What language(s) I want to learn and why

This is my answer to the same question on Quora, which was subdivided into the following three parts:

  1. What language(s) do you speak fluently now?
  2. What language(s) are you learning at the moment?
  3. What language(s) do you want to learn and why?

(1) Currently, I consider myself fluent in:

  • Bulgarian because I am Bulgarian who was born and raised in Bulgaria.
  • English because I grew up almost bilingual with it thanks to extensive language classes in and outside of school, movies, music, the Internet, etc.
  • German because I have studied it extensively during high school and have been living in Germany and studying in German since 2010.

(1.5) What is more, I am somewhat fluent in:

  • Macedonian because it is the closest language to Modern Bulgarian. It is so close that in Bulgaria it is still largely considered to be just a dialect despite the fact that after WWII it diverged under the influence of Serbo-Croatian (see below). Fun fact: the Bitola dialect was almost chosen for the standard form of Bulgarian after the formation of the modern Bulgarian state in 1878. Modern-day Macedonian is largely based on it! :) However, I have quite a few other reasons for learning it: I have some Bulgarian and Macedonian friends who come from Macedonia and I enjoy reading contemporary Macedonian literature and listening to current Macedonian music. In addition, most folk songs, proverbs, myths, fables and national heroes (among other things) are common in present-day Bulgaria and Macedonia and the language offers another point of view over many of them, so this helps me appreciate my heritage more.
  • Russian because in school I participated in many science olympiads and the best problems in Mathematics, Physics, and to some extent Computer Science (among others), could only be found in old Soviet textbooks. Later in life, I started to occasionally read Rusian literature, watch Russian television, and listen to Russian music. Literary Russian is a Slavic language and has largely evolved along with Old Church Slavonic, which until the 12th-13th century was mostly influenced by Bulgarian scholars. In fact, Old Bulgarian is considered to have been almost entirely identical as Old Church Slavonic, although this is not entirely correct because there were some manuscripts in territories that weren’t that influenced by Bulgaria at that time. I have occasionally tried to speak Russian, but it’s hard for me because we (mostly) don’t have cases in Modern Bulgarian and they are not always identical to the older revisions of Old Church Slavonic.

(1.75) I can understand the following languages to various extent:

  • Old Church Slavonic because of many of the remarks about Russian. Obviously, I like history, too, so I have enjoyed reading various old texts written in Old or Middle Bulgarian which were closer to it. Its modern revision (that was in turn largely influenced by present-day Russian) is partially used in churches so I can understand it without any problems. However, I can’t speak it as it’s a dead language, even more so than Latin. Most discussions on religious matters are done in the respective modern language.
  • Serbo-Croatian (and thus present-day Serbian, Croatian, Bosnian, and Montenegrin) because they are the closest Slavic languages to Bulgarian after Macedonian due to the geographic proximity and a lot of common history, though not as much as with Macedonia. For example, many medieval monarchs on both sides were with mixed blood and territories often changed their possession, so the languages continued to be very similar for quite some time, and have actually largely remained so despite some major differnces like the almost complete lack of noun cases in Modern Bulgarian and their extensive use on the other side. Furthermore, I have enjoyed a significant amount of Yugoslavian and post-Yugoslavian movies and music.

(2) I am going to keep it brief here, although I have studied other languages as well, but you will find them in the final section:

  • Spanish because I started studying it without any particular reason, apparently liked the language, and am somehow still learning it. I can now understand a lot, but can barely use it on my own.
  • French because I really like French food, movies, music, humour, literature, and culture in general.
  • Esperanto because of the answers to my question here: Which conlang can be considered best for everyday usage? There is more to it, but this discussion actually made me start learning it. :)

(3) I would like to learn (in this order):

  • Romanian because I have always wanted to be able to communicate with my fellow Romanians. It turns out that we have a lot more in common than we often admit to ourselves, not just in the past, but in the present as well. :)
  • Italian: same reasoning as for French, but (currently) not as pronounced.
  • Modern Greek and maybe Modern Turkish: same reasoning as for Romanian, but not as pronounced. I don’t personally know as many natives and the languages are linguistically different from everything I am familiar with. However, there are significant Greek and Turkish minorities in Bulgaria and historical influences from the languages to Bulgarian, so both of them should be pretty useful to appreciate my heritage even more.
  • Mandarin Chinese (Putonghua) and maybe Japanese because of the respective culture and the way the languages sound like. I have tried properly studying both in the past and am still passively interacting with them, however mostly with Chinese.
  • I have thought about studying a lot of other natural and constructed languages and I may try some of them if I find the necessary motivation, but I am pretty sure I have enough to do before being able to move all of the above to the first group. :)

How long does it take to get a PhD?

