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jkhsu

Is Learning Chinese a Bubble?

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Areckx

Everyone is different. I tend to be very introverted, but when enough extroverts are around, I can kind of flip around and survive long enough before having to go to my quiet place. ^^

Generally, I feel as if most other students of languages which use hanzi like Japanese and Chinese tend to not focus too much on the hanzi, and are later frustrated when they find they are not progressing as far as they would like to. When confronted with the task of studying the hanzi, they immediately back into a corner, being so intimidated by them. I've tried helping beginners see the simplicity of hanzi, but they seem to think it's this ridiculously impossible task.

I don't know what to do when trying to motivate these students. Should I just let them figure it out on their own? I feel like there's something I can say or show to them that would help their brains to *click* to the idea of hanzi and their radicals, but they seem to just want to memorize phrases and never make the effort to read/listen/watch REAL material.

What I am told most of the time, or at least get the vibe, is that they don't want to view REAL material until they reach a higher level of comprehension, but that doesn't make any sense, because in order to gain comprehension, you NEED to view REAL material.

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jkhsu

What I am told most of the time, or at least get the vibe, is that they don't want to view REAL material until they reach a higher level of comprehension

What do you mean by real material?

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Areckx

Writing/Film made specifically for native speakers, as in, not slowed down for learners. Most people think they need to work their way up to authentic material rather than jump right in.

I know this first hand from when I was struggling with Japanese. I kept on searching for "Learn Japanese" and "Teach yourself Japanese" books and films and didn't learn much, but as soon as I just jumped right in to authentic material, my learning skyrocketed. I finally decided to read manga, take off the English subtitles in anime, and now I don't even watch anime, because I've discovered that there is an entire world of Japanese outside of the anime zone. I would have never discovered it if I kept inside my bubble, I just jumped right in and listened, read, and my brain kicked in.

So with that in mind, I'm going to take a similar approach to Chinese. I've already been watching film with Chinese subtitles from the very beginning, rather than go through the 7-year slump I had with English subtitles that I had with Japanese.

EDIT: Okay, I watch anime every now and then, but I've gotten out of the "anime is the only thing worth watching in Japanese" way of thinking.

I actually prefer watching talkshows/variety shows, and I am a huge fan of these types of shows in Chinese as well. It's really fun just seeing people talk and have fun.

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MBL

Is learning Chinese a Bubble? That depends how you see Chinese language, if you see the language as an investment, which can be compared to stocks, then you can argue wheter the "chinese language stock" is going to burst or not.

My perspective is a bit different, while i do see people interested in learning Chinese as "investing" their time in the language, I cant see the investment losing value. Obviously, you cannot measure the profit of your investments, not even if you try to compare different levels of HSK. Because, for me, and so many others, there is much more than characters and vocabulary included in learning chinese, there is also knowledge of history, philosophy, values and other ways of thinking, which you reap the fruits of in the end.

I agree that the hype for learning chinese has soared the last couple of years, an example is from our bachelor programmes at CBS, Copenhagen Business School, the requirements to enter Asian Studies Programme in Chinese went from E to B in just one year. What it meant in reality, is that since last year where every one got accepted, now houndreds of applicants got declined.

I am still not sure to which extend the media is to be blamed.

Again, from what I heard of those taking Chinese (combined with economy) as bachelor, a lot of students cannot keep up with the requirements, and does not finish, but instead change to other studies.

The bubble is there, and it will hit the mainstream. However, those who are fully aware of why they learn chinese and have plans to use it in their career, I doubt they will be affected.

Isnt that the case with economic bubbles as well? those who were wise, survived the bubbles, those who took chances and were riding the wave, lost.

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jono1001

I agree with you it is a bubble. However, one that many not burst for quite some time. Australia has gone through several fad language phases; French in the 60s, Indonesian in the 70s, Japanese in the 80s and 90s.....we haven't quite reached the "Let a thousand flowers bloom and all learn Mandarin" phase yet....but it is coming....I feel it in my bones.

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Meng Lelan

Japanese is still popular here in the States due to anime, manga, etc kids here grew up on Pokemon! Is that the case in Australia? Why do you feel that Australia is approaching the Mandarin phase? Just wondering.

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jono1001

Indeed Japanese is still very popular in some schools. Those with strong well established LOTE programs have survived.

There are a few things that lead me to believe that Australian education will soon be embracing or advocating learning Mandarin. At UQ there has been an increase in enrolments in languages. At this Uni. there was a 90% increase in undergraduates taking Chinese. The article admits this increase is going against reported national trends.

There are also schools such as WestMAC where Chinese is a compulsory subject in the junior school and students are encouraged to take Chinese and or Japanese in the middle and senior schools. There are several schools similar to this one where languages are valued.

