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Which Language should I learn?

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    (Original post by game of james)
    I'm looking to start learning a new language but do not know which one to choose.
    I was thinking maybe Chinese as it'll probably become more popular in the future, but people say it is quite hard?
    Has anyone got any suggestions and good ways to learn?
    Thanks
    Right, well, this might sound a bit controversial. Do not learn Chinese!

    Here is why:

    1) People say China is going to be the dominant power in 2050 or whatever. This is most likely true, but is it worth it. Many people are already learning Chinese to get the new jobs which employers demand a knowledge of Mandarin. If you are looking for work, you could find that people have already beaten you to it.

    2) People also say it has the greatest number of speakers. Yep, it is true but is that a good thing? Do you plan on visiting a billion people in China individually and saying NI HAO to them all? Remember, it is really just a number. I think it's bad as you have to atune yourself to 1 billion unique voices compared to just 70 million Italian or even 80 million German voices.

    3) It is hard and not so logical to an English speaker. I went to China in April, took 5 months of Chinese lessons by a true Chinese speaker beforehand, I felt I did quite well. But when I was in China, I kept trying to say "Ni hao ma?" to my hosts and all I would get were puzzled looks. The pronunciation is solid, you would have to take drugs or have surgery to get your voice to match the Chinese one. Once you've mastered that, you have to learn to write.......... :O

    4) You obviously cannot blend in as a native. I thought it was great but the Chinese do get really "IN YOUR FACE", they will stroke you and even steal bits of your hair (if it's blond or red)! The majority of the time, the Chinese kids my age spoke really good English, I was amazed. We spoke about Cultural boundaries and they even gave me a run for my money in English. They are very hesitant to use Chinese with you too!

    OK enough ranting, now my suggestions for you:

    1) Learn German. You obviously are intrigued by it, I was. I would be busy browsing for French books at Waterstones but always got distracted by the German ones! German is a tough cookie though and does have its difficulties. Still, it is really easy to chat to others, you can sometimes make up German phrases by saying English in a German manner. Reading is easy too, most words are bunged together so you can break them down to single words, making it usually easier to understand, schwarzwald "schwarz" - black, "wald" - forest.

    2) Dutch. Dutch is funny language. It is easy to learn if you know English or German and can help you learn either. It sounds beautiful and quaint, borrowing some French so that will help.

    3) Russian. A challenge indeed! I am learning it now and it is really hard. But, it sounds so beautiful and its alphabet is so unique. You will notice many French words in Russian too, Plazh for Plage/Beach and Magazhin for Magasin/Shop. It is French-like but not at the same time, if you get what I mean. Overall, IF YOU WANT A CHALLENGE, THIS IS THE ONE FOR YOU!

    4) Spanish. Easier than French and a lot of people love it. I like Spanish, but prefer French, it can sound a bit quick at times though. I suggest this as you will pick up like rocket fire since you know French!

    5) Italian. I call it "French grammar and accent mashed in with Latin and Spanish vocabulary and the odd bit of English thrown in for good measure" Italian is the nicest of all languages, and is pretty easy, compared to Chinese.

    Good luck with your decision, take your time, try some out and see what works for you! Feel free to contact me for any questions.
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    (Original post by Pokrok)
    4) You obviously cannot blend in as a native. I thought it was great but the Chinese do get really "IN YOUR FACE", they will stroke you and even steal bits of your hair (if it's blond or red)! The majority of the time, the Chinese kids my age spoke really good English, I was amazed. We spoke about Cultural boundaries and they even gave me a run for my money in English. They are very hesitant to use Chinese with you too!
    You were right to be amazed because whoever you were socialising with are grossly unrepresentative of the general student population. I don't think English language ability in China will reach the level found today in France or Germany for quite a few decades yet.
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    (Original post by The Epicurean)
    Not necessarily. The Latin alphabet is now used in a number of non Indo-European languages, for example Malaysian, Swahili and Somali (can be writen in Latin writing system)

    I was stating that basically, by not having to learn a whole new writing system, all languages with a latin based alphabet are automatically easier.

    Here is a more comprehensive list
    http://www.omniglot.com/writing/langalph.htm
    MA-LAY. MALAY.
    :pierre:

    Sorry. This is the only thing I'm pedantic about, I swear
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    (Original post by asparkyn)
    MA-LAY. MALAY.
    :pierre:

    Sorry. This is the only thing I'm pedantic about, I swear
    I am so confused lol. I thought Malaysian refered singularly to the language spoken in Malaysia, and Malay encompassed the whole group of related languages spoken in Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand etc...

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malaysian_language
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malay_language

    For example, if you look at Indonesian wiki page below, on the right hand side it shows Indonesian as being part of the Malay group of langauges and the same is also said on the Malaysian wiki page.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indonesian_language

    And then Malay is shown as being part of the Malayo-Polynesian group of languages. Correct me if I am wrong though
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    (Original post by The Epicurean)
    I am so confused lol. I thought Malaysian refered singularly to the language spoken in Malaysia, and Malay encompassed the whole group of related languages spoken in Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand etc...

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malaysian_language
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malay_language

    For example, if you look at Indonesian wiki page below, on the right hand side it shows Indonesian as being part of the Malay group of langauges and the same is also said on the Malaysian wiki page.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indonesian_language

    And then Malay is shown as being part of the Malayo-Polynesian group of languages. Correct me if I am wrong though
    We used to say 'Bahasa Melayu' which translates as 'Malay Language' in English, but that got changed to 'Bahasa Malaysia' which translates to 'Malaysian Language' (we never say this though), but we never, never say Malaysian because that refers to the nationality If you want to refer to the language, it's Malay.

