Posted by: erinserb | January 22, 2010

Chinese – another language fad?

In the New York Times, I happened to spy this article about a trend that may have its positive aspects, but also a down-side. 

Although this librarian has dabbled in foreign languages, I haven’t had the determination – or decisiveness – to pursue a language.  I think  having a knowledge and proficiency of a second language, particularly a Western language, i.e. Germanic or Romance language is an absolute necessity in this day and age, especially in our profession.

Chinese is arguably the most difficult language to learn, particularly for a Westerner.  A tonal language, it depends up control of pitch by the learner.  Along with that are the tons of ideograms to learn, thousands in fact. 

Mere classroom instruction lends no justice to learning Chinese.  It’s admirable that people want to learn Mandarin and perhaps I am being too hard on those who have the motivation.  Needless to say, this language requires a lifetime to reach a level of fluency.  This is not my opinion, this is fact as noted from professional linguists. 

China has risen to the top economically, but it is due for an economic “flame-out”, just as Japan (and our country for that matter).  So is it that economics are driving the study of Chinese, or that people want to learn such a complex language?  I hope that the serious language learner will not forsake languages which are also most essential, such as German, French and Russian.

But this is only from a rag-tag dabbler, whose wonderlust should be put to good use and to seriously learn another language – I’ll save Swahili or Urdu for the next lifetime.


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