The federal and state government funding for promoting languages comes and goes in waves. This funding is either exceptionally generous or non existent. We are now in the no funding for LOTE phase and are due for a splurge.

There is some current funding for teachers to re skill themselves in Asian Languages. Examples are here VIC DEET and UNE ALAP . So I am fairly confident that Chinese Mandarin will be the next best LOTE to teach / learn.

Is it a bubble? Yes unfortunately LOTE comes and goes in waves in Oz.

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Rudi

If you have fun learning Chinese Mandarin or any other language, it's not hard at all. Forcing yourself to do something just because it you may widen your career opportunities isn't the right thing to do if you don't enjoy it. I personally started learning Chinese Mandarin because I definitely thought it would open up more doors sometime in the future, given that I'm also an English and Arabic native speaker, those three languages could potentially be used all at once like in the Middle East, so that's something I'm hoping to do. Though I started to really enjoy learning the language the more I practised so it's definitely not something I'm doing just for financial purposes as it's probably my favourite hobby right now.

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Marakanka

Not sure where that bubble is supposed to be, but I havent seen it. In western Europe Chinese ranks way behind Latin, Ancient Greek, Hungarian, Czech, Russian or pretty much any other European language (except maybe Finish - but that would depend on the country) when it comes to courses offered in private language schools, high schools or universities. Japanese is still WAY more popular than Chinese, simply for the reason that it is offered at least in some highschools.

To pop that bubble you would need a very small needle....

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moncrieffalgy

I think as with most things in life, doing something just for the money is a pathway to misery. It'd be bordering on naivete to suggest everyone who learns Chinese should do so with a pure love of the language and the culture, of course, but I think at the very least you need some love of the language and the culture that extends beyond simply the financial returns you might gain from his language.

I won't add to the many excellent comments that have been made by earlier posters about how the answer also depends on your current station in life and where you're hoping to go from here.

What I'd like to add is this: That learning a language (in this case Chinese) will always be valuable because it allows you to make and deepen friendships. I don't mean this in a career sense, but on a more personal, day-to-day life sort of way. Case in point: Back when I was doing my compulsory military service, I was stationed at a small fishing pier on the border of my country from dawn to dusk. As my shift was winding to a close, I entered a conversation with a young Chinese migrant worker who happened also to be there. He was, if I recall correctly, on his day off and went to the pier because it reminded him of his fishing village back in China. He clearly wanted someone he could talk to, and I spent some time with him chatting but mostly listening to what he had to say about his family back home. Back then, my Mandarin was not as good, and I felt a keen pain that I could not always understand what he had to say or express myself as clearly as I would have wished. But at least there was a connection, and I'd like to think that when our conversation wound to a close I left him feeling a bit better. This could not have been possible if I had not known Mandarin.

I don't mean to suggest of course that you learn Mandarin just to talk to migrant Chinese workers. The point I'd like to make is a more general one: That even if the Chinese person you meet is proficient in English, the fact that you can also speak Mandarin is oftentimes a great way of breaking the ice and deepening the friendship. Oftentimes there's a sense of kinship that arises out of the fact that you speak his language. (The effect is even more pronounced when it comes to Cantonese, which unfortunately I cannot speak.) Add that to the fact that the growing numbers of Chinese people heading overseas will mean that you'll have ever more encounters to meet them. (Though it must be said, Chinese communities in overseas universities can frequently be a little insular.)

In a sense, then, I learn Mandarin both to meet new friends, and also to meet old friends in new ways. I'm a college student, and I suppose Mandarin will probably come in useful in some way in the future, but that's really not my primary motivation. Viewed in this way, I don't think learning Mandarin will ever be a "bubble", because it's got nothing to do with the rise and fall of financial markets.

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yialanliu

I believe the idea that without a huge investment in money, there can not be a bubble.

Thus from the tulip bubble to the recent housing bubble, it has always been about money for a good that can be relatively easy to exchange. Education is once consumed can't be given to someone else and cannot be hoarded.

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uvwxyz

I think it's safe to conclude this isn't a bubble, at least not a short-term one. Aren't all bubbles short-term by definition?

 

This thread has been started 7 years ago and the popularity of learning Chinese in some Western countries, mostly US, continues to grow. In a larger prospective, it's never been a bubble at all - the number of learning Mandarin simply increased from nearly zero to barely noticeable. Percentage-wise the increase looks huge, but in absolute numbers or compared to other languages/areas - nope.

 

I conjecture this increase is due to how China is slowly eclipsing, in the recent years, the US as the economic and innovation superpower. In one alternate reality, in 100 years, Mandarin, and not English, will be the first foreign language Europeans learn first. 