    Malaysians get slightly miffed if you refer to their language as 'Malaysian'. It's either Malay (if you're using the English word for it), Bahasa Malaysia (to be most politically correct) or Bahasa Melayu.

    Sorry for the OCD
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    (Original post by navarre)
    Chinese is obviously recommended due to the fact China will become the largest economy in the world by 2050; and doubtless the usual export of Chinese culture via movies, literature, websites etc will follow. It's also the world's most spoken language, but it IS the hardest language you can learn.

    Why not try Spanish? It's on the easier side of the language spectrum, and is spoken through Latin America (except Brazil) and in most of Spain. Portuguese would also be brilliant due to the fact Brazil will soon be a major world power, and is also easy, though slightly harder than Spanish.

    Don't waste your time learning something like French- even fewer people will speak it in a few years than the 70 million speakers who do today, and it's only really spoken in a declining power (France). It's also the hardest Romance language. Why go to such lengths and efforts to learn such a useless language?

    (Original post by navarre)
    Ireland is the closest country to the UK. French is not as major a language in Europe as English or German, and Italian has more speakers in Europe than French.

    Furthermore, I've been on holiday to France plenty of times without speaking any French beyond 'Bonjour'. So many people speak English there, and those that don't, you can just point to what you want.

    (Original post by navarre)
    Yes, the Irish do speak English, but that does not mean they are not the nearest country to the UK. In fact, Ireland is the only country to actually have land barrier with the UK, so it is closer than France.

    'A lot of people' in Africa? Really? Very few Africans speak French. It's a language spoken by a small minority in the francophone countries, and if French's only hope is Africa, then it is finished. Africa has far more pressing problems to solve than promoting a remote and poorly spoken language.

    In Canada, it's again just a minority that speak French, and only in Quebec- a single province of Canada.

    As for French being more important than Italian, it probably is, but that isn't saying much.

    As for your last point, I agree with you.
    There is so much rubbish in these posts, I don't even know where to start. What makes you so qualified to say that Mandarin is harder than say Arabic, Russian or Korean? The difficulty of a language depends on the learner's motivation and their background in language-learning. It will be harder for someone with little experience of learning languages, but it'll be equally difficult for someone who's mastered a few languages but has no interest in Mandarin.

    You mention that Chinese culture will be exported, and I'm afraid I can't see that happening anytime soon (certainly not in the next 20 to 30 years). The globalisation of culture is mainly done through English, which is arguably an easier language to learn than Mandarin for the majority of people in the world. It's a process that started a while back, and hasn't shown any signs of decline so far. There is also the fact that Chinese culture is really quite niche and not as easily exportable as you might think, they don't have the same interests, the same humour, etc. This is exactly what makes China such a closed country - they have their own culture and don't really need to rely on others to survive.

    The fact that China is such a closed country actually makes it difficult for foreign businesses to get started over there, and there's an interesting article right here about it. There's a few people on TSR who work in China and could even tell you about the phenomenon. China doesn't want to share, they'd rather have it done their own way, and I'm not sure learning Mandarin or Cantonese for the sole purpose of getting a business-related job is a good idea, nor is it a good investment. It is a language that's difficult for most English natives and the amount of time you will have to dedicate to learning it could arguably be better spent learning an "easier" language.

    There is also the fact that, as applies to Arabic (think UN and businesses, here), employers prefer to hire native speakers of Mandarin, simply because it's less hassle to teach them English (which they might well have learnt already by having done their studies abroad) than it is to teach an English speaker a foreign language, as native speakers of English have that terrible tendency to think that everyone in the world speaks English and that learning a language is thus a waste of time because repeating what they just said loudly and slowly solves everything. It doesn't, it just makes you sound like an obnoxious ****.

    Now regarding French, I don't know how you came up with those "facts", but they're pretty appalling. Since when the number of speakers of a language define its power? There's more people speaking Javanese and Marathi than French, that doesn't make them any more "useful". French is still a very important diplomatic language (it's, with English, the only working language of the UN, the other four are generally translated when used, but not French) that is used by a very important amount of NGOs and other organisations. If you are interested in working for the EU, the UN, NGOs, development, etc. you'd better have French under your belt.

    And as a matter of fact, French is more important than English in the EU. Why? Because it's not just France (which also happen to be one of the biggest countries in the EU) speaking it, but Belgium, Switzerland and Luxembourg. You'll notice that most of the EU institutions are based in countries speaking French, and it's often a requirement to have French if you want to work for the EU. When it comes to the rest of the world, it's a language that's spoken on all of the continents (and there are definitely tonnes of African people speaking French, just have a look at the number of countries having it as their official language, and you can even add the Maghreb countries…), and depending on which field of work you want to go into, it's likely to be of some use.

