Why learn Chinese?

General discussion about learning languages
YAFEEF
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Why learn Chinese?

Postby YAFEEF » Tue Mar 12, 2019 3:14 pm

Chinese is the official language of China,and is spoken in many Asian countries such as Malaysia and Singapore as their primary language.With more than 1.2 billion native speakers in the world,Chinese is one of the most widely spoken languages in the world.
Besides,China is growing rapidly recent years and maybe more work opportunities will be offered to people around the world. Most importantly,China is a very good tourist destination --the Chinese are very friendly, the foods are fantastic and the landscape is awesome! :D So,even if English can be used in most of the developed area,it will be a better idea for you to learn some Chinese and rich your experience. :lol:
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sherbert
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Re: Why learn Chinese?

Postby sherbert » Tue Mar 12, 2019 9:42 pm

They say that learning Chinese is like a mountain shrouded in mist that is too difficult to climb. But I think that Chinese is so daunting that it is really is 4 mountains---speaking, comprehension, reading and writing. But the great thing about Chinese, is that the "mountain" of speaking is only an anthill when compared with the other 3 aforementioned mountains.

And that is why quite a few people, including those from English monoglot backgrounds, are able to speak almost native-quality Chinese within 18 months.

That cannot be said of other ostensibly extremely difficult languages, like Arabic, Russian, Navajo, etc. It has been observed that when hyperpolyglots have intensely studied both Chinese and Russian, their Chinese is invariably better.

That's because, in my experience, Chinese is a much easier language to speak than to understand. Even though it is tonal, I can't imagine Chinese tones being more difficult than those of Navajo. However, understanding Chinese as a non-native is much more difficult than understanding Russian.

But even though Chinese is a not a language for "dabblers", the success of non-native learners testifies to the fact that it is a language worth learning.
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lichtrausch
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Re: Why learn Chinese?

Postby lichtrausch » Tue Mar 12, 2019 11:02 pm

sherbert wrote:They say that learning Chinese is like a mountain shrouded in mist that is too difficult to climb. But I think that Chinese is so daunting that it is really is 4 mountains---speaking, comprehension, reading and writing. But the great thing about Chinese, is that the "mountain" of speaking is only an anthill when compared with the other 3 aforementioned mountains.

And that is why quite a few people, including those from English monoglot backgrounds, are able to speak almost native-quality Chinese within 18 months.

That cannot be said of other ostensibly extremely difficult languages, like Arabic, Russian, Navajo, etc. It has been observed that when hyperpolyglots have intensely studied both Chinese and Russian, their Chinese is invariably better.

That's because, in my experience, Chinese is a much easier language to speak than to understand. Even though it is tonal, I can't imagine Chinese tones being more difficult than those of Navajo. However, understanding Chinese as a non-native is much more difficult than understanding Russian.

But even though Chinese is a not a language for "dabblers", the success of non-native learners testifies to the fact that it is a language worth learning.

This doesn't make sense. If your listening comprehension for a language isn't "almost native-quality", then your speaking in that language isn't up to that level either. At best you can feign that level of speaking in certain controlled circumstances like giving a speech or performing a monologue in a Youtube video.
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Inst
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Re: Why learn Chinese?

Postby Inst » Tue Mar 12, 2019 11:22 pm

I'd actually suggest that people carefully consider why they want to learn Chinese. For a native English speaker, the language is going to take a ridiculous amount of time to pick up (4400 hours, 12 hours per day for a year, 6 hours per day for 2 years, 4 hours per day for 3 years, 3 hours per day for 4 years, 150 minutes per day for 5 years, ~75 minutes per day for 10 years), and what benefit do you get out of it?

-Ability to Converse with Chinese People in Chinese. Okay, are you dating or married to someone Chinese? Do you have some kind of Asian fetish? Are you a journalist or professional who needs to work with Chinese people? If you really need to be able to talk with Chinese in Chinese, you may benefit from learning Chinese, and you may not need to struggle with the written language depending on application. Or you could phase the written language; you can learn the spoken language first, then the recognition of written characters, then the handwriting of written characters. Some people don't go all the way to the last stage.

-Ability to Consume Chinese Popular Media in the Original. Some people like Chinese dramas. Others like Chinese movies or Chinese music. Often the quality of translation is extremely poor compared to English, as translators choose quickly readable answers that filter cultural nuance. But on the other hand, the age of Hong Kong film is dead, and even then, HK film is often action-oriented and in Cantonese, not Mandarin Chinese.