This is my answer to the same question on Quora.

In Germany, your BSc is supposed to last 3 years, you then proceed to finish your MSc for 2 more years, and conclude with the PhD for 3 years.

However, my impression is that many people on average need about (at least) an year more during most, if not all, of these stages, so it is not entirely uncommon to take 4 or even 5 years after your MSc to finish your PhD.

If you choose go into another field, you may need to take some extra classes or even a new MSc degree (sometimes only unofficially), which would lead you to maybe up to 6 or 7 years, depending on your research during the PhD.

StudyMentors – learn about studying abroad

Dear readers,

Many of you and your acquaintances studied, have been studying and/or are planning to study at a university abroad. Thus, you may find the following website quite helpful: https://studymentors.eu/

Until now, I have been a mentor for a few people and I must say that the experience is really unique and I myself have learned a lot although I haven’t been actively seeking any advice as a mentee.

Registration takes less than a minute and you get e-mail notifications when someone asks you something. You just click the link and can directly reply to the other person with a new personal message (no extra login required).

Even if you decide against the usage of this service, please tell your family and friends about it. Hopefully, it will grow and will be able to become even more helpful than before. Sharing is caring!

Ден на будителите

Драги сънародници,

Нека несамо днес си спомняме за нашите примери за подражание от най-ново време, а по-честичко се мъчим да следваме стъпките им.

Противно на масовото объркване, Денят на всички (български) светии, вдъхновили десетки поколения преди нас, се отбелязва в съвсем друга част от годината, а именно на втората неделя след Петдесетница. Като гражданите на една модерна и светска държава, на днешния ден се обръщаме с почит предимно към тези наши сънародници, без чиито саможертви не бихме могли да се наслаждаваме на свободата и благосъстоянието, които, за жалост, за по-голямата част от света все още са само далечен блян…

Въпреки всичко, Нашата чиста и свята република е една цел, изискваща непрестанни усилия, каквито с най-голямо удоволствие мога да установя в огромни количества сред моите познати, съмишленици, а също и много непознати – млади, по-млади и съвсем млади – съотечественици. Нека всички ние продължим да си помагаме, когато имаме нужда от помощ, и се постараем да не си пречим по пътя към общото благо, ако не заради самите нас, то поне в името на онези, които ще дойдат след нас.

Да живее България!

„Партиен уеб“ – онлайн телевизия за политика

Изборите в България отново наближават, но информацията за идеите на политическите партии и коалиции е оскъдна, зле поднесена, а понякога дори преиначена, волно или неволно, заради препредаването на чужди думи от уста на уста.

„Партиен уеб“ е електронен справочник с най-новите видеоклипове, качени във видеопортала „YouTube“ от представители на българските политически партии. Посредством посещение на уебстраницата или абонамент в любимия RSS/atom четец, заинтересованите граждани могат редовно да следват посланията, предназначени за тях… без излишни посредници!

Надявам се с тази безплатна услуга да помогна малко с ориентацията в политическите тенденции у нас, за да могат повече хора да избират по-информирано и по-отговорно, получавайки малко по-добра отчетност от всички, които се борят за техния глас.

–Стефан Маринов

П.П. Адресът на „Партиен уеб“ е: http://partienweb.com/

What are some top universities for PhD in Mechanical Engineering?

This is my answer to the same question on Quora. The original poster was further interested in universities outside the US and specifically located in Asia or Europe.

As the anonymous lists, and especially the German one, are highly incomplete, I would suggest that you look at the Which are the best universities in Germany for getting a degree in mechanical engineering? quora topic as well. We are discussing degrees in general, but my subjective choice, for example, is moslty focused on research in Mechanical Engineering and topics near it.