    French can be useful for politics and diplomacy (EU, UN), but it's also a major trade country in the EU, due to its location and its size, so you'd be silly to dismiss it that quickly. If you're into computer games, there's a growing industry set up in Paris, if you prefer cars there's a few important brands exported everywhere in the world that I'm sure don't need to be introduced anymore, if you prefer aeronautic or aerospacial engineering, Airbus and the CNED are pretty important. Physics? Look at where the CERN is, and you'll notice it's the French-speaking part of Switzerland. Sure, you can learn German or just be ok with English, but having French will help you in these spheres. It's not essential, but if you look at it from this point of view, then I guess no language is essential…

    Finally, as it's been said before, you shouldn't think of a language as a sole mean of communication and you shouldn't force yourself to learn one because it's good for your CV. Learning a language implies learning a new culture, and if you have no interest in the culture, it'll make your language-learning experience a lot harder, and a lot less useful, for you'd miss out on culture-related subtleties that often are the most important part of a language.
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    (Original post by Anatheme)
    There is so much rubbish in these posts, I don't even know where to start. What makes you so qualified to say that Mandarin is harder than say Arabic, Russian or Korean? The difficulty of a language depends on the learner's motivation and their background in language-learning. It will be harder for someone with little experience of learning languages, but it'll be equally difficult for someone who's mastered a few languages but has no interest in Mandarin.

    You mention that Chinese culture will be exported, and I'm afraid I can't see that happening anytime soon (certainly not in the next 20 to 30 years). The globalisation of culture is mainly done through English, which is arguably an easier language to learn than Mandarin for the majority of people in the world. It's a process that started a while back, and hasn't shown any signs of decline so far. There is also the fact that Chinese culture is really quite niche and not as easily exportable as you might think, they don't have the same interests, the same humour, etc. This is exactly what makes China such a closed country - they have their own culture and don't really need to rely on others to survive.

    The fact that China is such a closed country actually makes it difficult for foreign businesses to get started over there, and there's an interesting article right here about it. There's a few people on TSR who work in China and could even tell you about the phenomenon. China doesn't want to share, they'd rather have it done their own way, and I'm not sure learning Mandarin or Cantonese for the sole purpose of getting a business-related job is a good idea, nor is it a good investment. It is a language that's difficult for most English natives and the amount of time you will have to dedicate to learning it could arguably be better spent learning an "easier" language.

    There is also the fact that, as applies to Arabic (think UN and businesses, here), employers prefer to hire native speakers of Mandarin, simply because it's less hassle to teach them English (which they might well have learnt already by having done their studies abroad) than it is to teach an English speaker a foreign language, as native speakers of English have that terrible tendency to think that everyone in the world speaks English and that learning a language is thus a waste of time because repeating what they just said loudly and slowly solves everything. It doesn't, it just makes you sound like an obnoxious ****.

    Now regarding French, I don't know how you came up with those "facts", but they're pretty appalling. Since when the number of speakers of a language define its power? There's more people speaking Javanese and Marathi than French, that doesn't make them any more "useful". French is still a very important diplomatic language (it's, with English, the only working language of the UN, the other four are generally translated when used, but not French) that is used by a very important amount of NGOs and other organisations. If you are interested in working for the EU, the UN, NGOs, development, etc. you'd better have French under your belt.

    And as a matter of fact, French is more important than English in the EU. Why? Because it's not just France (which also happen to be one of the biggest countries in the EU) speaking it, but Belgium, Switzerland and Luxembourg. You'll notice that most of the EU institutions are based in countries speaking French, and it's often a requirement to have French if you want to work for the EU. When it comes to the rest of the world, it's a language that's spoken on all of the continents (and there are definitely tonnes of African people speaking French, just have a look at the number of countries having it as their official language, and you can even add the Maghreb countries…), and depending on which field of work you want to go into, it's likely to be of some use.

    French can be useful for politics and diplomacy (EU, UN), but it's also a major trade country in the EU, due to its location and its size, so you'd be silly to dismiss it that quickly. If you're into computer games, there's a growing industry set up in Paris, if you prefer cars there's a few important brands exported everywhere in the world that I'm sure don't need to be introduced anymore, if you prefer aeronautic or aerospacial engineering, Airbus and the CNED are pretty important. Physics? Look at where the CERN is, and you'll notice it's the French-speaking part of Switzerland. Sure, you can learn German or just be ok with English, but having French will help you in these spheres. It's not essential, but if you look at it from this point of view, then I guess no language is essential…

    Finally, as it's been said before, you shouldn't think of a language as a sole mean of communication and you shouldn't force yourself to learn one because it's good for your CV. Learning a language implies learning a new culture, and if you have no interest in the culture, it'll make your language-learning experience a lot harder, and a lot less useful, for you'd miss out on culture-related subtleties that often are the most important part of a language.
    1) You can't see Chinese culture being exported? What makes you qualified for such an assertion? China has a growing cinema industry, (well, a growing everything), and Chinese songs and music are popular throughout East Asia. It won't take much to broaden the horizons of such a market.

    2) French is more important than English in the EU? Are you off your rocker or something?

    English remains by far the most widely spoken foreign language throughout Europe. 95% of students in the EU study English at secondary level[33] and 38% of EU citizens state that they have sufficient skills in English to have a conversation (excluding citizens of the United Kingdom and Ireland, the two English-speaking countries). 28% of Europeans indicate that they know either French (14%) or German (14%), along with their mother tongue. French is most commonly studied and used in southern Europe, especially in Mediterranean countries, in Germany, Portugal, Romania, the U.K., and Ireland. German, on the other hand, is commonly studied and used in the Benelux countries, in Scandinavia, and in the newer EU member states. Spanish is most commonly studied in France, Italy, Luxembourg, and Portugal. In 19 out of 29 countries polled, English is the most widely known language apart from the mother tongue, this being particularly the case in Sweden (89%), Malta (88%); the Netherlands (87%); and Denmark (86%). 77% of EU citizens believe that children should learn English. English was considered the number one language to learn in all countries where the research was conducted except for the United Kingdom, Ireland and Luxembourg. English, either as a mother tongue or as a second/foreign language, is spoken by 51% of EU citizens, followed by German with 32% and French with 26%.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/French_language_in_Europe

    Pray you elaborate, how is a language spoken by far fewer people, the second language in fewer countries, more important than English?

