Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Second languages for history PhDs - JavaScript?

Most PhD history programs require students to be proficient enough in a second language to translate a one page passage of text into English. Many even require a third. Which languages a student is expected to know usually depends upon his or her proposed course of study.

At some of the more prestigious institutions, someone studying French history would generally be expected to know English, French and German. Someone studying Chinese history would need to know two Asian languages. This makes sense, as anyone claiming to be an expert on a given topic best be able to read primary sources in the language they were written.

At the Center for History and New Media, where I am currently working, I've had to learn another language: JavaScript. Some of my colleagues are also fluent in php, html, Java, python, perl and c++. In the past year by using these languages, my colleagues have created powerful tools; one helps over a million people manage their internet research (Zotero), and another powers the digital collections of museums and archives all over the world (Omeka), all for free.

I wonder how long until the language requirement for Ancient Greek is replaced with "JavaScript, Python and one of php or html?"


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