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wushijiao

Anyone thinking of learning a new language?

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wushijiao

Anyone else out there thinking about learning a new language? :conf

I’m always interested in the thought of learning a new language, and I’ve recently been considering starting a new one. Here’s a list of the ones that I’ve been thinking of learning, along with the pro’s and con’s.

1) Korean

Pro’s

-Korea is an interesting place (both South and North, in their own ways).

-I have some Korean friends in China who could help me

-I’ve read that about 50% of the vocabulary derives from Chinese, so there would hopefully be some crossover.

-Obviously it is an East Asian language, which might help if I decide to go into academia

Con’s

-Not to sound too offensive, but the experience of learning it might be too similar to Chinese (in the sense that it wouldn’t be as fresh and new as a language like Swahili or Urdu or something).

-Limited to just Korea, and overseas Korean communities.

2) Tibetan

Pro’s

-Certainly a challenge

-Would enable me to more meaningfully understand and travel in Tibet.

Con’s

-The logistics of learning it would be difficult. From my on-line research, it seems learning materials are limited, and it’s not like there are tons of Tibetans walking round Shanghai to practice with.

-The language does also look to be exceedingly difficult.

3) Arabic

Pro’s

-Numerous countries have this as their official language, and many people speak it.

-It would be interesting to understand a lot of today’s events in the Arab world from the Arab perspective, without translation or spin (assuming I could ever get to that level).

Cons

-Also logistically difficult due to lack of Arabic speaking people where I live, and possibly substandard learning materials.

-Nothing in common with any language I already know. And Arabic is considered difficult by most.

-Learning both Modern Standard Arabic and a locally spoken language/dialect might be difficult.

I’m interested in a lot of other languages, and hypothetically would love to learn them all, but these are the ones I’m seriously thinking of starting sometime soon. Also, I might start studying Cantonese if I move to Hong Kong, but I’m not sure to what level (tourist level, semi-fluent, or somewhere in between).

Anyway, I’d be very curious to hear about:

-Is anyone else considering taking up another language? Which? Why? :conf

-Has anyone studied one of the languages that I mentioned for a significantly long period of time? Any feelings/thought?

-Has anyone studied a language that is somehow related to, or has borrowed a lot from Chinese after studying Chinese? If so, how much crossover knowledge was there?

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Lugubert
Anyone else out there thinking about learning a new language?

Constantly. But this year, I'll try to concentrate on Chinese. Not exactly "new", though; I've taken it for three uni semesters so far.

Later, Russian should be useful, because of all good material on languages, including lots of well-made dictionaries. I would love to gain some insight into Classical Tibetan before Alzheimer gets me.

Rehearsing Arabic is not on my priority list. The way the world is, I probably won't go to the Mid East in the next few years. But I hope to see the Egyptian museum in Cairo and the Mesopotamian museum in Baghdad (what's left of it after the US attack on Iraq) before I disappear. For other Asian languages, it's more or less a tie between Hindi for general use in India, and Panjabi for Sikhism studies. And then ...

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atitarev

Last year I started learning Arabic (عربي - `Arabiy) and still very excited. Very difficult, main reason, it's actually hard to find words in dictionaries, as you need to to know root consonants patterns for that. I am concentrating on standard (MSA) version, which is the written and formal version of Arabic for all Arabic-speaking countries. Spoken dialects differ in most frequently used words, have simpler grammar and some sounds may be different. It's easy to learn a dialect after the standard one. Standard Arabic is no-one's native language.

A simple example in romanised Arabic of root letters

d-r-s (study)

darasa - (he) studied, to study

yadrus - he studies

madrasa - school

mudarris - teacher

In main Arabic dictionaries, the words will be under d-r-s entries. Read from right to left with spaces: د ر س , without spaces: درس

I taught myself some Korean, satisfied my curiosity and stopped for the same reason, as you, Wushijiao. I would compare it more to Japanese, rather than Chinese. It has its own initial difficulties but Korean is not a very hard language.

Russian is a good choice, Lugubert (well, this is my native tongue) :) If you're not intimidated by the grammar difficulties.