    Your argument is further weakened by the fact that in those countries you quoted, only a minority speak French. Only 40% of Belgium, and 20% of Swiss speak French. They are, respectively, Dutch and German speaking lands.

    English is spoken in the UK and Ireland, which may not be as many countries as France, but it is not a minority language there.

    3) Having an official language is a pretty useless measure to use. Sure, Madagascar may have French as an official language, but speak to the common people on the streets and see how useful knowledge of French is. Rwanda recently changed its language from French to English anyway, owing to the general uselessness of the language (despite being a former French colony), and I'm sure many other countries will follow.

    Still, not sure how French can be expected to thrive in a region of the world with far more pressing issues and where the vast majority of the populace aren't educated.

    French CAN be useful for diplomacy in the EU... if you're French (or not, if you're Seilliere), but as in most cases, English and German would serve you better.

    4) I'd agree with your last part, and yes, people can learn French if they love it. But they would be wasting their time if they expect French to somehow open doors for them. It's a competitive jobs market out there, and learning a language can help boost your chances a great deal, but only if it's the right language. The vast majority of the planet does not teach French, and people should be aware that, yes, French once was the dominant language, but like it's mother country France, it's a language in decline.
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    (Original post by RosettaSpeke)
    Spanish! It's like the third most spoken language in the whole world. It's similar to french, so it would be easier. Also, if you are unsure what a word is, just put an -o on the end, and it is basically spanish.
    Fractured- fracturado
    EASY PEASY.
    :lol: you know that unsure spaniards add "-ation" to make "English" words? What's hilarious is when they actually (rarely) get the word right.
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    Honestly I think with fairly fluent French you should go for Spanish, as previous posters have said it'd make learning it easier for you.

    Though I do understand how you want to move away from another romance language, I have to say that once you speak two romances languages as closesly related as Catalan and Spanish you'll really get tired of them. Hence why I personally decided to get stuck into German and achieve fluency in my French.

    But honesly go for the one that interests you; learning a language without being motivated can suck.
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    (Original post by Anatheme)

    You mention that Chinese culture will be exported, and I'm afraid I can't see that happening anytime soon (certainly not in the next 20 to 30 years). The globalisation of culture is mainly done through English, which is arguably an easier language to learn than Mandarin for the majority of people in the world. It's a process that started a while back, and hasn't shown any signs of decline so far. There is also the fact that Chinese culture is really quite niche and not as easily exportable as you might think, they don't have the same interests, the same humour, etc. This is exactly what makes China such a closed country - they have their own culture and don't really need to rely on others to survive.

    (Original post by navarre)
    1) You can't see Chinese culture being exported? What makes you qualified for such an assertion? China has a growing cinema industry, (well, a growing everything), and Chinese songs and music are popular throughout East Asia. It won't take much to broaden the horizons of such a market.
    Southeast Asia laps up a lot of Taiwanese dramas and music (not sure about Mainland Chinese stuff though) and it is the base for quite a lot of Mandarin-based entertainment as well. As far as I know, the market for Chinese culture is not a niche one, because it is very well known in many countries with sizeable Chinese populations. Can anyone name me a reasonably-sized city in a reasonably-famous country where Chinatown (or some kind of Chinese restaurant) does not exist? Obviously we are not looking at the kind of viral culture spread like we are seeing with Hollywood or Italian food, but to say that Chinese culture is only confined to the borders of China would be an understatement. And I'm not even going to start on the very influential pieces of work by great Chinese thinkers that are very well respected in world of literature.

    We may never see Chinese entertainment become as large as what America has created, and I do not believe that Mandarin will become the principal diplomatic language of the world by any means no matter how large the Chinese economy gets (it is just too foreign a language to the Western ear), but I think some knowledge of Mandarin Chinese, or at least its culture, might come in handy.

    However, the main problem with Chinese people is that they have been shut off from the world for so long, and have not come to terms with their new-found globalised freedom just yet (just seeing how they act here in Hong Kong is like :facepalm:). This is why many are beyond incredulous to find Westerners in their country yet alone speaking their language -- Westerners fluent in Mandarin after having lived in China for decades are regularly featured in talk shows and television and are goggled at by spectators nationwide -- and this might take a generation to change. But I can assure you that there is a growing number of Westerners who are starting to speak Mandarin fluently ie. it is not impossible to learn. Just the other day, my mother pointed out a couple where the American man was speaking to his Chinese wife in flawless Mandarin and said something along the lines of, "Now, why can't you speak Chinese like him?!" Not my proudest moment, but still!
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    (Original post by navarre)
    1) You can't see Chinese culture being exported? What makes you qualified for such an assertion? China has a growing cinema industry, (well, a growing everything), and Chinese songs and music are popular throughout East Asia. It won't take much to broaden the horizons of such a market.
    Look at Japan's industrial progress since WWII and how little their culture has spread outside of Asia. Of course you can argue that it may be completely different, but I don't believe it will be that popular in Europe, Africa or America (North and South), simply because the cultures are too different, and that's what make Chinese culture niche in other continents.

