Wednesday, November 16, 2011

A refusal of commitment [Why I don’t learn Chinese – 14]

As I’ve observed before, Asian languages – especially those with a tonal system, and most especially Mandarin Chinese – are extraordinarily difficult for most ‘Westerners’ to master (at least, compared to French or Spanish, the most popular second language choices for English speakers).

Every laowai I know who’s attained a good level in their Mandarin… a) studied the language back home (usually as a major at university, and sometimes even back in high school); b) studied full-time for at least six months when they first came; c) continued with lessons intermittently over a number of years; and d) shacked up with a Chinese partner.

All in all, a very heavy commitment of time, money, and effort.

Many of these folks then left China, unlikely ever to use their Mandarin again.

Refusing to make that investment in the language reassures me I’m not going to be here forever.


The Weeble said...

I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ: think it possible you may be mistaken.

If you can't be arsed to learn Chinese, fine. As you say, it takes a lot of effort just to be bad at the language. But consider that those of us who've put in the effort to get our Chinese above the "I-will-very-like-a-beer-thank-you" stage might be seeing something in it that you aren't. Writing off the entire language family (and everything that's been written in Chinese languages over the past couple of millenia) just because it will never have global appeal is like ignoring Classical Greek because it's dead, or French because French people speak it.

Froog said...

Not "writing it off", Weebs. Just saying I don't see any utility in it for myself.

You know I have enormous respect for your accomplishment in the language.

And I'm also a little envious of your ability to read the good stuff in the original.

I just feel it's an awful lot of bother to go to just to be able to have more elaborate arguments with taxi drivers for the few years you might be here.

JES said...

But it would provide such a boost for your career in espionage.

Froog said...

Ah, the Chinese don't have any 'secrets' worth stealing.