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When I asked a question on algebraic geometry, some people referred to EGA as its answer. I think it's perfectly OK as long as there are other answers which do not require you to be able to read French. But what if it's the only answer? My French is not very good, so I prefer English papers or books. Moreover I wish most of students understand the answer. Hence my title question. I'm a Japanese, so I have no idea how much French is easy for English speaking natives.

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    $\begingroup$ I prefer to assume that they speak Xhosa or Guarani. $\endgroup$ – Amzoti Dec 28 '13 at 2:35
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    $\begingroup$ לא כל מי שעוסק בתורת הקבוצות מדבר עברית. אבל כל מי שעוסק בתורת הקבוצות מגיע מתישהו לדבר עם שהרן שלח. $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Dec 28 '13 at 2:47
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    $\begingroup$ I don't understand what downvotes mean for a question like this: if anything, it would have to be "No, it is not okay", but I somehow doubt that is what's intended. $\endgroup$ – Pete L. Clark Dec 28 '13 at 4:31
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    $\begingroup$ @PeteL.Clark I think I understand. Some people hate me for some reasons. They seem to down vote for whatever questions I post. Some seem to vote to close them. $\endgroup$ – Makoto Kato Dec 28 '13 at 4:54
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    $\begingroup$ @Makoto Google translate yields: Not everyone who deals with the theory speaks Hebrew. But anyone who engages theory comes sometime to talk with Saharon Shelah. $\endgroup$ – Bill Dubuque Dec 28 '13 at 6:13
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    $\begingroup$ @BillDubuque Thanks. And welcome back! $\endgroup$ – Makoto Kato Dec 28 '13 at 7:04
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    $\begingroup$ A good question (+1). It's just the way it is. At one point I thought I would have to learn a lot more AG. Then I received the piece of advice that while studying algebraic groups it suffices to believe in a lot of AG. That helped. Later on I only needed function fields, which is an easy special case, where thorough texts in English/German exist. $\endgroup$ – Jyrki Lahtonen Dec 28 '13 at 8:31
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    $\begingroup$ @Bill: Surprisingly Google Translate knew Shelah's name. The translation is not quite accurate though. In both cases "theory" should be "set theory" (and the "the" in the first case should be omitted). I'd write the English version different, but then again... I'm probably not a machine. $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Dec 28 '13 at 15:27
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    $\begingroup$ @AsafKaragila そのヘブライ語の文章で何を言いたいわけ? $\endgroup$ – Makoto Kato Dec 28 '13 at 15:38
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    $\begingroup$ What do you mean with "is it ok"? Of course, it is ok to point you to a very good French resource. It is also ok if you ask for an English alternative, but it is not ok to think that you are somehow entitled to an English link. People here answer your questions in their free time for free, noone is entitled to a specific answer. $\endgroup$ – Phira Dec 28 '13 at 23:15
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    $\begingroup$ As an aside, Google translate works decently on the above Hebrew and Japanese comments, while there is little chance to find out what EGA means without searching through the OPs recent posts and then try to guess from context. $\endgroup$ – Phira Dec 29 '13 at 10:54
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    $\begingroup$ @Phira: In my second comment I actually used a phrasing which I tested against Google Translate to see that it doesn't translate well. $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Dec 29 '13 at 13:43
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    $\begingroup$ @Phira, EGA is in between CGA and VGA. $\endgroup$ – Joel Reyes Noche Jan 6 '14 at 13:23
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    $\begingroup$ If it were me, I would upvote, but not accept, the answer with the French text, then start a small bounty requesting an English translation or alternative. $\endgroup$ – Alexander Gruber Jan 6 '14 at 22:30
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    $\begingroup$ @MattE But you really did not need my list to understand that a three-letter abbreviation will NOT give a mathematics text on the first google page for a google user who has not used this text before. $\endgroup$ – Phira Jan 12 '14 at 6:58
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Reading French for a native English speaker is not particularly easy if they haven't had any experience in it, but it is much easier than for someone whose native language is Japanese.

However, in algebraic geometry, EGA is a very canonical reference. Furthermore, there are many other influential French-speaking algebraic geometers, such as Serre and Deligne. Finally, many French-speaking mathematicians continue to write in French (whereas most natives of other countries write in English nowadays, whatever their native language). For all these reasons, most students of algebraic geometry learn to read enough French to muddle through math papers written in French.

There are some alternatives to EGA/SGA that are written in English, but not everyone knows them, and so you can't really expect people to cite them. EGA remains the fundamental reference for many people.