    (Original post by navarre)
    2) French is more important than English in the EU? Are you off your rocker or something?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/French_language_in_Europe

    Pray you elaborate, how is a language spoken by far fewer people, the second language in fewer countries, more important than English?

    Your argument is further weakened by the fact that in those countries you quoted, only a minority speak French. Only 40% of Belgium, and 20% of Swiss speak French. They are, respectively, Dutch and German speaking lands.

    English is spoken in the UK and Ireland, which may not be as many countries as France, but it is not a minority language there.
    I meant in terms of number of native speakers, not in terms of actual use of the language :rolleyes: That said, being a minority doesn't make it any less important. English is a minority in France, does it make it useless?


    (Original post by navarre)
    3) Having an official language is a pretty useless measure to use. Sure, Madagascar may have French as an official language, but speak to the common people on the streets and see how useful knowledge of French is. Rwanda recently changed its language from French to English anyway, owing to the general uselessness of the language (despite being a former French colony), and I'm sure many other countries will follow.

    Still, not sure how French can be expected to thrive in a region of the world with far more pressing issues and where the vast majority of the populace aren't educated.
    Well, I suggest you try going to Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia and see which foreign language they try to use on you first. It's French more often than not. Now I see enough of African countries on French TV to guarantee you that they don't use pidgin or creole and that there's no need for the channels to translate the interviews given by African people. There's a few African channels that are entirely in French, so I don't really understand where your argument is coming from, and why the use of a language makes any difference as to how their problems are gonna be solved…


    (Original post by navarre)
    French CAN be useful for diplomacy in the EU... if you're French (or not, if you're Seilliere), but as in most cases, English and German would serve you better.
    Having family and friends that work for the UN, I can't agree with that. French is as useful as German (if not more), and English is obviously out of the question, but then again, I never considered English in my argument. It's also definitely more useful than Spanish if you're planning to work for the UN, and also more useful than Mandarin and Russian (and as a matter of fact, the UN are looking for French translators, surprising, for a language in decline…)

    (Original post by navarre)
    4) I'd agree with your last part, and yes, people can learn French if they love it. But they would be wasting their time if they expect French to somehow open doors for them. It's a competitive jobs market out there, and learning a language can help boost your chances a great deal, but only if it's the right language. The vast majority of the planet does not teach French, and people should be aware that, yes, French once was the dominant language, but like it's mother country France, it's a language in decline.
    Having just graduated, I've had a look at jobs offered, and although I only found one for Russian (librarian) and one for Arabic (Red Crescent worker) - languages that are often ignorantly considered "extremely useful" - there was a myriad requiring French, of which jobs offered by RBS, HSBC, Bloomsberg, and other various IT or business companies. The demand for French is actually more important than the demand for Mandarin, and at jobs fairs, companies such as Accenture complained that there were too many Spanish graduates and not enough of other languages.

    Make of that what you want, but French is definitely not declining enough to be a risky language to study. Compared to it, Mandarin is simply not viable, for it takes a lot longer for Indo-European-languages speakers to learn it and it would take them to learn French, and that's easily a good 2/3 of the world countries.

    (Original post by asparkyn)
    Southeast Asia laps up a lot of Taiwanese dramas and music (not sure about Mainland Chinese stuff though) and it is the base for quite a lot of Mandarin-based entertainment as well. As far as I know, the market for Chinese culture is not a niche one, because it is very well known in many countries with sizeable Chinese populations. Can anyone name me a reasonably-sized city in a reasonably-famous country where Chinatown (or some kind of Chinese restaurant) does not exist? Obviously we are not looking at the kind of viral culture spread like we are seeing with Hollywood or Italian food, but to say that Chinese culture is only confined to the borders of China would be an understatement. And I'm not even going to start on the very influential pieces of work by great Chinese thinkers that are very well respected in world of literature.

    We may never see Chinese entertainment become as large as what America has created, and I do not believe that Mandarin will become the principal diplomatic language of the world by any means no matter how large the Chinese economy gets (it is just too foreign a language to the Western ear), but I think some knowledge of Mandarin Chinese, or at least its culture, might come in handy.
    I meant niche in the rest of the world (Americas, Europe, Africa, Middle East). I haven't seen any influence of Asian culture whatsoever in India, in the Middle East or in Eastern Europe except for poor quality goods sold far to much to silly tourists, or the odd restaurant here and there.

    As for your second argument, this is exactly what I meant. Compared to numerous other languages, Mandarin just isn't that good an alternative. There's also the bunch of people who're dying to learn it because they're only interested in the money they might make and don't realise they'd actually hate living or working there, no matter how good the money might be.

    It's the kind of languages that deep down, you know you really want to learn, not the kind of language that you're gonna try out because a bunch of people with barely any language-learning experience thought it'd be "the most useful". Knowing that most language graduates just end up in a job completely unrelated to their degree and that doesn't even require any of the languages they may have learnt, I can't see why Mandarin would be a good suggestion to anyone who doesn't have a clue what they want to study. If they did, they would know what language they want and wouldn't have to ask people for their opinion.
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    (Original post by Anatheme)
    Look at Japan's industrial progress since WWII and how little their culture has spread outside of Asia. Of course you can argue that it may be completely different, but I don't believe it will be that popular in Europe, Africa or America (North and South), simply because the cultures are too different, and that's what make Chinese culture niche in other continents.



