National Academies Press: OpenBook

Language and Machines: Computers in Translation and Linguistics (1966)

Chapter: Time Required for Scientists to Learn Russian

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Suggested Citation:"Time Required for Scientists to Learn Russian." National Research Council. 1966. Language and Machines: Computers in Translation and Linguistics. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9547.
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Time Required for Scientists to Learn Russian The Committee believes that in some cases it might be simpler and more economical for heavy users of Russian translations to learn to read the documents in the original language. An article by J. G. Tolpin, titled, "Surveying Russian Technical Publications: A Brief Course" Science 146, 1143 (1964~], indicates that in eight to sixteen 2-fur class periods scientists can learn to identify articles of interest in Russian publications. Sometimes they can extract what they need from equations, tables, graphs, and figures. In many other cases, a partial oral translation of the material of interest is all that is needed. These are illustrations of the generally acknowledged fact that the technically competent reader needs only a little knowledge of a foreign language in order to make use of foreign journals in his field.* Indeed, several well-known studiesT indicate that in 200 hr or less a scientist can acquire an adequate reading knowledge of Russian for material in his field. An increasing fraction of American scientists and engineers have such a knowledge. The capability for teaching government personnel to read Russian scientific text already exists, but so far this service has remained largely unused. The Defense Language Institute, West Coast Branch (formerly the Army Language School), has developed two courses of instruction and special texts for this purpose. One course runs 6 weeks, the other 10. The Committee has been informed that the Defense Language Institute would welcome the enrollment of students. Information concerning the 10-week course is presented in Appendix2. HA corollary that should be given more emphasis is that even the best translation is of no use to a man who cannot fully understand the subject matter and place it in the context of other work here and abroad. TR. D. Burke, Some Unique Problems in the Development of Qualified Translators of Scientific Russian, P-1698, The RAND Corp. (May 12, 1959y W. N. Locke, J. Cheme Educ. 27, 426 (1950). M. Phillips, The Foreign Language Barrier in Science and Technology, Aslib, London, England (1962), p. 15. 5

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