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Why You Should Learn A Language During Your PhD

Why you should learn a language during your PhD

I started writing the draft of this post 10 years ago – so yes, I also procrastinate on things…

Originally, I wanted to write about how you should learn German during (or ideally, before) your PhD. In my field, a lot of experimental research from Germany (and Switzerland and Austria) gets published in German in German journals. In fact, I have published one article in German (with proofreading from the language office of my university, and a lot of mumbling ausbeimitnachseitvonzu while writing). Writing the article about my experiments with some new reflections was my way of getting my experimental work better known in the German language community.

But, fields differ. Your field may lean heavily on work done in Japan, Russia, or Portugal.

If that’s the case, challenge yourself to learn this language. Yes, you may have translations of the work that are enough. But there are many reasons to learn the language:

  1. To be able to read the original work.
  2. To be able to engage with the researcher community in this language.
  3. To potentially go on a visit, or even longer research stay in the country that is important for your research.
  4. To learn something new that is fun and not directly related to what you learn in your PhD.

Which language is important in your field? Have you learned reading and speaking this language?

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