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wushijiao

Anyone thinking of learning a new language?

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atitarev

Combining characters is a good idea, although there's often no match or character frequency/usage or meaning is different. Using Unihan database (or also CQuickTrans) you can always find out Japanese or Cantonese reading of the same character (plus Korean, sometimes Vietnamese), even if it was simplified differently.

I also use NJStar Japanese WP and Wenlin to find relationships betweeen characters and make vocabulary lists.

It's also time consuming but there are a few dictionaries online/offline and books, which can give you readings of characters in other languages. There are not many, though. NJStar Japanese used to always show PINYIN in character info, they discontinued it in newer versions.

HanConv tool can romanise Chinese character using Mandarin's Hanyu Pinyin or Cantonese Yale or Jyutping, which is also helpful if you want to learn reading in both Mandarin and Cantonese.

--

Yes, with the age it becomes more difficult to learn.

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Lugubert
Natives usually don't type dagger-alif, it doesn't even exist on standard Arabic keyboard.

I shouldn't even mention the time I've spent trying to find a computer font that allows me to write a hamzah without a "chair" but between adjacent letters, as shown in Wright's grammar, §17 (B) Rem. a. for the word 'as'alu.

Yes, with the age it becomes more difficult to learn.

but certainly not impossible. I just finished 3rd semester Chinese. "Semester" in Sweden means the equivalent of 20 weeks at 40 hours per week of studies.

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.

See above. But at 63, I sure can attest to the difference. When I was 24, I got from scratch to near-native levels of Dutch in two months in Amsterdam. I used to absorb vocabulary and grammar of the three foreign languages taught in school (my age 12-18 ) automatically, not even trying. (I suppose that this trait to a certain degree comes from my careful selection of genetic material:lol: ). Nowadays, "even" Russian, an IE language like my native Swedish, requires quite an effort. Never the less, in no too many years, I hope to be at least semi-fluent in 普通话 as well as in русский язык (however inflected :oops: ).

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atitarev
I shouldn't even mention the time I've spent trying to find a computer font that allows me to write a hamzah without a "chair" but between adjacent letters, as shown in Wright's grammar, §17 (B) Rem. a. for the word 'as'alu.

Hamza without a "chair" (ء) is available on a standard Arabic keyboard, it's on "x" key. It becomes adjacent if you type it between other letters (?).

Good luck with Russian and other languages you are planning to learn, you can ask me questions about Russian, if you wish. :)

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novemberfog

Anyone thinking about learning Vietnamese? I've been going back and forth between either Arabic or Vietnamese. If I went with Vietnamese, I would not have to learn a new alphabet. However, I'd have to deal with tones again, probably the most difficult part of learning Chinese up to this point.

Is Vietnamese grammar difficult? Anyone have any experience learning Vietnamese?

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Lugubert

Atitarev: There was one way that hasn't been working previously: I typed the lengthening stroke (Unicode 0640(hex)) and a hamzah (0654), and there it was:

ٲسـٔل

Thanks for making me try again!

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Long Zhiren

I studied some Korean (many years ago when I dated a Korean girl; and a lot of the Korean community was insisting that I was Korean not Chinese...). Compared to Chinese, the grammar is really different. Expressions get 很罗说. That relationship didn't work out and I've found little use for Korean since. I would like some help to navigate Korean food though. There's some yummy stuff out there.

I've been studying Hebrew for about four years now. The spoken language has much shared sounding vocabulary with Arabic. It also goes right to left which is kind of cool unless you're right handed. Otherwise, Hebrew writing looks a lot different than Arabic. My only use of Arabic now is deciphering Middle Eastern currency for coin collecting, etc.

I've been studying Greek simultaneous with Hebrew. Studying more than one language at a time used to be really difficult but for some reason, it's no longer a problem.

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atitarev

Lugubert, I (Anatoli) have sent you a PM on Word Reference (Arabic) forum, let's discuss it there :)

Long Zhiren, good luck with Vietnamese or Arabic, whatever you choose. To me, Vietnamese is not different enough from Chinese. Arabic is quite a different game altogether, you have to start thinking in opposite direction, like its script. It's so different from other languages I learned before (unless you learned some semitic languages, it will be for you too). Vietnamese is easier after Chinese, no doubt.