Basically, some decent choices could include:

  • France: at least any of the grandes écoles that comprise ParisTech[1]
  • Germany: at least any of the German Institutes of Technology
  • Switzerland: ETH Zurich, EPFL
  • UK: Oxford, Cambridge, Imperial College London
  • China: Tsinghua, Peking, Shanghai Jiao Tong, Fudan
  • Japan: Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, Tohoku, Waseda, Keio
  • other EU members: a technical university from TU Austria, the 3TU.Federation, or the Nordic Five Tech.[2]

Of course, there are good mechanical engineering programs all over the world and I think you should focus on what exactly you are looking for specialisation in Mechanical Engineering, as it is a huge chunk of human knowledge, and according to that make your choice for a university. Look at other topics here on Quora, search for differnt rankinkgs (including on countries/cities/universities/departments), read relevant papers from your area and see where the authors are currently working and/or where they did their PhD. Good luck with your application!

[1]: One should note that there are other prestigious grandes écoles in France and that the best French universities offer their own high-quality engineering programs as well. (Sep 29, 2014)

[2]: There is a similar trend in many other EU and non-EU countries. This short list was constructed as a starting point for an extensive research with varying results for different people. (Feb 26, 2015)

Which are the best universities for Mechanical Engineering in Germany?

This is my original answer to the same question on Quora.

Actually, the numbers provided by Martin Strohmeier are a little bit overestimated as only the technical universities in Aachen, Dresden, Munich and Berlin have over 30k students. The ones in Braunschweig and Stuttgart are on par with those in Karlsruhe and Darmstadt with about 20k students. Of this list, only the TUs in Ilmenau and Kaiserslautern are a little smaller with about 10k students.

However, size does not correlate with reputation in the obvious way you described. Every German technical university has its strong areas in research and/or teaching as well as its weak ones. As you mentioned, for an undergraduate degree this would make almost no difference apart from obvious reasons like location, financial concerns, etc. Nevertheless, my subjective opinion is that some of the aforementioned schools normally do a better job at that than others.

For a postgraduate degree, that is PhD or Dr.-Ing. and a MSc to some extent, one would be bette off checking for research groups being involved in the topics of interests – the more, the merrier. Another concern may be the work with and/or direct participation in some sort of a research center consortium as many groups are not only university-based. Examples include but are not limited to KIT, JARA and the Garching scientific campus. Depending on the professional and/or personal interests of a candidate, this may be of major importance.

Nevertheless, my highly subjective opinion is that some of the aforementioned schools as well as some others normally do a better job at that than others. My recommendation for a general undergraduate course in Mechanical Engineering (e.g. BSc and some MSc) would go to any university of the TU9 German Institutes of Technology consortium as they defend a strong position on common interests against German industry and society.

My personal favourites with research of highest quality are KIT, TU München, RWTH Aachen, and TU Berlin[1] (in no particular order). I am more than satisfied with the quality of teaching in Karlsruhe and Munich. Additionally, there are numerous conferences and workshops with people from the industry and different scientific institutions. My limited contact with major scientists from the other three universities I like most has been highly positive as well. It is because of the lack or small quantity of such interactions, that I can’t give any preference on the other universities apart from these four regarding study and/or research in the field of Mechanical Engineering and surrounding mostly technical disciplines like Electrical Engineering, Computer Science, Mathematics and Natural Sciences.

[1]: Originally, I have mentioned the TU in Darmstadt instead of that in Berlin, but as it turns out, I have had significantly more contact with researchers from the German capital than in the other city. I also added that I am more than satisfied with the quality of teaching in Munich as I changed schools since the original post. (Feb 26, 2015)

New year, new headline

Although I do still agree with my old headline “O imitatores, servum pecus”, I recently decided to change it to something that I find more appropriate for my personal website right now.

Imitators who just copy like a piece of low-tech machinery and don’t think of how to or at least do not improve what they took elsewhere should be trained to do it properly through formal education. The implemenation of this might be a little bit tricky, but it is clear that without reverse contributions from people building upon the works of others there would be generally less amount of progress, no matter how you define that as long as it makes sense to most people out there.

Enough is enough, you all know what I mean… or at least I hope many of you do!

For a couple of months now I have been using “Exploration through intelligent machinery.” as a one-liner on various profiles of mine all over the Internet, but I have no idea why I chose to stick with the old one here until recently. I feel that the current version describes me as well as part of my activities and goals relatively good where the previous one would just state an idea which I agree with.

