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11/04/2021

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historian

My advisor, when on the job market around 2000, was handed a passage in Latin to translate on the spot. Nothing like that has happened to me in interviews, but I have been asked what Latin word someone was using.

I think one's language background as a historian will come up in other ways. For example, one is unlikely to publish in the top places in ancient without good Greek (or Latin, but that's less common). The same is true, to a lesser extent, of medieval and modern. But if you're writing on Hume or someone, knowing other languages will be less relevant.

roasted cashews

It's probably not relevant for the job market, per se, but depending on your AOS (especially historical areas) it's necessary for doing good work, which will help with getting published, which will help you on the job market (or so one hopes).

anonymous tenure track at R1

my department would not hire someone who worked on non-English-language history and did not know the relevant languages. I would be really surprised if other R1s would either, unless it wasn't the central AOS, or something.

historygrrrl

On the search committees I served on at a few US universities, we never cared whether someone could do another language. In my heavily analytic PhD program, there was no language requirement, and so quite a few of my peers came out without a second language.

That said, I'd be highly skeptical of an ancient Greek specialist that cannot read Greek, a medievalist that cannot read Latin, a Kant scholar that cannot read German...and so on. If you are claiming one of these things as an AOS without the language background, and you haven't published on the topic in a good journal, that is a red flag.

This is probably obvious, but B2 (or higher) competence in another modern language will open up additional job opportunities - French and German may be particularly useful.

German

I still remember an interview that went like this:

"I see here on your CV that you don't list German as a language proficiency."

Me: "That's right. I don't speak German."

"We require students in our program to learn German."

Me: "OK, I don't speak German though."

"..."

Me: "..."

Spoiler: I am not currently employed in this position.

Rob

My department would never hire someone for an AOS East Asian philosophy job who did not know classical Chinese, or someone for an AOS Greek philosophy who didn't know ancient Greek, or a Sartre scholar who couldn't read French, etc. Indeed, if their application materials did not clearly show this ability, they wouldn't make it to the long list.

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