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heifeng

Once upon a time, well, ok, maybe just 1 year or more ago I tried to study Japanese. I thought it was cool at first, but then again, starting at the very beginning of another language seemed a bit terrifying. I got into it a bit (for the 2 whole months before I came to China), but found myself asking how far did I really want to get into the language. After investing so much time in Chinese I wasn't sure I wanted to go hard core into studying Japanese. Also my Japanese teacher kept on telling me I had a Chinese accent when speaking Japanese (is this something Chinese learners encounter when studying another language? Somehow you start inserting tones into the next language you study? Maybe I just shouldn't had let on about my Chinese background...hmm...many questions about what that was all about, but she made a point to mention this to me every class). Anyway, I decided I still had a way to go with Chinese before I was confortable with putting it on the back burner. So, basically, at this point I personally would just be happy with learning a Chinese dialect, not for any business or 'useful' reasons, but just for fun. I took a few cantonese classes before and enjoyed them very much. Yet my teachers will get worried looks on their face when they see me carrying around sichuanhua or shanghai hua books, telling me not to corrupt my Chinese studying with dialects...hehe. Then I have to promise to work on my tones more.

I still don't want to rule out Japanese study, or any other language study at this point, but I have to admit that studying Chinese for so long, and trying to get to the point I want to get to has required a great amount of time and effort. It will be difficult for me to do it again for another language unless I actually pick up and move to that country (or I decide to study Korean in either BJ or LA, always a possibility). Secondly, I don't know when I will ever reach that, it's "ok" not to study Chinese anymore point, or it's ok, you don't need to feel guilty for not working on this more, you can move on and study something new...I am assuming other people have this voice in their head and guilty feelings if they don't study enough, at least I really hope others do too!

Perhaps, on the 'one day I will study' list I would be interested in learning Mongolian or a Chinese minority language that I may never really need to use, but will just find it satisfying to be able to read something and know what it says, which is how my interest began in Chinese as well =D

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Long Zhiren
...but found myself asking how far did I really want to get into the language...

That is a good, wise question to ask. Before I embarked on Hebrew and Greek, I was afraid to, thinking that my French and Chinese would get displaced and pushed out the back of my head due to limited mental capacity. Here's what I've figured out after four years: (1) My mind's capacity surprised me. It all kind of fits in there somehow. (2) I can open up in conversational French or Chinese much faster now. (3) My conversational French and Chinese now quickly hit a dumbing impasse that takes a little immersion to get back through. This impasse was not here before. It's as if everything is in a newly jumbled state in my mind.

My conscious decision had been to focus on English, French and Chinese; while anything else was with which just to toy around. I intend to continue with Hebrew and Greek to make them as strong.

Also my Japanese teacher kept on telling me I had a Chinese accent when speaking Japanese (is this something Chinese learners encounter when studying another language? Somehow you start inserting tones into the next language you study?

Yes. Absolutely. I have a 100% ethnic Chinese cousin, whose first language is Mandarin, who became fluent in Russian as a second language. His broken English has a severely heavy Russian accent in it. If you couldn't seem him but tried talking to him in English, you would be convinced that you were talking to a Russian person.

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wushijiao
but I have to admit that studying Chinese for so long, and trying to get to the point I want to get to has required a great amount of time and effort. It will be difficult for me to do it again for another language unless I actually pick up and move to that country (or I decide to study Korean in either BJ or LA, always a possibility). Secondly, I don't know when I will ever reach that, it's "ok" not to study Chinese anymore point, or it's ok, you don't need to feel guilty for not working on this more, you can move on and study something new...I am assuming other people have this voice in their head and guilty feelings if they don't study enough, at least I really hope others do too!

That’s almost exactly what I’ve been thinking! I’m constantly saying to myself that I’ll be at the stage in which my Mandarin will be sufficient in, about, oh, three or four months. The problem is, I’ve been saying that for years. I keep moving my goal posts back on what should be my acceptable final Mandarin level. Also, Since I’m in China right now (and may not always be), it seems a bit ludicrous to study another language, in the same sense of living in Italy and not having perfect Italian but starting to study Hindi would be ludicrous.

But I also think it might be possible to lay down a foundation of the basics in a language that I might want to learn (to fluency) in the future. Like Long Zhiren said, one’s mind is often surprisingly good. I don’t think a language ever gets “lost” or “forgotten”; but rather, it “hibernates”. So years later, after complete neglect, once you start studying it again intensely, it comes back quickly.

