Re: Languages



 #include <stdio.h>
 int main()
 {
 register int i;
 printf("I'd rather know C and be ignorant of French,\n");
 printf("than speak French and have my VCR flashing\n");
 for(i=0;i<10;i++) printf("12:00\n");
 printf("all day.\n          :-)\n");
 }
 As the individual who initially seeded this debate, I should probably
 throw in my $0.02....
 Dr. Smith's request for info on schools that allow the substitution
 of computer programming languages for "real" languages was made due
 to a question that arose during my graduate committee's review (and
 approval) of my Ph.D degree plan.
 I did NOT suggest the substitution of a computer language for a
 "real" language to circumvent an attempt by University to force a
 liberal arts education upon me.  On the contrary, the one thing I
 have never been accused of is taking a vocational approach to
 learning.  My University's requirement is currently "knowledge of a
 foreign language from the choices of French, German, or Russian",
 which is tested by the ability to translate relevant excerpts in the
 chosen language to English.  This is obviously NOT a requirement
 designed to broaden my cognitive outlook (unless the University is so
 hopelessly Eurocentric as to think that useful scienctific approaches
 are the exclusive domain of English, French, German, and Russian
 speaking scientists and societies).  The requirement no doubt arose
 due to the previous unavailability of translated journals.  Of course
 as a Computational chemist, what will I be translating more often:
 French or Fortran?
 Most of the many objections to this substitution seem to be based
 around the erroneous idea that rudimentary knowledge of the
 linguistics of a given geographical area somehow magically imparts
 knowledge of its culture and perspective. That is not now and has
 never been the case.  Studying a culture (and by extension, learning
 to empathize with it) is the domain of Sociology and Anthropology,
 not of linguistics. I studied 3 years of Spanish as a high school
 student.  I do not remember more than a smattering of the language
 nor do I have a greater appreciation for, or understanding of, tacos.
 Knowledge of a language only begets knowledge of a culture when one
 uses the language to interact with the culture in question (notice
 that the olny posters who claim empathy with a culture have used
 their language ability to VISIT and INTERACT with the culture).
 On the other hand, I spent two semesters studying the Australian
 Aborigines in college (from perhaps the world's foremost expert). To
 this day I still look at the hours I spent on this 50,000 year-old
 society among the most intellectually, spiritually, and
 philosophically fulfilling of my entire life.  So much so that I
 still study the culture when I have time and plan to visit the
 continent when I have $.
 >From a more practical standpoint, my research in college was based
 upon some literature available only in German.  It took me about 4
 hours to translate the required sections to English.  I don't know
 German. I have never taken German.  Is it really necessary to prove
 that I can read a translation dictionary?
 On the other hand, every day I do research I use a computer.  I also
 know 8 different programming languages (and several system-dialects
 of each of those 8).  I forwarded our list's Fortran/C discussion of
 a few months back to a programmerfriend of mine at Cray Research.
 They pinned it up on the board so that the whole department could get
 a laugh out of it (mainly due to the obvious lack of knowledge some
 of the posters demonstrated with regard to structured programming
 techniques).  One of the Comp. Sci. professors whom I contact with
 questions from time to time described the programming in a popular
 and widely used semi-empirical package as "Braindead".  Apparently
 the science of programming has escaped some of the Comp. Chem.
 population.
 In short, the philosophy behind this suggestion was one of "Since
 this is a VOCATIONAL ABILITY requirement, why not be tested in an
 ability that is relevant to my chosen field."  It was not and is not
 a goal on my part to escape the benefits of a broad-base liberal arts
 education. I fully agree that everyone should know a 2nd language.
 For that matter I also think that everyone should also study
 Sociology and Anthropology and Historx0and Philosophy and Economics
 and Phys. Ed. and Music and....   For that matter, I think that
 everyone should also have both 1000 or more freefall skydives and
 should know the difference between Tequila and Mescal.  These
 things were and are an enjoyable part of my education and SHOULD
 be part of a good education in ANY field.  Again, the
 requirement in question was never designed to insure a well-rounded
 education. It was implemented when translating journals was a
 necessary skill and was designed to make sure that graduates were
 able to preform that task.
 To borrow J.M. Seminario's use of analogy:
 Jumping graduate students through linguistic hoops designed to test
 an outdated skill is no more likely to produce an Aristotle than
 slide rule requirements in engineering would be to produce a
 Frank Lloyd Wright.  :-)
 My own opinions.  You are welcome to yours as well.
 Dale Southard
 Dept. of Chem, U of T.