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What languages do you use the most (Europe)?


langshist2015

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Hi all. Posted a variant of this on Reddit a few days ago, but as I received almost no replies, I thought I'd replicate it here.

This might be slightly tangential to this part of the forum, but I'm really just looking for advice about which language to move on to next. It's not so much about being competitive for grad school, as I already have advanced French, German, and adequate enough reading in Latin. My planned field is 18-19th C. history (specifically France), but I've always liked learning languages and learning either of Spanish or Italian could open more access to transnational work.

The main factor is what would be most useful in terms of historical literature. Agamben, Negri, microstoria and most theoretical works are translated. Local stuff might help but I haven't had to really rely on German either, so I don't know how much of a factor this would be. In terms of archival access, Italian would probably be more useful, but Spanish wouldn't hurt either. But I'm assuming Italian will be more relevant for the 18-20th C in politics, culture, and philosophy, while Spanish would give me a leg up in the Early Modern Transatlantic sphere, so I'm struggling to see one outweigh the other. (I won't be going back as far as the Renaissance, although I guess for individual pleasure it'd be nice to gain another perspective on art, which I enjoy recreationally). Although this could then be a matter of whether it's accessible: I know Cervantes and anything that early is hard, whereas Dante seems to be OK in older Italian, according to what I've read, so I'm not sure how much each has dated (à la Shakespeare)...

The less relevant part is personal pleasure: I like both languages and can understand both at the same level at the moment, roughly, enough to read newspaper articles in either by guessing with most words. I like poetry and literature, too, but both are strong in this. Leopardi, Neruda, etc. are all promising in their own way; TV series seem more abundant (and probably better?) in Spanish, as with news/literary/talkshow programming. If anyone has any opinions on these points, I'd be really grateful!

Cheers.

Edited by langshist2015
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You'll need to zero your interests a bit more than what you've described here.  Right now I'm finding the piece about Polish artists living in France quite interesting....

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I'm a medievalist.

I really enjoy reading and translating Spanish poetry and Latin prose. I need Italian, French, and German for my professional work (mostly the former plus Latin), but I don't enjoy them nearly as much. If you know German, you can figure out Dutch enough to read it. 

I've been eyeing Greek and/or Arabic as languages which will open up new archives and make me more competitive on the job market.

Edited by telkanuru
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19 minutes ago, TMP said:

You'll need to zero your interests a bit more than what you've described here.  Right now I'm finding the piece about Polish artists living in France quite interesting....

Thanks. Yes, I know this is ridiculously general, but my interests are so esoteric that it would leave traces behind. Generally, though, my planned work will be quite specific to France, firmly in 18th-C social and intellectual history. But as I'm also interested in transnational intellectual history, for example, I wonder if Italian would serve well for the 18th/early 19th-C more broadly. (Beccaria is one example). I wonder if Spanish, though, is more competitive because it might still hold some relevance for that period across the Atlantic... I mean, it is a general question, because I'd be open to taking on either one (for now, just one, that is) for the sake of accessing scholarship or archival material (or both), not necessarily in my direct field.

11 minutes ago, telkanuru said:

I'm a medievalist.

I really enjoy reading and translating Spanish poetry and Latin prose. I need Italian, French, and German for my professional work (mostly the former plus Latin), but I don't enjoy them nearly as much. If you know German, you can figure out Dutch enough to read it. 

I've been eyeing Greek and/or Arabic as languages which will open up new archives and make me more competitive on the job market.

Arabic would be fantastic - I know of quite a few 18/19th-C specialists on France who've just stormed the field through their ability to use Arabic sources. I'm planning on moving on to Dutch after Spanish and/or Italian, if only for personal interest in the 17th century, and perhaps some links to 18th-C France (politics and finance, but also the book trade, Huguenot diaspora, etc.). Did you start with Spanish or Italian first? 

Edited by langshist2015
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1 hour ago, langshist2015 said:

Did you start with Spanish or Italian first? 

I only have (minimal) formal instruction in Spanish. You know what they say: learn two Romance languages, get the rest for free! I do still struggle with Portuguese, though.

Edited by telkanuru
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22 minutes ago, telkanuru said:

learn two Romance languages, get the rest for free!

it's so true! I have French and Latin and now I find myself able to read articles in Spanish and Italian even though I never learned these. It's uncanny.

2 hours ago, langshist2015 said:

18-19th C. history (specifically France),

I'd say Dutch would be a nice addition, and possibly Ottoman Turkish - how cool would that be! seriously though, I think learning a language from a different group is a major commitment that even a language-lover might find difficult to sustain without proper motivation. I've been toying with the idea of learning Arabic, even tried just to see how it goes, and man it was hard. I think I will get back to it eventually, but this is the kind of thing that needs a purpose to succeed. Like, if you study the relationship of France with a particular country, so then you'd learn the language of that country. Maybe you'll become interested in France's colonies and then learn a local language of one of the colonies.

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17 minutes ago, random_grad said:

it's so true! I have French and Latin and now I find myself able to read articles in Spanish and Italian even though I never learned these. It's uncanny.

I'd say Dutch would be a nice addition, and possibly Ottoman Turkish - how cool would that be! seriously though, I think learning a language from a different group is a major commitment that even a language-lover might find difficult to sustain without proper motivation. I've been toying with the idea of learning Arabic, even tried just to see how it goes, and man it was hard. I think I will get back to it eventually, but this is the kind of thing that needs a purpose to succeed. Like, if you study the relationship of France with a particular country, so then you'd learn the language of that country. Maybe you'll become interested in France's colonies and then learn a local language of one of the colonies.

 

47 minutes ago, telkanuru said:

I only have (minimal) formal instruction in Spanish. You know what they say: learn two Romance languages, get the rest for free! I do still struggle with Portuguese, though.

These are good points. I guess, with me, that's partially why I disclaimed somewhat an irrelevance to grad school: I mightn't use it, after all, and my interest in learning languages would extend to speaking it. I definitely would want to be reasonably fluent in Spanish and/or Italian, as I am in French and German; I could be happy maybe leaving one as a solely reading language, but I'd have to be able to understand it aurally, too. I think I wouldn't be too optimistic about mastering Dutch in all four competencies, at least within the next year, although German helps substantially. Ottoman Turkish would be fascinating! I'm a little put off by different scripts, admittedly. 

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On 11/11/2015, 12:26:42, telkanuru said:

I only have (minimal) formal instruction in Spanish. You know what they say: learn two Romance languages, get the rest for free! I do still struggle with Portuguese, though.

This might not actually apply for Romanian. Not sure though.

 

The languages I use most are Romanian and German, along with French now and then. I doubt this helps you at all though, since I'm in a pretty specific subfield.

 

 

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