Moreover, it sprung up into my mind by itself. You may find this arrogant, but I prefer to quote myself than people who I even did not have the chance to meet in person. Otherwise it isn’t guaranteed that I know who I am actually quoting. Granted, I am probably not the very first being on the face of our lovely planet who said and used repeatedly the aforementioned words in this exact order, but as of the date of this publication I still haven’t found this character sequence appearing in any written text online. If you encounter something of this sort that I might find interesting and/or useful, feel free to tell me about it in the comment section below.

Let’s all see how often this short piece of human generated text would inspire me to write… ;)

Swiss Startup Tour

Originally posted on May 9, 2012 for the PionierGarage, the student’s entrepreneurship club at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology and currently one of the biggest in Central Europe.

As most of you already know, our last Startup Tour took place in Switzerland. Like everything the PionierGarage does, it was just awesome! :)

On May 2, we arrived in Zurich, where we would mainly stay. Of course, our program didn’t wait and we immediately visited TECHNOPARK Zurich and ElectricFeel with CEO and co-founder Moritz Meenen who co-founded our own PionierGarage as well. We then went to HUB Zurich. Last but not least, we had an inspirational talk with Reto Frei, founder of the first from the famous “tibits” vegetarian restaurants.

On our second day in Zurich, we spoke with CEO Roman Gaus of UrbanFarmers, Doodle co-founder Paul Sevinç, BlueLion Incubator and the inventors of the scanner mouse – Dacuda. We even had the opportunity to try the professional life of a real surgeon in a virtual reality thanks to our extremely welcoming hosts of VirtaMed. At the end of the day, the PionierGarage organized the first Founders’ BBQ (Gründergrillen) in Switzerland. Lots of people visited – it was a huge success. We hope it will flourish thanks to the startup community for its own members as it has proved to be able to not only in Karlsruhe but in other cities like Stuttgart and Hamburg as well!

May 4 was our third day in and around Zurich. We started with a talk from Creathor Venture and then went to Centralway in Winterthur and Technopark Luzern.

Saturday, May 6 took place in the Hub, neither due to the weather being worse than what it was during the previous days, nor only thanks to the hospitality of the whole team there. It was because we had plans to make a compressed version of a Startup Weekend. In just a few hours, all teams were able to achieve more than most could do in such events for twice or thrice the time! Adjectives like motivated, focused and hard-working can’t fully describe a mighty Pionier (as in PionierGarage) working passionately on a great idea!

In the end, we met the creative founders of Waldraud and had a great and delicious time thanks to the people from the Senior Design Factory.

Many things could not be included in such a short text, but every single Pionier who took part in our Startup Tour in Switzerland will tell you that it was great and a lot better than our huge expectations!

Инженерство в Карлсруе

Наскоро получих писмо с конкретни запитвания за Техническия университет в Карлсруе. Тази статия се роди от усещането, че отговорът ми би могъл да бъде полезен за по-широк кръг заинтересовани. Тъй като въпросите малко се припокриваха, си позволих да ги съкратя до три:

  1. В Карлсруе ли е най-добрият университет за технически специалности, в частност жжж?
  2. Впечатления от следването там? Поносимо ли е напрежението?
  3. Необходимо ли е ниво С2 за владеене на немски език или е достатъчно С1?

По мои наблюдения най-тачените технически университети в Германия, или поне според всевъзможните класации, всичко на всичко са три: Карлсруе (KIT), Мюнхен (TUM) и Аахен (RWTH). Трябва да се отбележи, че на тези класации не трябва да се вярва с лека ръка, защото множеството „измерват“ изключително много силно субективни, а много често и съвсем неизмерими, критерии. Дори да се отдава внимание само на обективните, то това са най-често неща свързани с изследванията на учени от университета и рядко имат нещо общо с качеството на обучението, за което един студент би трябвало да се интересува повече в самото начало на следването си. Атмосферата в един университет не може да се измери в някакви сухи таблици и числа!