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    $\begingroup$ I literally cannot make heads or tails of the fact that EGA seems to not be translated, and I find it incredibly irritating that when I ask people about it, their response to is not "yeah, somebody should fix that" and is instead more like "well it you're going to have to read it so you might as well learn French." $\endgroup$ – Eric Stucky Dec 28 '13 at 5:49
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    $\begingroup$ @Eric: One more reason to study set theory instead. ;-) $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Dec 28 '13 at 16:45
  • $\begingroup$ @AsafKaragila Haddad-Sabbagh, Kurepa, Sierpiński, Tarski, ... $\endgroup$ – Andrés E. Caicedo Dec 28 '13 at 16:50
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    $\begingroup$ @Andres: Shh! He doesn't know that yet! :-) Besides, set theory has a lot of English material to replace a lot of the older, non-English material. It seems, from the answer and comment above, that EGA has no such alternative. $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Dec 28 '13 at 16:52
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    $\begingroup$ @EricStucky: Dear Eric, The fact is that EGA is many hundreds of pages, and is (reasonably difficult) specialist literature. Who would translate it? And it is not so hard to learn to read it in French! Regards, $\endgroup$ – Matt E Dec 29 '13 at 1:46
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    $\begingroup$ @EricStucky There is also the problem that Grothendieck has explicitely not given consent to such a translation: sbseminar.wordpress.com/2010/02/09/grothendiecks-letter $\endgroup$ – Michael Greinecker Dec 29 '13 at 17:21
  • $\begingroup$ @MichaelGreinecker: Ah, I thought that letter banned all versions of EGA and so people had generally ignored it. But I see I was mistaken. I'll take that as a legitimate reason. $\endgroup$ – Eric Stucky Dec 29 '13 at 19:52
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    $\begingroup$ Dear Matt, Deligne is certainly an influential algebraic geometer, but he is not French, has never been French and will most probably never be French. He is a Belgian Viscount and was a soldier in the Belgian occupation force of Germany. $\endgroup$ – Georges Elencwajg Dec 29 '13 at 22:51
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    $\begingroup$ Dear Georges, Thanks for this correction; I should have written Francophone or French-speaking, or words to that effect. I'll make the correction now. Best wishes, $\endgroup$ – Matt E Dec 29 '13 at 22:53
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    $\begingroup$ Dear Matt, I was really looking for a pretext to inform users that Deligne is a Viscount and that he (with a little help from his friends) had militarily occupied Germany :-) $\endgroup$ – Georges Elencwajg Dec 29 '13 at 23:01
  • $\begingroup$ Dear Georges, Thanks for your reply! I knew that Deligne was a viscount; I didn't know about his involvement in militarily occupied Germany. (I also was a bit embarrassed by my inadvertent misstatement, especially since I myself am an English-speaker living in, but not native to, the largest English speaking country.) Best wishes, $\endgroup$ – Matt E Dec 30 '13 at 1:39
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    $\begingroup$ Matt, do you live in Antarctica? :-) $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Dec 30 '13 at 2:26
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    $\begingroup$ @Joachim: Dear Joachim, I think that Bas's project was for SGA rather than EGA, and volumes 1 and 2 were typeset in LaTeX (and are available here). I'm not so sure that the project was actively blocked; it may have just been that people were reluctant to continue against Grothendieck's expressed wishes. Note that in the summer of 2011, there was a meeting about SGA 3 at the CIRM in Luminy, which led to ... $\endgroup$ – Matt E Dec 31 '13 at 14:17
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    $\begingroup$ ... some notes being produced --- in English, no less! Regards, $\endgroup$ – Matt E Dec 31 '13 at 14:18
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    $\begingroup$ @GeorgesElencwajg Wow, I was all set to call foul on the occupation thing since Deligne was born in 1944, but apparently said occupation ended in 2002, so...cool trivia, I guess. $\endgroup$ – Ryan Reich Jan 3 '14 at 3:17
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I don't know that you have to assume they know a language to list a very important text in the field that is in that language. More information is better. If someone is sufficiently motivated they will learn the language. I wouldn't want to assume someone is not motivated to that extent. Additionally, in the case of English speakers and French, enough English speakers learn French in school that there is a nontrivial probability that they know French.

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    $\begingroup$ Some people find it much harder to learn languages than others. Personally, I studied Hebrew for quite a few years, including in Israel, but can only understand the simplest sentences and can produce less. I took three semesters of American Sign Language and can hardly understand anything. I took two of Latin and don't remember any of it. Some of us just can't hack languages, even if we really like them. $\endgroup$ – dfeuer Jan 9 '14 at 23:04
  • $\begingroup$ I just meant that you shouldn't assume someone won't learn a language for field X if they love it and that's what they have to do for it. People with that kind of determination are exactly the kind of people who change the landscape. I don't personally know another language. $\endgroup$ – Jacob Wakem Jan 9 '14 at 23:17
  • $\begingroup$ @Jacob Wakem: I don't think everyone who is "determined enough to learn the language" necessarily will "change the landscape". $\endgroup$ – The_Sympathizer Jan 10 '14 at 8:51

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