Marcelo F.
Why do scientists have problem learning languages ?
Mar 27, 2017 10:54 PM
Comments · 24
I wouldn't generalize and focus on scientists, but I do agree that majority of people who live in certain countries, don't speak foreign languages. Here in Israel I can't imagine regular engineers not speaking English, let alone scientists. But, on the other hand,  I personally know extremely talented and successful scientists , who don't speak English and, living in Russia, don't really need it. 
March 28, 2017
Oh my, this sounds like we live on different planets. My experience is complete opposite of what you say. Of course, I only have anecdotal evidence. But now I'm really curious. If you find some statistics, let me know.
March 28, 2017

What makes you think they do? All the scientists I know have C2 level English and it's not their native language. However, there are some who don't want to spend time on languages they don't need for work so they only learn English.

March 27, 2017
It's an interesting question! I suppose if you consider it to be true, then it might be because - as some people here have already pointed out - many scientists see language-learning mainly as a tool, i.e. as something they need to give presentations at conferences, to read books and articles on their specific subject or, at most, to communicate with colleagues from abroad. And as a tool, most languages are quite unwieldy. Now, if you keep thinking "My goodness, why do they make it so complicated? It's so illogical! It could be so much easier if there were clear rules and no irregular verbs (or articles, cases or grammatical genders, as the case may be)", this will hinder rather than help you to learn a language. I think learning a language at least seems a lot easier if you're interested in learning it for the sake of the language, instead of learing it as the means to an end. Because then you'll be interested in or even fascinated by its quirks and irregularities, rather than being irritated by them. And I think it's been scientifically proven that your brain tends to retain information much more easily if you like it and find it interesting than if you think it's boring or even annoying - but then again I may have made that up, just to prove my point. ;)
March 30, 2017
English Student, Russian scientists I know indeed are often not quite good at languages. But the same is true for non-scientists:)

As a scientist you have additional reasons to speak it: reading and writing journlal articles, conferences, working abroad...
But:

1) language courses in our universities are normally quite poor and there ar always some students in the group who are still A2.

2) in science and engineering education they don't require students to excel in anything besides science and engineering. If you are good at math and physics - that is enough. They won't bother you with too much English (you better spend your time with math or biology), they won't be too strict during exams... English is a supplementary discipline and it is somehow wrong if a talented student can't continue education just because he/she is terrible at languages.

Also in Russia students have less freedom in chosing courses. English and, say, philosophy are mandatory. You must pass a language exam to enter the university, you have English and philosiphy much later as a PhD-student...  And not that professors feel like the world revolves around them:) There are some students interested in what they teach. Professor is glad to see them.

3) Language of science is very simple. VERY simple. If you aren't used to it - you are scared, but however long the words are, vocabulary is limited and syntactic structures employed are not many and are quite regular (if exotic) compared to colloquial speech. Colloquial is very diverse form the point of view of the grammar:)
March 28, 2017
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