I am continuing to learn Mandarin and occasionally Japanese. Back to Mandarin class soon. I am challenged by trying to learn 3 languages. I am not stressed, although my progress is not fast.

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bhchao
-Is anyone else considering taking up another language? Which? Why?

-Has anyone studied one of the languages that I mentioned for a significantly long period of time? Any feelings/thought?

German :D I have no practical reason to learn it, but personally I find the language appealing.

It also doesn't hurt that Germany is a country that enjoys a positive image in both China and Korea. The cooperation between Germany and China goes a long way that dates to the ROC era and continues under the PRC. Germany also has a large population of Chinese students studying there, and its technology (like Maglev) is helping to build China's rail infrastructure.

Koreans are interested in learning from the German unification, its positive outcomes, and what not to emulate from the German experience.

I studied French for 3 years in high school and one year in college. It's a beautiful language, but other than that, pretty useless in the modern world unless one plans to enter diplomatic circles.

Chinese, Korean, and Arabic are the most daunting languages to learn according to people who tried to learn them while in the Defense Department.

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atitarev

Yes, German is a beautiful language. I got almost fluent while at Uni and when I was in Germany.

Japanese and Korean are similar in difficulty, IMHO but there are much more resources for Japanese. In Korean, if you don't learn Chinese characters, just Hangeul, then Japanese is actually much harder.

http://www-personal.umich.edu/~wbaxter/howhard.html

It's all subjective and depends what language you already know but for Eurpoean speakers it takes on average 1320 academic hours to reach level 2 proficiency in Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Arabic - triple compared to even Swahili.

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novemberfog

So many languages I want to learn, but so little time. Last year I promised myself I would focus on spoken Mandarin, but I failed. This year I am really trying to make that my goal. I will probably break down and pay a private tutor, and perhaps even subscribe to ChinesePod.

However, I am planning to get my feet wet in Arabic. I love the alphabet and how beautiful it looks when handwritten. I understand though that in written arabic, one does not include the marks for vowels (this is only done in the Koran?), and thus memorizing vocabulary is extremely important. This makes me nervous, but I will at least give the alphabet a shot. If I goes well, then I will try to learn Moroccan dialect. I'd like to visit Morocco one day, especially for the architecture and design.

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atitarev

With vowels, it's almost like Chinese, you can guess roughly the pronunciation but you need to know not only words but the grammar as well, and be able to understand the context. E.g. "khalaqa" (he) created and "khuliqa" (he) was created are spelled the same way - خلق (kh-l-q). dhahabtu, dhahabta, dhahabti, dhahabat - I went, you (male) went, you (female) went and she went are also written the same way: ذهبت [dh-h-b-t].

Moroccan Arabic is not that popular outside Morocco, though, heavily influenced by Berber and French. Much more useful is Egyptian, thanks Egyptian movies, pop-music, etc. Besides, it's a very liberal interesting country with the largest population.

Read and listen to Qur'aan recitations with English translation, fully vocalised Arabic text and transliteration:

http://transliteration.org/quran/WebSite_CD/MixNoble/Fram2E.htm

بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَنِ الرَّحِيمِ

Bismi Allāhi Ar-Raĥmāni Ar-Raĥīmi

In the Name of Allāh, the Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful (Al-Fatihah 1:1)

...

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wushijiao

Great to read all the replies! :D

I would love to gain some insight into Classical Tibetan before Alzheimer gets me.

Haha! That line gave me a good laugh Lugubert! One thing that is a pain in the ass about Classical Tibetan is that the alphabet was set in the 8th century, and the spoken language has since diverged dramatically. English spelling is hard enough, it was only set around 400 years ago. So it seems that one would have to learn a phonetic transliteration (like IPA or pinyin) and then have to remember the spelling. I don't know.

I think German would be interesting, and I have given it some good thought. But the problem with learning a Western European language, especially a Germanic one, is that many of the speakers of that language already speak great English!

Still, German has a great literary tradition, and is still a very important language in central Europe, of course.

I think like Atitarev, I'd start with MSA and and then maybe after a few years find a dialect that interests me. 1320 academic hours is a daunting number though.

