I'm taking Graph Theory this semester. That's a math class. Back at URI, it's a graduate level math class. Here's the thing: I'm taking it in Tianjin. My textbook? Written in Chinese. The teacher? Speaks Chinese. The blackboard? Covered in Chinese notes. My homework? Needs to be done in Chinese. Final exam, when it comes around? Also to be written in Chinese. This first week's homework I've been able to do fine. I think it will be turned in by the time you read this. But yeah. Having to do technological or mathematical stuff in a second language? It's really hard. I assume it's just as hard with social sciences, though as a STEM person I don't have the experience to tell you so. [I've never completed a formal course in disability studies, and the only gender studies class I completed was 100-level. I take graduate math classes. As far as anything official goes, I'm pretty straightforwardly STEM, except for the foreign language. Which is there so that I can learn to do STEMmy stuff in that language, really. Long story short, reading the stuff I write on this blog probably gives people the impression that I'm a lot more in social sciences than anything formal can back them up on. Conference presentations are starting to provide that backup, now, which is kind of funny considering the lack of classes.]
I guess one of the points is: please don't be the one who laughs at the language issues engineers or scientists from other countries have. What they're doing, even with the mistakes, is actually really impressive. It's hard to do. And a lot of the ones who are already in the workforce? They may have had more years experience doing this than I have, sure, but remember how language learning is affected by the age you start learning? Yeah. I started studying Chinese when I was eleven. A lot of these people didn't start until high school or college. So that's even more impressive than when someone who's been studying since childhood manages to learn to discuss technical stuff in their second (or third, or fourth, or more) language.
You can also take this to mean that I did my homework for graph theory, and language was a bigger issue than math. The math was basically OK. I spent a lot of time with the dictionary. I spent less and less time with the dictionary as I got further with the homework, which makes sense- I'd already looked up most of the words I was going to need, and I do write them down. It never became zero, though. I'm not sure it's going to.