    I meant in terms of number of native speakers, not in terms of actual use of the language :rolleyes: That said, being a minority doesn't make it any less important. English is a minority in France, does it make it useless?




    Well, I suggest you try going to Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia and see which foreign language they try to use on you first. It's French more often than not. Now I see enough of African countries on French TV to guarantee you that they don't use pidgin or creole and that there's no need for the channels to translate the interviews given by African people. There's a few African channels that are entirely in French, so I don't really understand where your argument is coming from, and why the use of a language makes any difference as to how their problems are gonna be solved…




    Having family and friends that work for the UN, I can't agree with that. French is as useful as German (if not more), and English is obviously out of the question, but then again, I never considered English in my argument. It's also definitely more useful than Spanish if you're planning to work for the UN, and also more useful than Mandarin and Russian (and as a matter of fact, the UN are looking for French translators, surprising, for a language in decline…)



    Having just graduated, I've had a look at jobs offered, and although I only found one for Russian (librarian) and one for Arabic (Red Crescent worker) - languages that are often ignorantly considered "extremely useful" - there was a myriad requiring French, of which jobs offered by RBS, HSBC, Bloomsberg, and other various IT or business companies. The demand for French is actually more important than the demand for Mandarin, and at jobs fairs, companies such as Accenture complained that there were too many Spanish graduates and not enough of other languages.

    Make of that what you want, but French is definitely not declining enough to be a risky language to study. Compared to it, Mandarin is simply not viable, for it takes a lot longer for Indo-European-languages speakers to learn it and it would take them to learn French, and that's easily a good 2/3 of the world countries.



    I meant niche in the rest of the world (Americas, Europe, Africa, Middle East). I haven't seen any influence of Asian culture whatsoever in India, in the Middle East or in Eastern Europe except for poor quality goods sold far to much to silly tourists, or the odd restaurant here and there.

    As for your second argument, this is exactly what I meant. Compared to numerous other languages, Mandarin just isn't that good an alternative. There's also the bunch of people who're dying to learn it because they're only interested in the money they might make and don't realise they'd actually hate living or working there, no matter how good the money might be.

    It's the kind of languages that deep down, you know you really want to learn, not the kind of language that you're gonna try out because a bunch of people with barely any language-learning experience thought it'd be "the most useful". Knowing that most language graduates just end up in a job completely unrelated to their degree and that doesn't even require any of the languages they may have learnt, I can't see why Mandarin would be a good suggestion to anyone who doesn't have a clue what they want to study. If they did, they would know what language they want and wouldn't have to ask people for their opinion.
    Are you trying to imply that French is the most useful foreign language to learn?

    I completely agree that French > Mandarin.
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    (Original post by im so academic)
    Are you trying to imply that French is the most useful foreign language to learn?

    I completely agree that French > Mandarin.
    No, I'm not. I was only trying to say that French isn't as useless as it can appear to be because it's still in demand and used in many situations. It just depends how much effort you're willing to put into learning a language and what you want to achieve with that language.
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    There's a fascinating article in this month's National Geographic about dying languages, like Tuvan. Learn that, and be part of the linguistic conservation movement!

    Of course, it will be entirely useless, but maybe 20 years in the future National Geographic will write an article about YOU...
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    (Original post by Anatheme)
    I meant niche in the rest of the world (Americas, Europe, Africa, Middle East). I haven't seen any influence of Asian culture whatsoever in India, in the Middle East or in Eastern Europe except for poor quality goods sold far to much to silly tourists, or the odd restaurant here and there.

    As for your second argument, this is exactly what I meant. Compared to numerous other languages, Mandarin just isn't that good an alternative. There's also the bunch of people who're dying to learn it because they're only interested in the money they might make and don't realise they'd actually hate living or working there, no matter how good the money might be.

    It's the kind of languages that deep down, you know you really want to learn, not the kind of language that you're gonna try out because a bunch of people with barely any language-learning experience thought it'd be "the most useful". Knowing that most language graduates just end up in a job completely unrelated to their degree and that doesn't even require any of the languages they may have learnt, I can't see why Mandarin would be a good suggestion to anyone who doesn't have a clue what they want to study. If they did, they would know what language they want and wouldn't have to ask people for their opinion.
    Careful ... India IS Asia, technically There are Chinatowns there, and frankly I have met quite a lot of foreigners who know at least something about Chinese culture. My best friend, who is Kuwaiti, puts my knowledge of the Chinese to shame, and he isn't even interested in China.

    You make it seem as though China is this whole other planet that Westerners would never understand. That is not true. I have been literally everywhere, and I can safely say that except for a language barrier and perhaps a few cultural differences (the Chinese politeness is very different), living in modern China isn't all that different from living in many other places of the world. It's just a matter of growing a thicker skin. I do agree that learning Mandarin takes a certain dedication, but that's normal for anyone taking a language very different to their native one.
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    (Original post by asparkyn)
    Careful ... India IS Asia, technically There are Chinatowns there, and frankly I have met quite a lot of foreigners who know at least something about Chinese culture. My best friend, who is Kuwaiti, puts my knowledge of the Chinese to shame, and he isn't even interested in China.