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gato

How about learning 文言文? There's a challenge for you. Hehe. Without knowing 文言文, almost all of pre-20th century Chinese literature would be inaccessible. Given that 20th-century Chinese lit has been stifled by government censorship, it would be interesting to see what came before.

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wushijiao
How about learning 文言文?

Hehe. In the next three or four months, I'm going to continue to solely focus on solidifying my Chinese, especially academic and formal Chinese. After that, I'll continue to maintain my Chinese, including learning 文言文, although my first priority is still modern Mandarin.

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atitarev

On my list of things to do it go through a book I've got on Classical Chinese. I also prefer to focus on modern languages.

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atitarev

Anyone wants to share experiences about learning more than one language? How is family treating you? I get into trouble sometimes :lol:

It is common to learn more than language but not at the same period.

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novemberfog
Moroccan Arabic is not that popular outside Morocco, though, heavily influenced by Berber and French. Much more useful is Egyptian, thanks Egyptian movies, pop-music, etc. Besides, it's a very liberal interesting country with the largest population

The reason I was drawn into Arabic was mostly due to French actually. I like a lot of the French language works produced by French nationals or bilingual natives living in Algeria and Morocco during the early and mid-part of the 20th century. After looking into the region more I was really attracted to Moroccan architecture and design.

Egyptian or Gulf Arabic would probably be much more useful for career or travel or what not, but should it ever become important, hopefullly I will have a decent grasp of MSA. However, I'm not big into grammar (which is why I like Chinese so much!), so I may just end up frustrating and stop. I hope that won't be the case.

Just out of curiousity, what dialect would be the best for "diplomatic" arabic...I suppose the most wide-spread and understood dialect. Egyptian?

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onebir
From my on-line research, it seems learning materials are limited, and it’s not like there are tons of Tibetans walking round Shanghai to practice with.

There's an FSI style course, Fluent Tibetan

It seems that dedicated use of this can do what it says on the tin... But it involves quite a lot of work according to this amazon review and won't give you a huge vocabulary. Based on my experience in learning Chinese, a 550 word vocabulary will cause problems at times, because you won't understand the words people try to use to explain the words you didn't understand in the first place. But in many cases, outside of Tibet, you'll be able to revert to Chinese, so it might not be as big a problem as the one I had....

As for Tibetans, in Beijing you can find them:

in little shops selling Tibetans near temples and tourist areas

in Tibetan buddhist temples

in Tibetan medical/massage centres

and sometimes even on the streets selling Tibetan artefacts

(maybe Shanghai is different)

I suspect that if you managed to produce a bit of intelligible Tibetan you'd find conversation partners quite easily. The Tibetans I've met have been quite chatty even in Chinese...

(For the record, in Paris 5/13th arrondissements there are quite a few Tibetan restaurants. Never noticed ANY in London. Wonder why that is? Answers on a postcard to... )

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shibo77

wushijiao: I think you should learn Arabic, or Russian although it isn't on your list. I think both are very useful and there are alot of good materials, I don't think they are sub-standard. Unless you plan to live in Korea or Tibet, learning Korean and Tibetan will probably be only a hobby.

atitarev: Привет Анатолий! My Arabic-Chinese-Arabic dictionary works both ways, in the front it is in alphabetical order, and in the back there is a literal root index, it marks the short vowels, the only bad thing about it is that it doesn't have IPA or transliteration. I think a big improvement in the future would be to mark the short vowels in red or blue contrasting with the bolded black headwords, and also add IPA. I think there are also Arabic-Russian or Arabic-English dictionaries with alphabetical order, maybe you should buy those if you feel literal roots are too difficult.

For both Arabic and Russian, I think you should learn how to write the alphabet and spelling, and learn listening and speaking first, rather than reading and writing. Listening and speaking are more important and easier than reading and writing. Even if you are familiar with the alphabet and spelling rules, Arabic doesn't mark short vowels so you you need to guess alot of the words, and Russian has alot of spelling rules and many syllables are pronounced different from its spelling. Learning listening/speaking first, and later when you look at the many materials teaching reading/writing, it will be much easier.