Also, I kind of feel that in a decade or two my mind will probably function much slower, and I’ll probably have a lot less free time to dedicate to language study. So it might be worthwhile now to solidly build the foundation of learning a new language, which I could build on later. I don’t know.

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Lugubert

On Vietnamese vs. Arabic:

The main difference between learning one or the other is that it is so much easier to find quality learning material on Arabic.

My default searches for resources are for the Routledge's Colloquial seris, and the Teach Yourself lot. From my experience of looking at quite a lot of languages, I'd say that both are useless for Vietnamese. Moreover, I have spent several hours on the Internet to find a scientifically coherent description of the Vietnamese tones, but have miserably failed. Perhaps the resources mentioned will work if you have a very competent native speaker at hand, but I won't guarantee it.

On the other hand, it's almost too easy to find good material for Arabic. For Classical Arabic, if you read German, it's Brockelmann: Arabische Grammatik. If not, Wright: A Grammar of the Arabic Language. Then get Hans Wehr: Arabic-English Dictionary, or the original, Arabisches Wörterbuch, plus for texts, Brünnow/Fischer: Arabische Chrestomatie (which will work even if your Geman is zero). Most of those books are quite old, but so is Classical Arabic.

For more modern language aka Modern Standard Arabic (MSA), you could try books like Haywood, Nahmad: A new Arabic Grammar (and its Key for the exercises); Ziadeh, Winder: An Inroduction to Modern Arabic; Mitchell: An Introduction to Egyptian Colloquial Arabic; Schulz, Krahl, Reuschel: Standard Arabic. An elementary-intermediate course; and/or fromCambridge University Press: Elementary Modern Standard Arabic 1-2. I think you should avoid the books by Samar Attar.

If any of you know of a working set for Vietnamese, I'm interested.

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wai ming

There is one online resource for Vietnamese which looks pretty good: Vietcourses.com.

The core materials are available to registered users (registration is free).

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onebir

Re Vietnamese:

Online try FSI Vietnamese.

And Seasite

Offline, "Je parle Vietnamien" also has an introduction with tables of initials & finals & taped pronounciation drills. (Je parle vietnamien / Hoàng Thi Châu, Trân Hung et Dô Ca Son, Editeur Moret sur Loing : Codev Viêt Phap, 1995 249 p. ill. 20 cm + 4 cassettes)

& there's some discussion of Vietnamese produced (and other) resources on SaigonESL.

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Hero Doug

No comments on Arabic, Vietnamiese, Hundu, Greek etc, but I've started studying French mainly because of it's similarities to English, and the fact that I already studied some of the book I have in the past. But as others have said I'm going to dedicate the majority of my time to Chinese and make that as fluent as possible. Any other languaeg will take much longer to learn.

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leosmith

I've had this drive to learn languages since I got back from a vacation to Thailand in 2004. Thai is my favorite language, even though its the only one I can't read anymore. As I get up in years, 45, I'm sort of panicky about trying to select my languages to learn wisely. I quit French several years ago to take up Swahili, due to a job relocation. French was so easy for me, probably because I speak Spanish already, I feel I just have to get back to it.

So French is next, after that Russian, and I'll probably fit Esperanto in there somewhere. I also want to learn Arabic, German, Portugese, Italian, Hindu, Vietnamese, Cantonese, Korean before I hit 65, but probably just to be conversational.

For you folks that study more than one language at once, how much time do you devote to each? Right now I'm doing 3 or 4 hrs Japanese, 1 hr Mandarin.

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Lu

I wouldn't bother studying Esperanto. It's just not widely spoken, and slowly dying out. I studied it for a while in high school, because I had time to spare and it was supposed to be easy (it was relatively easy, that's true), but generally it's not a very useful choice of a language to learn.

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novemberfog
For you folks that study more than one language at once, how much time do you devote to each?

Working full-time and trying to keep in shape really takes up a lot of my time. For my main language, Chinese, I try to fit in an hour of study each day on weekdays, and then on weekends if I have the energy I'll wake up earlier and try to study more. I try to set goals for the study I can do each week and I try to stick to it. When wasting my life away in commuter trains, I listen to audio files on a portable music player.

