Jump to content
Chinese-forums.com
Learn Chinese in China

  • Why you should look around

    Since 2003, Chinese-forums.com has been helping people learn Chinese faster and get to China sooner. Our members can recommend beginner textbooks, help you out with obscure classical vocabulary, and tell you where to get the best street food in Xi'an. And we're friendly about it too. 

    Have a look at what's going on, or search for something specific. We hope you'll join us. 
889

"Will Americans Really Learn Chinese?"

Recommended Posts

Site Sponsors:
Pleco for iPhone / Android iPhone & Android Chinese dictionary: camera & hand- writing input, flashcards, audio.
Study Chinese in Kunming 1-1 classes, qualified teachers and unique teaching methods in the Spring City.
Learn Chinese Characters Learn 2289 Chinese Characters in 90 Days with a Unique Flash Card System.
Hacking Chinese Tips and strategies for how to learn Chinese more efficiently
Popup Chinese Translator Understand Chinese inside any Windows application, website or PDF.
Chinese Grammar Wiki All Chinese grammar, organised by level, all in one place.

eatfastnoodle

I don't think so. Citizen of large countries really don't have much need to learn foreign language, regardless if it's an international language or not, if foreign language skills were required in the curriculum, whatever learned will soon be forgotten because most people are employed in the domestic economy with few need for foreign language and even fewer opportunity to practice. Most Chinese only speak Chinese, most Russian only speak Russia, most Japanese only speak Japanese and most Americans only speak English, most people in Arab countries only speak Arabic, though spanish could become an second national language in the future, but that's the result of influx of spanish-speaking immigrants. Europe is different because European countries are small and European languages are relatively close-related, easier to learn and more opportunity to use it.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
chrix

If you look at studies, you'll see that your prediction of Spanish becoming the second language won't necessarily come true. Second and third generation Hispanics speak English like everybody else, and quite a lot of them don't know any Spanish (especially from the third generation onwards).

I also wouldn't bring in Arabic into the debate, because the socio-linguistic situation in Arabic countries is quite complicated, with a lot of different Arabic dialects across the region (and the importance of Egyptian Arabic as the language of films, the role of Literary Arabic etc.)

But I'd agree about Europe. Not just the size of nations (though people from smaller countries have even more incentives), but also the integration brought about by the European Union has led to a situation where foreign language abilities have become an important factor.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Cactus543

Honestly what I see happening is a great number of people will begin studying Chinese for business purposes but quickly come to the realization of how difficult the language is and how much time they will have to put into it to gain fluency, causing them to lose interest and eventually drop the language.

I think to learn a language as difficult as Chinese you have to have a deep interest in the culture and not just be thinking about monetary gain. Adherency is key.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
gato

Many of the comments are like "Are you kidding? We have a hard enough time learning English."

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
atitarev

The globalisation makes only English very important at the expense of others. That's a fact. Whatever local language, English is treated seriously. Countries with a weak language policy or where English is co-official may make their language irrelevant

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
valikor

Will they? Not in large numbers, but I'd guess it will become more popular than it is now.

But, the arguments about whether it will be necessary... I think it's true that it won't be necessary. Americans like myself are lucky that we don't actually need to learn any other languages, unless we plan on living abroad. And hell--even if we do live abroad, English can be enough. I know plenty of Americans who live in Beijing who do not know and are not interested in learning any Chinese (these are not usually the people I'm interested in associating with, but there are plenty of them!)

English has become the world language, and even if the United States falls behind China as the world superpower (who knows), English will probably remain the world language for at least a generation or two.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
atitarev
Irrelevant in what sense?

In the Arab world, in Bahrain they don't even use Arabic for official documents, in hospitals, Arabic "is too hard for prescriptions", etc., in Emirate, foreigners don't even bother about Arabic, English is just fine for everything, not Arabic but English is lingua franca. In fact, language policies in the Arab countries are too weak, they don't make sure Arabic is used for non-religious science and education, so English and French to various degrees, are the languages of business and education.

India is a well-known language mess but English is chosen as a national language, despite Hindi being by far the most spoken and understood language - more than 30%. The result is that native languages are not used in courts, on driver's licences - i.e. in many cases,they are irrelevant beyond being a spoken language.

