Je l'aime quand vous parlez français....*
Perhaps I've just been too long outside the loop of higher academia, but here's something I was completely unaware of:
"...a little-known fact: to get a PhD in maths from Harvard, you need to be a language buff. The university points out that 'almost all important work' is published in French, German, English or Russian, and so 'every student is advised to acquire an ability to read mathematics in French, German and Russian'. This makes it sound optional, but if you want the PhD you have to pass a two-hour written exam in two of these three languages."That's the beginning of a new piece in the New Statesman which is actually about the recent claim of a Kazakh mathematician to have proven the generality of Navier-Stokes equations, one of the Millennium Prize problems. Because of the complexity of the proof, and the fact that it is written in Russian, it will take significant time to confirm, and so we face what the author calls "a mathematical pile-up at the language barrier."
The article is interesting for its brief discussion of Navier-Stokes, but I was more struck by the "little known fact." Assuming the author is correct, and a knowledge of two languages outside English is indeed a requirement (not merely highly-advised) for the Harvard math PhD., I'm curious if this is now the norm at most top-flight mathematics graduate schools, or does it vary considerably from PhD. program to PhD. program? Also, does the "ability to read mathematics in French, German and Russian" perhaps entail significantly less proficiency than would be required for fluency or conversational ability in the languages?
(* "I love it when you speak French" ;-)