SV: Did you hear this?

N. Ganesan naga_ganesan at HOTMAIL.COM
Tue Jan 30 09:43:12 EST 2001

I did not see this mentioned: In the USA, many Doctoral programs
required a modern European language learning. People, esp. Asians,
used to be afraid of it. In my own field (Structural Dynamics of
Aeronautical structures), PhD students needed to know languages
like German. I graduated from a program started by von Braun, Bernard
Goethert, ... ('Doc' Bernard always loved Indians, he visited our
dorm many times). Transonic flow, windtunnel studies etc. etc.,
used to be in German journals lot of times.

But things have changed, PC and Computers are largely responsible for
it. Most of the Doctoral programs in Sciences and Engg. have dropped
off the European language requirement altogether. Even in Humanities,
there is a problem in the US: H. Schiffman told me that hard to
sustain teaching any language in the US because it is very
antognistic to any language except English.

So, while the trend in the US universities is to move away from
modern languages enriched in Science/Engg. research, in India
the trend seems to be opposite. In any case, if Sanskrit is
taught in Engg. Instituitions, classical literature from Tamil
and other Indian languages can also be included as electives.

N. Ganesan

Vidyasankar Sundaresan skrev:
 > Only in India does anything to do with Sanskrit evoke a
 > negative response in the hands of know-it-all commentators.

It is tempting to mention a parallel phenomenon. In he 70's,
Norwegian students rebelled against the obligatory course in Latin for
students in the Humanities (apart from budding doctors, who received
a stripped down course, we never burdened the "scientists" with such
niceties). In spite of the importance of Latin for the study of
European languages and history (just think of the sources in that
language), our students decided that it was a completely unnecessary
burden and should be replaced by something "relevant". They had their
way. Today, not even doctors learn any Latin, and are reportedly
unable to communicate with foreign colleagues in the usual
professional jargon. I suspect that Sanskrit in India is regarded
much like Latin here: something dusty and irrelevant. And I also
suspect that an attempt to introduce it as an elective is likely to
fail. Unless special privileges are granted to people who know
Sanskrit, in other words: unless it pays off, I don't think the new
initiative will cut much dice among up-and-forward moving new
technologists. They have better things to do.

Lars Martin Fosse
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