Is the inevitable coming sooner than expected? Here’s a little BBC article, straight from France
Interesting article Sanne, I thing every persona has the right to use the language he wants anywhere in the world. Legal limitations are chauvinism.
If you ask me it serves 'em right - French has been screwing up English ever since 1066…
Speaking only about the sciences in French universities, they put themselves and their students at a major disadvantage by requiring everything to be done in French. English is now the dominant language in the sciences and it is a very good thing. If you want to go to a conference, publish your research, collaborate with international colleagues, or read the research of others, you need to have your English at a very high level.
Students who finish their undergraduate work will be much worse off if they have only ever done science in French. Also, by requiring courses only to be taught in French, they immediately exclude the possbility of hiring the vast majority of best professors and researchers for teaching positions. The best people are not going to spend years learning French so they can get a job in France when they can just as easily get a job in Germany and teach in English. Science PhD students in France will publish their research during their PhD in English and then have to translate it all into French in order to write their thesis, which then becomes a useless book in the library of their university.
Of course this does not necessarily apply to the arts. If somebody wants to go to France and study French culture, it makes sense for the courses to be in French.
And yet, I can understand very well where the opponents of this measure are coming from.
There are plenty of people in the EU who would like to go back to the days where Latin (today: English) was the language not only of academia but of all education - and, of course, the language of governance. In this scenario the local languages probably wouldn’t disappear, but they would only be spoken by the elite on a limited basis (around the kitchen table, so to speak.) As a primary means of communication they would mainly be reserved for uneducated “plebs” and relatively uneducated manual workers - people who would also be completely excluded and locked out of any kind of intellectual or political discourse.
I can see why this would have advantages for some people, but would it really be a very healthy state of affairs for society? Wouldn’t it almost inevitably lead to a huge impoverishment of local identity and culture?
(If I’m entirely honest, I suppose there is also a part of my psyche which feels profoundly uncomfortable with the way my mother tongue has been hijacked by so many millions of foreigners as a kind of global lingua franca…)
Even though I’m a French American, I think that the languages need to become more separated from one another. French is losing it’s uniqueness a language and I don’t want that to happen.
About the science part, I think latin should be the dominate language the sciences and not english. That is only my opinion, because I’ve grown up learning science with latin names. English I think should be used as a diplomatic language and not a language of sciences or of conferences. As I’ve said before, it’s only my opinion.
“There are plenty of people in the EU who would like to go back to the days where Latin (today: English) was the language not only of academia but of all education”
I have not heard of such people, but the idea is ridiculous. The idea that people in academia should learn a dead and useless language to communicate with each other instead of a live and otherwise very useful language makes no sense.
Science especially requires that there is one language that everybody can use to communicate with each other. This is very important. This languages should be English primarily because it already is English. Basically all serious scientific literature in the last 50 years, and most of it from the last 100 years, has been written in English. Some countries, such as Russia, still publish some stuff in their own languages, but this stuff has basically no influence and is largely written, at least in the case of Russia, for political purposes. Scientists everywhere have already learned English to use as their work language, except for native speakers of course. Should these people have to learn another language? Of course not.
English should also be the main language used in the sciences because it is the most useful language outside of the sciences and because it is the most widely taught second language. Should an 18 year old German going to university with a C1 knowledge of English have to learn Russian from scratch?
@Colin: “…The idea that people in academia should learn a dead and useless language to communicate with each other instead of a live and otherwise very useful language makes no sense…”
There is a misunderstanding here. Nobody is suggesting that people should learn Latin, rather they want to recreate something similar to the time when Latin was the lingua franca, but using English in place of Latin - this is what I was saying.
I’m not so concerned about what a bunch of wild-haired loons in a lab get up to (as long as it doesn’t involve live goats.) I’m more concerned about the notion of secondary school systems in non-English countries switching over to having English as the main language of instruction. (And yeah, there really are some people in European countries who would like to see that happen.)
Oh, sorry, I did misunderstand.
A lot of scientific papers are still published in German and French; I know that most graduate programs I’ve looked at in physics in U.S. universities require before graduation demonstration of at least the ability to read scientific papers in German, and strongly recommend proficiency in French as well. (Of course whether their testing of these languages actually means anything in terms of real world ability could easily be questioned). From what I understand virtually all graduate programs in classics in the U.S. require proficiency in German and French before graduation as well, which would indicate that they’re still used in branches of Academia outside of science as well…
Oh, and there are a number of latinists who would like to bring back Latin as the primary language of international communication, academia, etc. I always thought that was a pipe dream (I participate in some Living Latin groups because it’s fun, but some people take it very seriously), and now – thanks to MediumCORE – I see it would probably be a bad thing if it were ever to happen; it would effectively exclude the working-class from participation in intellectual and political life. There is one place in which Latin would probably be useful as a language of academic discourse: in the field of classics. Not all classicists speak English, but (theoretically, at least) they have Latin as a common language…
It seems like France is trying to push the French language just like the anglophone countries are pushing English so yeah…I don´t see the problem.