I often tell myself to stop trying to do two languages at the same time. Instead of spending thirty minutes during lunch break toying around with another language, I could be learning more Chinese. However, I find that my interest in Chinese varies. There are times when I am crazy about Chinese and it is all I want to think about. There are also times when I'm just sick of having to look up vocabulary or deal with tones. During the times when I'm kind of tired of Chinese and I want to rest, I find I can devote a little more time to other languages. For me at least, the fun part of language learning is in the beginning when everything is new. Once I feel comfortable with the language, it is not as fun unless I get a chance to practice speaking (which is never with Chinese).

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bhchao
Working full-time and trying to keep in shape really takes up a lot of my time. For my main language, Chinese, I try to fit in an hour of study each day on weekdays, and then on weekends if I have the energy I'll wake up earlier and try to study more. I try to set goals for the study I can do each week and I try to stick to it. When wasting my life away in commuter trains, I listen to audio files on a portable music player.

I often tell myself to stop trying to do two languages at the same time. Instead of spending thirty minutes during lunch break toying around with another language, I could be learning more Chinese. However, I find that my interest in Chinese varies. There are times when I am crazy about Chinese and it is all I want to think about. There are also times when I'm just sick of having to look up vocabulary or deal with tones. During the times when I'm kind of tired of Chinese and I want to rest, I find I can devote a little more time to other languages. For me at least, the fun part of language learning is in the beginning when everything is new. Once I feel comfortable with the language, it is not as fun unless I get a chance to practice speaking (which is never with Chinese).

If you exclude the tones and the written language, Mandarin Chinese is easy compared to Japanese, Korean, or even French.

French and Japanese require verb conjugations. I remember having to learn the present, past, future forms of specific French verbs. Each present, past, and future form is pronounced and spelled differently for each subject pronoun. An adjective also needs to agree with the gender of the noun it is describing.

There are no such rules in Mandarin.

Japanese adjective conjugations rely on the present, past, and future tense contexts. If I want to say "This is delicious.", I would say 'oiishi desu'. 'Oiishikatta desu' would be used to say "It was delicious."

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onebir
If you exclude the tones and the written language

If you exclude the difficult bits of anything it's easy...

But I think you missed a few difficult bits:

- numerous homophones,

- sounds that aren't found in european languages (AFAIK)

- switching from conjugated verbs to aspect

- deducing which part of speech a word is being used as without an inflection to guide you.

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novemberfog

bhchao,

If you exclude the tones and the written language, Mandarin Chinese is easy compared to Japanese, Korean, or even French.

French and Japanese require verb conjugations. I remember having to learn the present, past, future forms of specific French verbs. Each present, past, and future form is pronounced and spelled differently for each subject pronoun. An adjective also needs to agree with the gender of the noun it is describing.

There are no such rules in Mandarin.

Japanese adjective conjugations rely on the present, past, and future tense contexts. If I want to say "This is delicious.", I would say 'oiishi desu'. 'Oiishikatta desu' would be used to say "It was delicious."

I will agree with you in that I think Mandarin grammar is easier to learn than other languages. Overall, I think both Japanese and Korean are more difficult than Chinese, but that is my opinion. I find French easier though because it is easier to retain vocabulary due to the shared words with English and roots in Latin. The only thing I find difficult in French is remember the "la" or "le", which is a lot like the tones for me in Mandarin. I remember the pinyin but the tones don't stick in my head.

I don't consider simple grammar much of an advantage though, because grammar is normally an area where students of a language are strong in the beginning (but towards the advanced stages becomes the most difficult when trying to write). When I was learning French and Japanese I could memorize the rules and do fine in writing, but when I spoke I made lots of mistakes. I have never had the chance to speak French to other pepple so my French is still horrible. However, I have had a lot of chances to practice Japanese, emerse myself in an environment and lifestyle only using Japanese, and I no longer even thing about past-tense or what not. It comes natural in my head now. These days I make more errors in word choice more than anything else. I suppose if I had the same opportunity for emersing myself in Chinese then the tone problem might go away. but the word choice problem would remain.

I suppose when I get sick of Chinese it is because of the imbalance in my listening/speaking skills and my reading skills. When a phone call comes from my company's office in Shanghai and the person on the line speaks, I only understand bits and pieces. This year I really have to find a way to learn to listen and speak better. Audio files, tapes, and CDs don't seem to be working for me.

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