I guess in my mind they don't contradict. My main complaint about the message given by the instructors is that it tends to trivialize the extent of learning a new language. It isn't just syntax and program flow, but standard libraries, other libraries, nuances of the OS, compiler, and other tools, holes in documentation, varying vendor support, etc. There is no way to just jump from one language to another, IMO, and maintain the same level of competence. For example, I would be lost on an IBM mainframe without at least a few months or more of experience learning the ins and outs of the OS, what services it provides for the programming environment, etc. Perhaps the hardest thing is learning how to debug effectively. Most college-level programmers debug exclusively with printf() or equivalent--not particularly useful in many situations.
It took me years to glean all the little tidbits about UNIX that allow me to write efficient shell scripts that use everything from filesystem FIFOs and pipes to sed and awk regular expression hacks to debugging with the OS' utilities and so forth. These things can all also be done in Java, but it takes a little more than a few days to really put it all together.