-Ability to Read Chinese News Media in the Original. This is rather confusing as a need. First, the major Chinese media publications are in Mainland China, where they are strongly state-controlled and often government mouthpieces. A Chinese viewpoint isn't necessarily well-developed, but for some people (intelligence, academics), this might be a necessity. There are also alternative medias in Taiwan, which is a relatively small polity, in Hong Kong, which is a city-state, and in Singapore, which prefers English and is also a city-state.

-Ability to Read Chinese Literature in the Original. There's a strong argument for that given how much nuance seems to be lost when Chinese literature gets translated to English, but you have to remember, Chinese literature is actually quite sparse when you talk about modern Chinese. If you consider the tradition properly begins with Lu Xun, that's only about 100 years worth of material. You can also reach back into the Four Great Novels (+ Erotic Literature, I am not kidding, The Golden Lotus is explicit but regarded as having literary value) written in Chinese vernacular, as well as the Liaozhai Zhiyi that Kafka and Borges supposedly adored, but modern Chinese isn't going to give you 2000 years of Chinese history and 5000 years of Chinese civilization, much in the same way as Modern Hebrew won't give you easy access to the Old Testament.

-Getting a step up for Classical Chinese and Japanese. On the other hand, if Modern Standard Mandarin is only going to leave you struggling with the Analects, The Great Learning, and so on, it does give you a strong springboard for Classical (Literary) Chinese, which still highly influences modern Chinese in the same way Latin does. Strictly speaking, Classical Chinese and MSM can be learned separately, but you do pick up the characters in MSM for classical Chinese. Likewise, if you are interested in Japanese, getting a familiarity with Kanji and Kanji learning through Chinese is a fairly strong advantage. The funny thing is, Kanji are incredibly ill-suited for Japanese. In Chinese, they're a quasi-rebus system, as De Francis shows, wherein the majority of Hanzi have a pictoral relationship to their phonetic reading, making them easier to remember. In Japanese, the relation is much more often arbitrary.

-Street Cred. If you are not Asian, learning Chinese is tremendously difficult, and signals to others your dedication and intelligence. A lot of people learn Chinese simply to signal that they are a go-getter, even if they stall out around HSK 4 or HSK 5. Given the amount of effort and the improvement in translation services, it might not really be worth it, but I think to the majority of people it signals "smart" very quickly.

-Language learning skills. And this is the converse part of the difficulty. Chinese is a hard language. If you properly pick up Chinese (C1, C2), you are probably on the way to becoming a polyglot. It's not just the methodology, but rather the fact that you've gone through the insane effort of picking the language up and shown that you have the dedication needed to do hard languages. After Chinese, only languages like Japanese, Korean, and Arabic can be considered to be of greater or comparable difficulty, so stuff like French, German, Russian, and so on, are relative breezes.

====

I suppose in discussing the "advantages" of Chinese, I have listed a lot of reasons, but not pushed for them strongly. While I enjoy watching the Sinophone community grow, I also think that Chinese is a hard language, and being able to talk dirty to your lover is not necessarily a good reason to learn Chinese or stall out at moderate proficiency. Given the estimated amount of effort to pick up the language, you need to determine whether you have a serious need or desire to pick up the language yourself, and if you start, you need to stick with it to the proficiency level that suits you.
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Cavesa
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Re: Why learn Chinese?

Postby Cavesa » Wed Mar 13, 2019 12:51 am

YAFEEF wrote:Chinese is the official language of China,and is spoken in many Asian countries such as Malaysia and Singapore as their primary language.With more than 1.2 billion native speakers in the world,Chinese is one of the most widely spoken languages in the world.
Besides,China is growing rapidly recent years and maybe more work opportunities will be offered to people around the world. Most importantly,China is a very good tourist destination --the Chinese are very friendly, the foods are fantastic and the landscape is awesome! :D So,even if English can be used in most of the developed area,it will be a better idea for you to learn some Chinese and rich your experience. :lol:


Hi Yafeef, welcome to the forum!

If I have the time one day, I will seriously consider learning Mandarin for the contemporary scifi and fantasy literature. A few things are already available all over Europe in translations, so there must be lot more to discover, as well as typically Chinese variations on these genres. But that would be a really long term project.