    You make it seem as though China is this whole other planet that Westerners would never understand. That is not true. I have been literally everywhere, and I can safely say that except for a language barrier and perhaps a few cultural differences (the Chinese politeness is very different), living in modern China isn't all that different from living in many other places of the world. It's just a matter of growing a thicker skin. I do agree that learning Mandarin takes a certain dedication, but that's normal for anyone taking a language very different to their native one.
    Yeah, I meant China, not Asia, sorry (smartass :p:). I'm simply saying that I don't believe it can be popularised that easily at all and if/when it does spread, I fairly certain the majority of people won't bother learning Mandarin to access the culture. As I mentioned previously, look at Japan: they went from nothing to being the most technologically advanced nation in the world, and their culture hasn't travelled all that well in the Western World. I'm not saying it's completely inexistant, but it's definitely not as present as it could have been, and I don't believe Chinese culture will be any different.

    It may not be all that different from other places in the world, but you could advance the same argument for a lot of places in the world. The important point is how different it is from their home country and whether they can grow that "thick skin". Let's take the example of Brits, and look at how many people do Russian at university, do their year abroad only to decide they'll never go back to that country ever again (the answer is: a majority :p:).

    Sure, it doesn't look that different at all, but it's still backward enough that they don't really want anything to do with it anymore and would rather stay how, to the detriment of their skills. And these are dedicated language learners, so just imagine how many people don't actually have the motivation and how Mandarin is just not as good a choice as say German or Spanish (or let's be crazy, that old declining and useless French :rolleyes:). I'm not saying Arabic, Russian or anything else is better, though, mind.

    Anyway, I can't be arsed arguing anymore. In short, I don't believe Mandarin will grow to what people expect it to (too foreign), I don't think it's that "useful" to learn (not really viable as a lingua franca, too difficult for masses of Indo-European languages speakers to learn), and I think this kind of threads is either made by attention-seekers who want to brag about the half-gazillion other languages they speak, or by people who actually don't have a clue about language-learning and for which the more difficult languages may not be that good an option. :holmes:
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    (Original post by Anatheme)
    Look at Japan's industrial progress since WWII and how little their culture has spread outside of Asia. Of course you can argue that it may be completely different, but I don't believe it will be that popular in Europe, Africa or America (North and South), simply because the cultures are too different, and that's what make Chinese culture niche in other continents.


    Again, I have to wonder which planet you're living on. Japanese culture is wildly popular outside of Asia. Anime and manga is very commonplace in the West, and most of the videogames industry is Japanese- ie Sony and Nintendo. Mario, Sonic, Zelda and Final Fantasy weren't Western creations!

    Also, karate. The style of karate I practise (hyo gen do) is very much in touch with its Japanese roots, to the point where I have picked up a little Japanese simply by practising it.
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    (Original post by Anatheme)

    It may not be all that different from other places in the world, but you could advance the same argument for a lot of places in the world. The important point is how different it is from their home country and whether they can grow that "thick skin". Let's take the example of Brits, and look at how many people do Russian at university, do their year abroad only to decide they'll never go back to that country ever again (the answer is: a majority :p:).
    I'm done arguing too. While I think the Brits may be too soft-hearted, what exactly is so bad about Russia? Sorry for the blunt question, I know you've lived there at least 6 months so I wanted to find out. Admittedly, Russia is one of the only places I haven't been to yet, and one day I will, so I might as well get the low down while I can!

    I wonder how Russia compares to China. I was in a relatively affluent part of Shanghai a year ago. On the first day I was already subject to an elderly lady shoving and cursing her way to get to a crowded elevator, stabbing everyone's (including my) toes with her walking stick, and yelling at everyone to get out of her way. People smoke in restaurants, and the tables are so closely packed together (economical, economical) so that the only thing you can taste is fag. And not to mention the spitting and the bad service -- China has a lot of fantastic things about it ... but courtesy isn't really one of them, I'm afraid .
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    (Original post by navarre)
    Again, I have to wonder which planet you're living on. Japanese culture is wildly popular outside of Asia. Anime and manga is very commonplace in the West, and most of the videogames industry is Japanese- ie Sony and Nintendo. Mario, Sonic, Zelda and Final Fantasy weren't Western creations!

    Also, karate. The style of karate I practise (hyo gen do) is very much in touch with its Japanese roots, to the point where I have picked up a little Japanese simply by practising it.
    Actually, this is pretty true. I've never thought about it that way. Forget scanlations in Mandarin, Spanish and English ... if manga has been translated into languages like Polish and Swahili, I suppose there must have been a large enough market for them.
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    (Original post by navarre)
    Again, I have to wonder which planet you're living on. Japanese culture is wildly popular outside of Asia. Anime and manga is very commonplace in the West, and most of the videogames industry is Japanese- ie Sony and Nintendo. Mario, Sonic, Zelda and Final Fantasy weren't Western creations!

    Also, karate. The style of karate I practise (hyo gen do) is very much in touch with its Japanese roots, to the point where I have picked up a little Japanese simply by practising it.
    Lol.

    I read the whole argument. As a foreigner who speaks more or less fluent Chinese, I think you're talking out of your a***. Everything Anatheme has said was right. And all your arguments were flawed.

    I'll just take up this one. Yes. Japanese culture is "widely popular" outside of Asia. Anime and manga is commonplace. So are the video games. That's why when I started learning Japanese, we were about 12 kids in my class (I was in middle school.) They all loved manga, anime, video games etc. By the second year however, oddly enough I think there were 5 left.

