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Spanish or German?

  1. Jul 21, 2009 #1
    I'm signing up for classes right now, and I'm going to start my foreign language. I'm pretty sure I want to take either Spanish (because I have some experience with it, and it would be the most useful here in the US), or German (since it's more scientific, and my family is german, so that would be interesting). What do you think? Which way should I go? I'm not really sure. Thanks for the advice :)
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  3. Jul 21, 2009 #2


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    Arabic or Chinese?

    Hi Mzachman! :smile:

    (but what's your major?)

    hmm … I'm not sure I see the point of learning a foreign language that you'll only use in the US.

    Most foreign scientists speak English anyway :rolleyes: … how about learning Arabic or Chinese? :smile:
  4. Jul 21, 2009 #3
    german definitely german.

    i learned spanish in school and regret. chicks dig it but there's not much substance. 20th century western philosophy/academia speaks mostly german and a little french.

    off the top of my head i can think of 10 germans i'd like to be able to read and 2 spaniards. and both spaniards are writers not academics so apocryphally there you go.
  5. Jul 22, 2009 #4
    In what way is German more scientific? Germany has more scientists that everyone has heard of, perhaps, but I can't see how you can say that any natural language is more scientific than another. And Spain has given an awful lot to world culture. For instance, Cervantes comes a close second to Shakespeare in Harold Bloom's estimation (and others seem to agree). Even Goethe comes behind these two (and Dante). The number of Spanish/Latin writers Bloom mentions in 'the Western canon' is similar to the number of German writers. (Spain has far more mentions pre-Goethe). And don't get me started on Spain's superb film directors and artists (Picasso for G's sake!...) To say there is not much substance to Spanish is just ignorant, INDEED RACIST...
  6. Jul 22, 2009 #5


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    I think they mean that there are more classic physics paper in German than Spanish.

    On the whole learning a foreign language to help physics isn't really worth it. There are fields where a lot of the classic papers are in German or Russian but machine translations and the maths are normally enough to get through them.
  7. Jul 22, 2009 #6
    Unless your primary interest is in specific opportunities, choose the language that you find most culturally/acoustically/grammatically appealing. My choice would be Spanish...

    If your primary interest lies in speaking with your family, I'd suggest picking up some audio cds/podcasts to get a general idea of the language and try to be around your german-speaking family as much as possible. One side of my family speaks another language in the home, but it is accented much differently than what would be learned an in academic setting. Could be potential for confusion.

    Without a specific opportunity in mind, no one language will exactly further your career goals. Any language will open up some doors, but given your geographic location, I think Spanish is very useful. You'll also be delving a bit into a culture that's around you.
  8. Jul 23, 2009 #7
    chill out buddy

    i thought i was pretty clear about what kind of substance i thought spanish was lacking.

    yes far as humanist studies go romance languages are the way to go. hell everyone wrote in latin since forever.

    but i stick by what i said - as far as deductive studies go germanic/slavic languages (e.g. english, german, russian) are the languages which were written in in the early 20th.

    anyway don quixote sucked and faust didn't so there.

    and harold bloom isn't the western canon either - just some dude who likes the romantics.
    Last edited: Jul 23, 2009
  9. Jul 24, 2009 #8
    Having just read it (Grossman translation) I strongly disagree. More importantly, so does Harold Bloom and every important writer/critic I've read on the subject of the novel. Your comment is a bit like an English Major throwing down Dirac's classic and saying "quantum physics sucks", when (really) he just doesn't get it...

    It seems rather arrogant to say something admired by so many clever people "sucks". What makes you "Mr Know All" who can dismiss Bloom and gang? Surely it is far more humble, and admirable, just to say, "I don't get this, it might be my lack, but I just don't get this." (I have said this about DQ in the past, but was humble enough to realise that the lack might be in me, and gave it another go when i was ready... Thank god I did!)

    That's like saying "Feynman isn't physics - just some dude who likes QFT".
  10. Jul 24, 2009 #9
    The obvious choice is french!

    But honestly, I'd go with German, for the delicious selection of german philosophers!

    As far as science goes, we all speak in math anyways.
  11. Jul 24, 2009 #10
    i'm not dense or arrogant. you're right i didn't get dq when i read it so i went to critical analyses. still think it's much less important than goethe's works - maybe not faust specifically but in general. though like i said i enjoyed faust more than dq.

    in fact i have said that. to be even more relevant i have said, and do say, that feynman's introductory physics lectures blow.

    anyway although i'd love to continue this debate i'm sure someone will scowl at us very soon so let's ahem agree to disagree. it's a matter of opinion anyway.
  12. Jul 24, 2009 #11


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    I'd recommend both actually, and later Arabic, Chinese, and perhaps Japanese. :biggrin:

    Forget the notion that German is more scientific. Science and technology is now globally ubiquitous. There is plenty of science and technology R&D in Spanish speaking countries, as well as French and German speaking countries.
  13. Jul 25, 2009 #12
    Why? English philosophy students read them in translation. If even philosophy specialists read them in translation why should a physicist bother to read them in the original? I've even read that many German philosophy student read Kant in English translation 'cause he's a lot less difficult in modern English than old German. (That may be an urban myth - any German students care to comment?)
  14. Jul 25, 2009 #13
    Just quick to make a comment that might *seem* arrogant? Oh well, what's the internet for :-) I have Goethe on my list to read or re-read (I read faust part I many years ago) so I can't really argue Cervantes v. Goethe with any authority. Any favoured translations of Faust? There are so many! The Wordsworth edition ( ISBN-10: 1840221151) seems readable and an amazing bargain.
  15. Jul 25, 2009 #14
    i have the peter salm translation with german opposite the english
  16. Jul 25, 2009 #15


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    Of course, all the scientists in such countries speak English!
  17. Jul 25, 2009 #16
    Well, as a bilinguist myself, I can tell you that something is lost in the translation. Of course the language I speak is far removed from English, while German really isn't. The words of the original are always a little different in, texture (?), cadence, style. Some double entendres are lost.

    If reading a certain author gives you enjoyment, I definitely think something can be gained by learning the original language.

    I do agree with you on one thing. The amount of knowledge of a language required to read its best authors would almost certainly surpass how much one can learn in school. Old English is hard to read even for native english speakers (I had to use sparknotes back in high school for King Lear)! Old German would definitely be harder than a contemporary English translation, but the feel of it would change I'd think. This is probably more applicable to works of fiction than philosophical treatises, but the two aren't mutually exclusive.
  18. Jul 29, 2009 #17
    I chose to learn Spanish as a second language. I chose it based on largely statistical considerations and with my career prospects in mind (chemical engineering). Most people from Germany in my area of work spoke near perfect english. Most spanish speakers in my area, not so great. That coupled with native spanish speakers numbering in something like 400 million (not sure the exact figure but its higher than native english speakers..at least I recall this being the case..of course second language english speakers is enourmous but thats not really the point) and most of these speakers living in emerging markets...and that once a latin language is learned (im a native english speaker), all other latin languages become relatively accessible, I chose to learn spanish.
    This by no means suggests German is in some way a lesser language. But my reasoning was that if Im going to kill myself learning another language, I would like to see it pay off somehow. So far its has done wonderfully so...professionally..and well, not so bad sexually either, but thats for another forum I suppose.

    So I dont really know which to suggest other than the one you think you can benefit most from. If that benefit means being able to get back to your roots, go for it. If it means advancing your career, go for it. If it means finally getting that cute spanish exchange student you've had your eye one for awhile, go for it.
    Whatever the case, another language will never hurt.
    Last edited: Jul 29, 2009
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