Language Exam Handbook


Preparing for the Language Exam

This document is a supplement to the Graduate Program Handbook, and gives some additional suggestions on preparing for the language exams in French, German and Russian. The handbook discusses the language requirement in some detail. Currently, the language examiners are

Students who wish to take an exam in another language should consult with the graduate adviser.

To pass the language exam in French, German or Russian, a student must demonstrate the ability to read and understand a mathematical text written in that language. This entails knowledge of some basic grammar and ordinary vocabulary, as well as a knowledge of basic mathematical vocabulary. The exam itself consists of the translation (into English) of about one page of mathematical writing, chosen by the examiner, without the use of a dictionary or other aids.

If you know a bit of the language, then probably the best preparation is to read a paper or chapter from a textbook. Try to choose something that's relevant to your own work, so you have the advantage of being able to guess what the author is saying. (Besides, you might learn something useful this way!) You might also want to read a bit outside of your speciality, because the exam is not necessarily on familiar material. If you are a complete beginner, then you will probably want to get hold of an elementary textbook to get started. Finding a source for the specialized vocabulary of modern mathematics is a little harder. Here are a few sources for each language; if you find any more, then please pass them on to the relevant language examiner.

French

German

Russian

  • Available from the Brandeis Science Library:  Authored by the American Mathematical Society, 1950, "Russian-English vocabulary with a grammatical sketch: to be used in reading mathematical papers."  Reference is Stacks: QA5.A54