    The Japanese department at SOAS has one of the highest drop out rates of the entire university. The Chinese department is not far behind, despite being a lot more forgiving of its students' mistakes. How do you explain this phenomenon? It's just that, to enjoy a comic strip or an animation picture (because that's what they all are - ENTERTAINMENT) most people can't be bothered to learn a whole new language, and there's just not enough exposure to it in general.

    Oh, and your little argument about karate. That was actually kind of cute. Made me smile. =)
    If you think that learning 5 words in Japanese is already a step into the language - think again. It takes me an hour to learn 30 words. I had close to 80 words in Japanese a week this year (and that's not counting those I had to learn passively.) This is the only way you could ever dream of picking up a newspaper one day and reading it straight in Japanese (and that's exactly what the course was about.) And this was my 7th year of Japanese, so it's not like I started from scratch.
    Anyways, the most important when starting a new language is not necessarily vocab (unless you intend on conveying your message like Tarzan, "Oh oh I Tarzan, you Jane.") It's understanding the grammar, beind able to grasp completely different grammatical notions. This kind of thing is not what you'll be learning in your karate class. And even if you watch 30 animes and you can come to understand most of it, your knowledge of anime Japanese will not help you when reading Snow Country or a simple Asahi shimbun article.

    Now having taken all that into account, do you really think that the average Western person will learn Chinese or Japanese from mere exposure to a little bit of the culture?

    Also - I can tell you that most Westerners who come to China and actually learn to understand it, do not like it very much. The Chinese culture does not blend well with ours, and unless it changes, I doubt it ever will. Do you think it's nice for us to be called "foreigners" constantly? If you came to France, and I called you "foreign" and lumped you with all the rest of the non-French, would you be pleased? And that's only one aspect. The Chinese are incredibly racist for the most part, they can be hurtful. I don't like it when people comment on how white my skin is, even if they're actually admiring it. And the amount of hatred on people of darker skins, wah. Never seen something like this. And this is an important part of Chinese (and in general east Asian - because Japan and Korea are no better) culture. And I remember the scandal during the Olympics when people found out the little girl actually singing was back stage because she was too ugly (she was cute!) and the girl "singing" was just a puppet. Wah, the West will never be able to accept something like that.

    Also, you were talking about Chinese cinema. Well, most Chinese movies I've seen (and that's actually quite a few for a westerner) would not be the kind of thing a Westerner would watch. Stuff like "To Live", "Raising the Red Lantern" etc. is too historical. Stuff like "2046" or "Longest Night in Shanghai" too serious (it can be enjoyed by adults who know a little about China though.) And what isn't too serious (stuff like "My left eye sees ghosts" or Chinese romantic comedies) are way too kitsch to ever sell well in the West. The horror stuff from Mainland China is not good enough yet (last time I watched a mainland horror movie from China I laughed the whole way through!) and what is interesting is just too weird for the average Westerner (Dumplings/Nouvelle Cuisine.) And dramas and stuff are too kitsch as well, even if the said Westerner is trying to learn Chinese. (I tried convincing a large number of my classmates to watch it, it was just too much of a pain for them.) This culture will not sell well, even when it comes to their cinema.

    Oh and Chinese as a useful language? Um... Well, I have the HSK 6 under my belt, and an extra year of learning Chinese after that. So far, the only jobs that I have managed to get without guanxi are jobs where I didn't even need to speak Chinese, I just needed to look foreign and let the Chinese goggle their eyes at me.
    Also, about the usual argument there are tons of Chinese. Sure. My friends always tell me "There are too many Chinese people." It's their excuse for not caring about throwing stuff in the trash, their excuse for not giving the old people, pregnant women, children etc. their seats on the bus and subway, their excuse for pushing, shoving people around etc. Ok, fine. There are tons (too many?) Chinese people. That doesn't mean you'll get the opportunity to talk to each one of them.
    Don't forget that Chinese is not a language. Chinese has many different forms, some more different from each other than English and French (let alone the romance languages.) A guy earlier today was speaking something I had never heard. I asked my colleague what it was, I thought it was some form of Arabic. It was Shanghainese. Anyway, you can argue that many people speak Mandarin. Yeah. It's the official language. They speak it in school (or at least they try.) That doesn't mean that they all speak it perfectly well. When I was interning in Guangzhou last year, I didn't understand a word of the Mandarin the country men spoke to me. It was too influenced by their mother tongue - Cantonese. So of that billion and a half of Chinese, a lot don't actually speak very good Mandarin, and even if you did learn Mandarin, you wouldn't be able to communicate with them. French on the other hand doesn't change very much across the globe. It might take a while to understand Canadians, and they might have their own sayings and stuff, but you'd be understood perfectly if you had learned French in France and went to visit a friend there. And the differences between French French and Belgian French and other European countries' French? Virtually none. Just the numbers change a little (nonante vs quatre-vingt dix, septante vs. soixante-dix.)
    Finally, as said before, who cares about the billion and a half Chinese? Unless you plan on becoming Mao Zedong II, you'll never get the opportunity to reach most of these Chinese. And even if you were him, you'd never have to go and meet these people yourself.

    I think the OP is better off looking at other languages than these East Asian ones. And you obviously don't have a clue what you're talking about.

    EDIT: To the OP, I'd recommend looking at something you're actually interested in. You'll have to live in the country afterwards (or at least deal with it) for your language skills to be useful. Make sure you like that country. Otherwise you will seriously regret your choice. I sometimes hate my own.

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