There are too many examples where struggle between 2 or more languages ends with a victory of English, in Fiji - Fijian vs Hindi, neither won, English is the national language. In the Philippines, English may eventually replace Tagalog, if they fail to make it a really national language.

In multinational companies in Europe, English is the most common language, for example, in Switzerland, not German or French but English is the language of choice. I don't mean English will replace German and French there but the trend is clear.

English is very convenient and available but there are many articles about English as a threat to national languages. It's not only English of course that's killing other tongues.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
eatfastnoodle

I met an Austrian girl in Europe who speaks 7 languages, and not just easy-to-learn close-to-German kind of languages, she even speaks Japanese with reasonable fluency. I was thoroughly impressed even though at that time I didn't find Europeans' multilingualism that impressive any more given how close linguistically many European languages are to each other.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
renzhe

Yes, learning Spanish if you speak French is not the mother of all achievements, but don't underestimate the importance of growing up in a multi-lingual environment.

I find that the exposure to a variety of languages (as opposed to one language, or one language+English) is a positive influence on learning languages, and for Europeans, speaking 3+ languages is not uncommon. Often very different languages, or exotic ones.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
eatfastnoodle

I work with a lot of Europeans, with regard to their multilingualism, I often console myself with the fact that I speak two mutually unintelligible Chinese dialects, plus Mandarin, plus English, plus tiny bit of Japanese. It's an stretch, but I often tell myself "Dude, you speak 4 languages, and know something about a 5th one, you're a polyglot too.", just for consolation.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
chrix
Irrelevant in what sense?

I think we should be careful to distinguish between different types of language use here. English right now is the unchallenged global language which means that in certain areas all over the world English will play a predominant role. But this doesn't mean that it is set to take over the national language, this is an irrational fear often held in Germany as well, and I'm sure it is being hyped all over the world.

In countries with many languages, the greatest "glottophage" are said national languages, i.e. Portuguese in Brazil, Russian in Russia, Indonesian in Indonesia..

You gave some examples where the national language is in a less stable position, and the Philippines is a good example for this, yet I don't see English winning out completely even there. I think what we'll see in the Philippines is a similar situation to Madagascar, where the elite will end up speaking the language of the former colonisers, while the masses will still speak the national language and/or regional languages.

But in all these cases I don't see any examples where a national language will be made 'irrelevant'. They may be diminished in relevance to a certain degree, but they won't vanish. Languages are dying every day, in the next few decades the majority of the 6000-8000 human languages will die out, but national languages won't be amongst them, and it won't be the fault of English alone (of course in countries such as the US, Canada and Australia, it will be English that will push indigenous languages into oblivion).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
gato

Is the development of culture stunted in countries where English vie with local languages as the common language? I suppose there is a danger of language confusion, with people ending up neither knowing their mother language nor English well enough to create more sophisticated things in it. You see India rising above that extent, with Indian writers writing superb works in English, while still having very vibrant music and films in the local language. But what about the Phillipines?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
chrix

AFAIK, there's a vibrant Tagalog culture there. The problem is, as atitarev correctly mentions, outside of Luzon, there's a lot of resentment felt towards the use of Tagalog as a national language, even though it is taught in the schools and used widely in the media.

There's certainly some locally based culture scenes, but there is a national Manila-based culture, and I don't see it necessarily in danger.

Just to make myself clear, usually the elite does also speak Tagalog, but they also speak English, and sometimes politicians will give speeches in English, but that doesn't mean they don't speak Tagalog. I think the role of French in Madagascar might be stronger, so that's why I said the Philippines is moving towards the Madasgacan model right now. But even in Madagascar, you wouldn't say the status of Malagasy as a cultural medium is in danger, it might be diminished, but that's still a far ways off from irrelevance.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
atitarev

"Irrelevant" was too strong, increasingly less relevant or irrelevant in some areas would be correct.

Manila has become English speaking, as this is where work is. I haven't been to Manila but to Cebu. Most educated Pilipinos boast almost perfect English with an American accent (only replacing /z/ with /s/ sound). We were invited to a wedding, even in Cebu we were surprised to see how much English was used for formal and informal situations.