С основаващ председател тогавашния ректор на Университета в Карлсруе, Хорст Хиплер, съществувалите преди 1900 година технически университети в Германия се обединяват неформално през 2003 и формално през 2006 година в Брауншвайг. TU9 German Institutes of Technology e. V. защитава интересите на тези институции пред обществото и се грижи те да показват най-доброто от себе си, което, както се е доказало през годините, може да бъде наистина много! Тяхното мото е: „TU9 – това са водещите технически университети в Германия!“

За мен дилемата беше основно между Карлсруе и Мюнхен, въпреки че имах предложения и от други известни универститети в Европа, тъй като усещах, че едно от тези двете места бе най-доброто за началото на моето следване. Основната причина да не приема мястото си в ТУ Мюнхен бе, че повечето от интересуващите ме тогава части от него са в Гархинг (Garching bei München). Заради разпръснатостта му в и около най-скъпия и третия по големина град в Германия, прецених, че може би много дълго време щях да прекарам в пътуване, въпреки наличието на много добре организиран обществен транспорт. Чисто субективното ми мнение е, че това не си заслужаваше поне в ранните стадии на следването ми. Това работеше за мен, но не значи, че може дори да претендира за някаква рецепта за всекиго. Ако надделява чувствтвото, че Мюнхен, или кой да е друг град, е най-доброто място за личностно развитие, непременно трябва да се отива смело нататък!

За да не си кривя душата, трябва да призная, че и университетът в Аахен ми затрудняваше избора, тъй като между него, Карлсруе и Мюнхен трудно мога да си избера любимец по достъпната ми информация и поради непритежанието ми на ясна дефиниция за „най-добър“ университет. Все са пълни с изключителни специалисти в областите на машинното, строителното и електроинженерството, биотехнологиите, материалознанието, информатиката, а също и природните науки в тяхната основа като химия, физика и биология. Преподавателите са на много високо ниво, защото се занимават с множество наистина високотехнологични изследвания и много често имат зад гърба си по няколко десетилетия стаж в индустрията, което ги отдалечава от представата ми за „сухи“ академици. Нещо повече – мнозинството, с които съм имал някакъв контакт (предимно от Карлсруе, но и немалко от другите университети от TU9) с хъс са готови да предадат поне част от знанията си на любопитните студенти. Според мен няма как човек да сбърка, ако избере една от тези институции.

Преди няколко месеца бях започнал да пиша статии за впечатленията от следването ми в Карлсруе. Като цяло съм много доволен от направения избор. Университетската част на KIT е концентрирана почти изцяло в „Южния кампус“ (Campus Süd), намиращ се в самия център на града и на практика сливащ се с Дворцовия парк (Schlossgarten). Когато времето е хубаво, многобройните поляни са отрупани със студенти и други жители и гости на Карлсруе, а когато не е, човек винаги може да си намери място за четене в някоя от многобройните сгради. Е, дали ще е най-подходящото за учене, е съвсем отделен въпрос, но това си зависи и от човека… :)

Относно напрежението: наистина не разбирам за какво става въпрос. Ако на човек му е интересно и се занимава редовно, не виждам причина да усети такова. Малко повече мобилизация е нужна поне покрай изпитите, но това не е нещо специално за Карлсруе или университета там – на всяко място със сериозни изисквания би трябвало да се случва нещо подобно…

За много малко специалности е нужно ниво С2 за владеене на немски, а езиковите изисквания за техническите са по-ниски от тези за журнализъм, немска филология и т.н. Аз държах TestDaF, тъй като бях ученик от Математическата гимназия във Варна и немският ми беше втори чужд език. Доколкото знам, трудността на изпита е някъде между B2 и С1. Повече информация за изискванията покрай кандидатстването в Карлсруе могат да се намерят тук: KIT – Internationales – Studierende и по-специално тук: Studium am KIT – Voraussetzungen. Там има и контактни данни на хора, чиято работа е да бъдат информирани добре и да дават актуална информация при въпроси, възникнали покрай подаването на документи. Техните думи ще са много по-полезни от всичко казано от мен, защото (1) вече не си спомням подробностите и (2) със сигурност има промени, откакто аз се записах за студент. Най-хубавото е, че по мои наблюдения човек получава много бързи отговори по пощата, а освен това винаги може да се обади и по телефона!

В интерес на истината, знаене на немски не е нужно за започване на следване в Германия! Информацията от горните връзки я има и на английски: KIT – International Affairs – Incoming Students, какъвто е и езикът за преподаване на множество избираеми курсове и някои цели програми. Освен това съществува и възможността за изучаване на немски преди следването в т.нар. Studienkolleg.

Успех с кандидатстването!