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french or german as a secondary language for graduate work? - The ancient world of Greece and Rome

About french or german as a secondary language for graduate work?

Previous Entry french or german as a secondary language for graduate work? Feb. 11th, 2013 @ 09:38 pm Next Entry
Salvete! Is there an advantage to learning German over French for Classics graduate programs in the U.S.? Are there particular areas of classical studies that have scholarship primarily in one of these languages?

Opinions, tirades, anecdata etc. all greatly appreciated.
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Date:February 12th, 2013 02:40 am (UTC)
If you pursue an advanced degree in Classics, you'll have exams in German AND French and likely also Italian. So learn one now, then learn the others.
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Date:February 12th, 2013 05:34 am (UTC)
German is harder than French (for classicists to learn to a useful reading level - get off my back, linguists), so you might want to start it first. (I wish I could go back in time and actually learn both properly.)

If you mean for admissions purposes, it probably matters not at all. Plenty of people without any modern languages at all get into top programs.

You're presumably aware that you'll have to learn both eventually. But sure. Classical art history is dominated by German, (newer approaches to) economic history by French. Just to give two examples. You'll have to be specific if you want more.
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Date:February 12th, 2013 01:16 pm (UTC)
Learn both. Also Italian. It will make life much easier. But if it's a choice between German or French, pick German. It's harder to get up to reading speed with on your own.

(And if you intend to specialise in Greece, pick up Greek as well.)
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Date:February 12th, 2013 02:01 pm (UTC)
German first. Most programs in the US require you to pass a reading in German and either French or Italian. Partly, it's because the latter two it's assumed that if you can do one you can do the other, at least under the pinch of necessity!

But German is harder, and also a really fundamental scholarly language in just about every area of classical studies. There are always seminal articles to read in German, not to mention Pauly's and the big reference grammars. And since it isn't a Latin-descendent, it's harder to learn properly (and -- I speak from sad experience -- it's hard to find the time to learn it once you're in a graduate program).
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Date:February 12th, 2013 04:45 pm (UTC)
Agreeing with everyone else: you will need both, and French is easier to pick up than German. I am very grateful my 13 year old self decided to add German as a third language, because it would've been much harder to learn later. (Latin was second of course.)
Date:February 13th, 2013 10:56 pm (UTC)
Like everyone else has said, German, German, German!

As a non-romance language, Latin gives you absolutely ZERO help on the vocab/grammar front. French, Italian, hell, even Spanish, definitely benefit from your Latin skills. Also, while some schools offer "French for Reading" courses, I've never seen one for German. Every grad program I've ever seen REQUIRES a German exam. Most require two, with French, Italian, or possibly modern Greek as the second option. A few programs I've seen require all three (minus the modern Greek).

But if you plan to work on Greek things, it'd probably behoove you to pick up the modern Greek as well. Especially if you plan to study/excavate in Greece at all. Much like Romanists tend to pick of Italian if they plan to study/excavate in Italy.

Seriously though, German. It can really kick your arse if you try that one without formal classwork.
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