japanese I and II in 3 days... it really doesn't take that much time either.
  18. Sep 22, 2005 #17
    I gotta learn japanese some day. I've studied the kana, and I know the meaning of a fair amount of characters from my chinese, not how to pronouce them of course. BTW, has anybody here ever studied hieroglyphics? Sort of off topic I guess, what good would hieroglyphics be anyway.
  19. Sep 22, 2005 #18
    I have. The development of hieroglyphics was similar in many ways to the development of the Chinese characters. As with Chinese characters, hieroglyphs are a fusion of phonetic and semantic elements, with strong emphasis on the phonetic. There are several inexpensive books that teach basic hieroglyphs. Cuneiform is also heavily phonetic though I have only learned a few characters. For some reason, I haven't seen any books that teach them. There is a short, but excellent introduction to the similarities of the Chinese, Egyptian, and Sumerian/Babylonian, writing systems in the book 'The Origin and Early Development of the Chinese Writing System' by William Boltz. He also mentions that the Mayan writing system is also of the same type, but does not go into any detail. Besides the sheer enjoyment of the effort, one reason for studying hieroglyphs might be that the Latin alphabet has its roots there.

    I am literate in Japanese, but my conversational ability is only fair. As my wife is Taiwanese, I would like to learn Chinese. It's kind of embarassing that I can only speak a few words. I can read some simple Chinese because I can read Japanese and have studied a little Chinese grammar. It seems we are mirror images in this regard.
  20. Sep 22, 2005 #19

    Some russian dude was teaching chinese on chinese channel....
    A fair amount of russians who live close to chinese border speak well mandarin. If you live in Cali/NY/ Van Couver, chinese will be right for you.

    But my opinion is that if you live in US and planning to stay in US, learn spanish~~~ Reserch said that spanish only takes about 800 hours to learn, and chinese is about 2000 hours. chinese was like the most difficult language in the world (not considering dialect like Cantonese... even harder to speak,lol)
  21. Sep 22, 2005 #20
    Choosing a language i think is not really a matter of what you percieve. A certain language becomes useful always in accordance with the increase of population it tries to satisfy. English has always been the first choice for which I think the first reason is business strength. Plus, some of the languages you mentioned are originated from Latin or they are similar to it in the learners's eyes, and become easier to grasp than Chinese, Japanese, etc. This, say, phenomenon, of choosing a language to learn is pretty similar to the meaning of self-organization, in that each species only observe his/her next doors to make a move not the whole community.

    Japanese, French, Spanish, German, Chinese(Mandarin and Cantonese), and a bit of Russian...I can speak all of them but am good at none :biggrin:
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