 

Even now, more and more American service personnel,一般来说各种各样服务员,learn Mandarin for reasons of promotion and higher salaries that being able to deal with rich mainland natives often brings. In fact, 大部分学习汉语的美国人都是因为这个原因学习的, from my observations. Plus China is still a relatively cheap destination, if one stays away from westernised parts of megapolises like Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong. Thus you get an increasing flow of retirees from USA - medicine is practically free in comparison to US, and they might need it!. The better one knows Mandarin, the further they can go outside the expat bubble. The further into the native habitat, the cheaper things get.

 

A quick browse of frequent / longterm posters on this forum supports this conclusion. There always are and will always be "strange" people playing with the language because of its inherent "otherness" plus the huge history and culture behind it, but these are only a few.

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RjMaan

Thanks for such a nice piece of information and i agree with most of your thoughts that Chinese language is difficult of learn. Well i thought every language is difficult to learn. As far as Chinese language is concern. The trend of learning Chinese language has been increased especially in Asia particularly in Pakistan due to CPEC.

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lakesandrivers

It is not a bubble if you are learning it for reasons beyond moola. This bubble talk is like high school all over again, when parents and students alike were frantically trying to figure out the next white-hot industry or field as career for the next 5, 10 or 20 years. Forecast of the future is a doomed venture, Nostradamus notwithstanding. Google had predecessors, for example Altavista. Nokia and RIM were giants until they were not. Besides, modern times have seen more of the working class having multiple careers in a lifetime, in step with prolonged longevity and advancements in science.

 

I am somewhat bilingual though lopsided. I want to blame circumstances but simultaneously feel that a blame game is infantile. I have a background in Mandarin and after postponing (but never stopped learning the language) the exam for so long, have decided this is the time to get HSK down pat. There will be no more excuses, with HSK exams practically held every fortnight in Shenyang. I remember the time when it was a mere annual event back in Singapore. And Mandarin will become part of the job, because I would not accept language as hindrance come Year 3-5 and Internship Year when communicating with patients, supervisors and hospital staff. I embrace Mandarin and it will become a part of me.

 

汉英双全

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Mannng

Interesting to read all these comments. 

Mandarin is certainly becoming a big deal in Australia, as it is now the #2 language in the country. Approximately 15% of the country can speak Mandarin as a 1st or 2nd language, and 3% of the entire population can ONLY speak Mandarin (presumably parents brought in on a family visa). 

Granted, our geographical proximity to Asia makes us a very different country to those in Europe or North America. But as Chinese wealth grows, I suspect the ex-pat population will only increase.

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Meng Lelan
On 3/13/2018 at 10:00 PM, uvwxyz said:

Thus you get an increasing flow of retirees from USA - medicine is practically free in comparison to US, and they might need it!. The better one knows Mandarin, the further they can go outside the expat bubble. The further into the native habitat, the cheaper things get.

 

Retirees? From the USA? Going into China for retirement? I wasn't aware of this.

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DavyJonesLocker
2 minutes ago, Meng Lelan said:

 

Retirees? From the USA? Going into China for retirement? I wasn't aware of this.

yes I met quite a few now. My class mate has been living  in China for 11 years. Moved after retirement at 65.

We still regularly meet up 

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carlo

Medicine is practically free? That's surprising. I'm told some cancer drugs are hard to come by, it's all out of pocket, and getting morphine prescriptions for terminal patients can be quite difficult. There's still this annoying cultural habit of giving red envelopes to surgeons etc (basically a non-transparent auction system where you're always stressing that you maybe didn't give enough to Dr X and so you're going to get the second-class treatment). Hospitals are packed and people queue up for days to see the best doctors or have to find friends in very high places to skip ahead.

 

I mean, I know there are some issues in the US, and I love being in China as long as I'm healthy and active, but if I were a retiree, I'd look into maybe Europe, Canada or Thailand.

 

Of course, if I had grown up in China, 落叶归根 and all, with a big family looking after me, I might consider it. But affordability and quality of health care are also important...

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Lu
8 hours ago, carlo said:

Medicine is practically free? That's surprising. I'm told some cancer drugs are hard to come by, it's all out of pocket, and getting morphine prescriptions for terminal patients can be quite difficult. There's still this annoying cultural habit of giving red envelopes to surgeons etc (basically a non-transparent auction system where you're always stressing that you maybe didn't give enough to Dr X and so you're going to get the second-class treatment). Hospitals are packed and people queue up for days to see the best doctors or have to find friends in very high places to skip ahead.

For sure the regular system is not too great and also not actually free, but I wonder if perhaps the comparison is between US hospitals and international hospitals in China. The international hospitals are pretty pricy in my Dutch eyes, but perhaps they are cheaper than American hospitals while still providing a decent quality of care?

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