So starting this week coming, my academic adventures continue further expanding into modern languages. From Tuesday I will be saying hallo zu Deutsche, as I try to become fluent in a language a little more difficult than French in around three years. Having a full time job and studying for a degree part time; along with attending a whole host of IOP lectures one might quite reasonably ask, warum sprechen Sie Deutsche? Well there are a whole host of reasons and they are not as far away from science as you might think.
Learning a language helps keep an open mind
Remember my post the other day? I want to train my brain to be academically open. Learning a whole new way of communicating is a great way to do this – in fact one of the best I can think of. When you only speak one language I think you get so used to communicating things in a certain way that you almost forget some of the most important things about speech. I think learning a new language introduces you to a whole host of new rules and ways of thinking that really are most healthy when you come to consider academia. Simple things for example; why should I structure my sentence “I have learned Physics”… why not “Ich habe Physics gelernen” (don’t shoot me if that’s wrong!). The point is learning to express yourself in different ways is key. I am not saying one cannot do this without learning a foreign language – but it does seem a very obvious and easy way to do so.
This skill is directly transferable into scientific disciplines where you might have to express very difficult concepts into words, potentially never done before. It also helps in communicating things to a variety of audiences – a challenge which is known for being particularly creative.
Very basic point but it is fun…. just saying some of the words is fun, like the ooo sounds on ich höre. On top of that, travel is naturally something that is of great enjoyment. Being able to travel to other countries and interact with people in their language is a joy like no other – even with the limited amounts I have been been able to do. I Imagine when I can fully do this, and engage with culture, pose questions… find out how other people live it will be an exciting and enriching opportunity.
The reason I chose to learn a language and mainly German was to increase my understanding of the logic behind languages. Languages are roughly broken into two sets – a set of rules and a set of things that break the rules – and then a set of rules for when the rules are broken. It really is layer on layer of rules and I think this algorithmic way of thinking is something that should be celebrated and encouraged. On top of this – I think that there have been some failings in the education system in the UK – because a lot of things to do with language I do not actually know. When they tell me rules in relation to adverbs, or pronouns I am hardly concrete in knowing what this means in English let alone applying this to my German. Through unlocking the secrets to this language I am actually uncovering some truths about the language I call my mother tongue.
This logical mindset is directly applicable to science.
This is the obvious one I suppose, but the world is expanding and having a second language is always an asset. It might be that it just sets you apart on your CV, or it might be that you actually end up working abroad but the fact of the matter is having language capabilities enhances the opportunities available to you.
There certainly was a time where if you wanted to read some of the most important or current information in science you had to speak German. Now I am not saying we are still in that time, granted English is enough for you to be able to access everything you need to – but it is certainly true that you can access the world in a much more involved fashion with more than one language under your belt.
So, lass uns anfangen!