I hope you'll enjoy the forum, we have dedicated Chinese learners and they (and not only they) might be excited to have a new native person around here.

Out of curiosity: on your profile, you have listed: Chinese(N) English(major) Cantonese(beginner)
Do I understand it right that you are a Mandarin native learning Cantonese?
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David1917
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Re: Why learn Chinese?

Postby David1917 » Wed Mar 13, 2019 1:21 am

Inst wrote:I'd actually suggest that people carefully consider why they want to learn Chinese. For a native English speaker, the language is going to take a ridiculous amount of time to pick up (4400 hours, 12 hours per day for a year, 6 hours per day for 2 years, 4 hours per day for 3 years, 3 hours per day for 4 years, 150 minutes per day for 5 years, ~75 minutes per day for 10 years), and what benefit do you get out of it?


Well, luckily language learning isn't a mathematical formula of "hours," so rather than put out an arbitrary number, sure, go ahead and say like you did in the last paragraph that Chinese compared to French/German etc. is certainly going to be more complicated. But like in the other thread, I don't really know why you're concerned with people spending their time to learn a language to any level other than total mastery.

You ever see those Daily Brain Games desk calendars? Some people want to spend 5-10 minutes every morning doing something that tickles the brain. If that thing is slowly learning Chinese instead of doing Sudoku puzzles, what's the difference?
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Inst
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Re: Why learn Chinese?

Postby Inst » Wed Mar 13, 2019 2:05 am

I think part of it is treating someone's culture and language as a game. You might be aware, for instance, of how annoyed Chinese might get at all the Hanzi tattoos that often mean nothing and are mere Chinoiserie. On one hand, Chinoiserie is respect by the desire to appropriate, on the other hand, it's disrespect by not trying to understand the cultural system and significance of appropriated objects.

I think one big difference is the toleration for speaking a language badly. In my own experience, I'm familiar with first generation immigrants who are well-educated and have stayed in their target country for decades. Yet it always rankles a bit that they sometimes (or often in some cases) mess up the language they need for work and survival.
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Re: Why learn Chinese?

Postby Serpent » Wed Mar 13, 2019 3:24 am

Learning a major language slowly and/or with no goal of reaching C1 is a far cry from declaring yourself a saviour of an engangered language, demanding free lessons from native speakers or getting an inaccurate tattoo.
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Re: Why learn Chinese?

Postby MacGyver » Wed Mar 13, 2019 4:10 am

Serpent wrote:Learning a major language slowly and/or with no goal of reaching C1 is a far cry from declaring yourself a saviour of an engangered language, demanding free lessons from native speakers or getting an inaccurate tattoo.


And definitely not cultural appropriation!
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YAFEEF
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Re: Why learn Chinese?

Postby YAFEEF » Wed Mar 13, 2019 7:23 am

Cavesa wrote:
YAFEEF wrote:Chinese is the official language of China,and is spoken in many Asian countries such as Malaysia and Singapore as their primary language.With more than 1.2 billion native speakers in the world,Chinese is one of the most widely spoken languages in the world.
Besides,China is growing rapidly recent years and maybe more work opportunities will be offered to people around the world. Most importantly,China is a very good tourist destination --the Chinese are very friendly, the foods are fantastic and the landscape is awesome! :D So,even if English can be used in most of the developed area,it will be a better idea for you to learn some Chinese and rich your experience. :lol:


Hi Yafeef, welcome to the forum!

If I have the time one day, I will seriously consider learning Mandarin for the contemporary scifi and fantasy literature. A few things are already available all over Europe in translations, so there must be lot more to discover, as well as typically Chinese variations on these genres. But that would be a really long term project.

I hope you'll enjoy the forum, we have dedicated Chinese learners and they (and not only they) might be excited to have a new native person around here.

Out of curiosity: on your profile, you have listed: Chinese(N) English(major) Cantonese(beginner)
Do I understand it right that you are a Mandarin native learning Cantonese?


Hi,Cavesa, thank you for your welcome!
Yes, I am a Mandarin native learning Cantonese. Most of the people live in my city can speak both Mandarin and Cantonese. But I just know how to listen to the Mandarin and know a little about speaking.
I am so excited to get so many replies in one day. And people are sharing different kinds of thoughts seriously.
I am now exploring the website and I find it really interesting and resourceful!
I am happy to be a new member and join all of you!:)
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