Besides that… “If you ask me it serves 'em right - French has been screwing up English ever since 1066…”
This is something that illustrates how technology influences languages. I came upon a fascinating little verb in an American biography about Edith Wharton:
Morton bleus her one morning.
I had never before heard of “to bleu someone”…Luckily enough, I knew that Morton Fullerton and she were keeping the Parisian postal pneumatic service quite busy - those missives were actually sent in blue envelopes. Nice, hey? I like these snippets of information.
I really do not think it is problem. Latin conquered. English will too, whether or not Administration or Government wants it. I just don`t want to be around for the events that eventually cause the displacement of English… (I note I am talking about the events. I would happily learn a new language if a government official asked and gave me a reasonable amount of time and resources.)
“A lot of scientific papers are still published in German and French”
Which sciences? Certainly not physics. There are of course magazines, some written for professionals, and even technical stuff like textbooks written in German, but real original research is not published in German. I just asked a couple of German physicists, and they don’t know of any physics journals that publish in German. I can imagine the French might have a few for political purposes, but very few people will actually read them, and the research published in them will be of a much lower quality.
“I know that most graduate programs I’ve looked at in physics in U.S. universities require before graduation demonstration of at least the ability to read scientific papers in German, and strongly recommend proficiency in French as well”
I find this very hard to believe. Could you send some links to a few? Even in Germany, you do not need to have a knowledge of German to become a PhD student (though this will depend a bit on the university and on your PhD supervisor).
Well, ya know…I can’t say what I’m thinking here, because it just wouldn’t be nice…
Yeah, it’s probably best just to let that one slide.
I studied physics at UCSD (and worked as a research assistant for about 6 months in the affiliated Scripps Institution of Oceanography), and that was one of the schools I looked into doing a Ph.D. program; they did indeed at the time require proficiency in German to graduate (that would’ve been about 5 years ago). I don’t have a link unfortunately; I don’t know if that requirement was published online or only available on internal websites. It may have changed, of course, but that change would’ve been recent. I also know the requirement was the same at the other universities I was looking at. I’m really not interested in taking the time to research it for an argument online at the moment, though, so if you don’t want to believe me, then fine.
Also, Annalen der Physik is an important physics journal, and it published physics research in German up until the early 90’s. It does publish in English today, so I could be wrong about present-day physics research being published in German, but it has happened recently enough that there is scholarly research that is still relevant and important and was published in German. Serious science not being published outside of English in the last 50 years is definitely an exaggeration…
Hmm… there doesn’t seem to be a current foreign language requirement for the physics program at UCSD, so either I was wrong about that or it has changed since I was attending…
My younger brother is a Nuclear Engineering undergraduate student at NCSU. I asked him what language he was studying at school, since I was going to buy him the Assimil book for the language as a gift, and he replied by saying that a foreign language is not required. This seems to be a growing trend.
Our bachelor’s degrees take 4 years. Europe’s take 3. Our students spend way more time on the so called “gen-eds,” so why can’t they also be exposed to a second language?
That’s interesting. I’ve been under the impression that a foreign language requirement was nearly universal in undergraduate programs, but I just checked and it’s also not a requirement at UCSD. I transferred in, so maybe it was a requirement at my community college beforehand (or maybe I just took Spanish for the fun of it).
On that note, I had an interesting discussion on Google+ the other day about foreign language requirements in grade schools and universities in the United States. If I recall correctly (and, as you can see above, my memory is apparently more flaky than I’m comfortable admitting), it started with an article promoting the allowance of computer languages as fulfilling (or even replacing) a foreign language requirement. A major argument was that if fluency is the goal in a foreign language requirement, we’re failing at a rate of nearly 100%, so why have such a requirement? I can say that I didn’t really know how to respond to that one. I speak Spanish fluently, but can’t credit it to my university courses at all (I can credit my understanding of English grammar to the Spanish courses, but that’s something they really should have taught me in the English classes). I would like to see more multilingualism in my country, but I doubt that someone can be forced into fluency…