-Shìbó :mrgreen:

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Lu

Spanish. Seems that about half of the people I know speak Spanish, and I don't like not knowing what others know. Plus it would be fun to have it as a secret language between me and my little brother, as my parents don't speak it. And as I already learned Latin and French it's probably going to be a piece of cake, especially compared to learning Chinese.

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wushijiao
I think you should learn Arabic, or Russian although it isn't on your list.

Hehe...I studied Russian for four years back in high school. Moscow was also the first place I ever went abroad to, staying with a family there for a month when I was 16. I still have strong feeling for Russia and re-learning Russian! The only problem is that I think my odds of moving to a Russian speaking country in the next few years are really low. Still, worth thinking about. :D

Lu: Spanish is a great language (my major in college!). If you know Latin and French, it probably wouldn't be too hard, although if you have the chance, you should probably focus on speaking and listening with native Spanish speakers, because written materials will present less difficulty.

Just out of curiousity, what dialect would be the best for "diplomatic" arabic...I suppose the most wide-spread and understood dialect. Egyptian?

I think diplomacy would be conducted in MSA (although I don't know). It seems that Egyptian, due to their movie industry, is widely understood.

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Lugubert
Bismi Allāhi Ar-Raĥmāni Ar-Raĥīmi

I don't doubt that this transliteration is widely accepted, but I prefer

Bismi l-lāhi r-Raĥmāni r-Raĥīm

which isn't a perfect transliteration, it leaving out the written but not pronounced final 'i'.

Moreover, the alif above the m in the Arabic Raĥmān should have been the perpendicular "alif sikkīn", 'the knife alif'.

I have a complicated system of macros for writing underdots in my own Word documents. I think I'll adopt the ĥ in your quote for that letter.

I think there are also Arabic-Russian or Arabic-English dictionaries with alphabetical order

One such example, into English, is Dr. Rohi Balbaki: Al-Mawrid, published by Dar el-ilm lilmalayin, Beirut. My 1993 copy has no ISBN.

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atitarev

I've got a phonetical Arabic dictionary recently as well but I keep trying to make more sense of the root system, so using Hans Wehr.

Arabic has much more linguistic problems than Chinese and its dialects. Even MSA is not often used for inter-Arab communication (informal), since it is considered stilted and too formal but there are varieties of simplified standard Arabic or people just talk in their dialects, using occasional MSA words when they are not understood. Eastern Arabs cna communicate with each other using their own dialects, it's more problems when Westerners (Magriibi) are talking to speakers of Eastern dialects. Arabs even use English or French when talking to each other. There seems to be a trend that standard languages affects the dialects but it has a long way to go. You need to know these issues before attempting to learn Arabic. Native speakers say you need to learn MSA and at least one spoken dialect. Which one? Depends on your interest. No dialect dominates and used for diplomacy, but Egyptian (MiSriy, MiSriyya) is understood very well in the Arab world.

As for the dagger-alif and transcription, thanks, I am aware of this. Natives usually don't type dagger-alif, it doesn't even exist on standard Arabic keyboard.

Grammar difficulties are much better overcome, if you have good textbooks and reference materials, so that you could easily look up verb forms or plural of nouns. It's not very effcient to try to memorise all grammar points, it should be first understood. The more exposure you get, the easier it becomes.

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Xiao Kui

Right now I'm very casually listening to beginning Cantonese and Japanese lessons. I'm still committed to improving my Chinese so I'm not putting too much time into the new languages, but I figure, I spent all that time learning 3500 characters, I might as well learn other languages that use them and get the best return for my effort.

I've wanted to learn Cantonese ever since I lived in HK for a short stretch 9 yrs ago - it was the same time I started learning Mandarin so my plate was too full to add Cantonese. But seeing the struggles that people have learning languages when they're in their 40s and 50s, I think I should go ahead and start learning it now while the brain can handle that kind of info overload.

That also raises the question as to whether age is still an obstacle to learning if you have a natural flair for languages and have already put some effort into learning a few. Of course decreased hearing ability would be a factor despite one's aptitude.

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