The role of language in Indian movies in India. They are made in 15 languages! Hindi is the biggest for the North and 4 languages for the South - Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Malayalam. Their idea of multiculturalism is reflected in their movies - they mix different languages, especially in Hindi movies, to show how open-minded they are. It's Hindustani, not the standard Hindi, a language understood by both Hindi and Urdu speakers (official in Pakistan) - less Sanskrit and more English mix. English is used for up to 10-20% in the movies, even in songs. Hindi or rather Hindustani is made more popular thanks to Bollywood movies but English is still used for official documents in India.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
chrix

No doubt about the elite and the upper middle class speaking good English in Manila. But leave the glitzy skyscraper district and you'll find a different Manila...

As far as India goes, the language divide between the North and South (Indo-Aryan languages vs. Dravidian languages) alone will guarantee that English will play an important role....

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
atitarev
As far as India goes, the language divide between the North and South (Indo-Aryan languages vs. Dravidian languages) alone will guarantee that English will play an important role....

But that's what causes a slow demise of languages. As you mentioned Russian in Russia, Portuguese in Brazil and Mandarin in China, they thrive at the expense of others. A language can't be increased in importance without any affect on others. If English is used officially, others are not, are they?

My colleague from Fiji is a native Hindi speaker. He is almost illiterate in Hindi, as Hindi is no longer used as a national language. He is not ashamed of this, as he says, English is the official language. Rather than deciding between Fijian and Hindi, English is made the national language. When it is made national, the focus slowly but steadily is shifting away. even though Fijian and Hindi remain co-official.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
chrix

Well, discussing a large country such as India next to a tiny one such as Fiji might be a problem.

India has a lot more official languages (often states are set up that way that they have one predominant language in each state, especially in the South, thus guaranteeing that language official status in one state, and states in India have huge populations), so I wouldn't see that as precarious. Most people will stay in their homestate and use the language that's predominant there.

As far as Fiji goes, well there's also the majority population, the indigenous Fijians, who, if I remember correctly, still use Fijian productively (it's a dialect continuum with mutual intelligibility at both ends, so it's usually counted as two Fijian languages, a fact that might also promote the use of English). Of course, as in many Pacific island states, the elite does speak English (a lot having been educated in Australia and NZ). I'm not sure what happened to the Indian minority, but there's several scenarios that can explain how an immigrant minority group loses its mother tongue. This is regrettable, of course, but it's happening in a lot of immigrant socities

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
gerri

I must say that, while Europe is a lot better than the US in terms of support for foreign language education, it sounds rather over-rated to me:

A lot of the fear of English taking over that you hear in Germany (and I'd think in France it's similar) is based on the introduction of only a few words. These are typically assimilated into the languages grammatical structure, though, if not outright made-up.

(The cell phone in German: "Handy" And yes,pronounced like the English adjective... but still, not quite English, since unintelligible to an English speaker.)

It is seen as a sign of excellent education to speak several languages; schools will teach at least one foreign language, and it's considered at least as, if not more, important than the other important subjects (such as mathematics).

To many of the students, however, it's just as much of a burden, and though most will (make that: might) end up conversational in English (or their other first foreign language), it's common enough to find people for whom standard German, rather than a dialect, is already a difficult-enough near-foreign language... even harder, then, to find people like the girl who spoke 7 languages.

Yes, there are schools (I actually went to one like that), where you learn Latin and two living foreign languages, and may have a chance of taking another language as an elective. Still, it took a long time until more teaching for Eastern European languages was introduced (rather than the standard English, French, Spanish, Italian, and possibly Russian); the situation with Chinese would be like in the USA: rising, but still virtually non-existent.

What you hear about the most, regarding that, are private schools or courses for gifted children offering Japanese or Chinese, because they are such special languages...

eatfastnoodle, I think you don't have to "console" yourself, it's a pretty good accomplishment to know what you know... I wish I were quicker just with putonghua, let alone remember what i learnt of japanese and others...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and select your username and password later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Guest
Click here to reply. Select text to quote.

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


×
×
  • Create New...