Welcome to the MacNN Forums.

If this is your first visit, be sure to check out the FAQ by clicking the link above. You may have to register before you can post: click the register link above to proceed. To start viewing messages, select the forum that you want to visit from the selection below.

You are here: MacNN Forums > Community > MacNN Lounge > What new language should I learn?

What new language should I learn?
Thread Tools
Zeeb
Mac Elite
Join Date: Feb 2006
Location: Manhattan, NY
Status: Offline
Reply With Quote
Aug 18, 2008, 03:59 PM
 
I have an opportunity to take a series of language courses. I was thinking Mandarin. It seems like it would be interesting yet at the same time vaguely "marketable". Anyone have any experience learning Mandarin? I could practice in Chinatown!
     
design219
Professional Poster
Join Date: Oct 2004
Status: Offline
Reply With Quote
Aug 18, 2008, 04:05 PM
 
I would agree, Mandarin will be VERY marketable. Even if you don't ever go to China, it would be very cool to know.
__________________________________________________

My stupid iPhone game: Nesen Probe, it's rather old, annoying and pointless, but it's free.
Was free. Now it's gone. Never to be seen again.
Off to join its brother and sister apps that could not
keep up with the ever updating iOS. RIP Nesen Probe.
     
nonhuman
Posting Junkie
Join Date: Jun 2001
Location: Baltimore, MD
Status: Offline
Reply With Quote
Aug 18, 2008, 04:08 PM
 
I spent some time living in China and studied Mandarin while I was there (in addition to having to use it daily just to get by). It's a surprisingly simple language to learn, though, as always, the devil is in the details. Tones can be very difficult, depending on your background. I found that my background in music was helpful in hearing the tones (which many of my fellow students had a lot more trouble with), but that I'm not so good at reproducing them (which I suspect a singing background might help with). A lot of people are also frightened of by hanzi (the characters), but I find that, once you sort of wrap your brain around the concept, they're actually quite easy to learn. Another thing to consider is that a lot of Chinese people don't speak Mandarin. I don't know about NY's Chinatown, but in SF Cantonese is far more common. But if there's a large Mandarin speaking population near you that you could interact with without significantly altering your normal patterns, I'd say go for it. In my opinion the most important factor in learning a language well is to be able to use it on a day to day basis and not just when you're going out of your way to be in a position where it's useful.

The next languages on my list are Hebrew and either German or Brazilian Portuguese. Hebrew, because I'll be traveling to Israel in the near future (and also as a way of reconnecting with my roots), and either German or Portuguese because there's a possibility that my wife will be getting a job in the near future that could take us to either Germany or Brazil (plus I live in an area with a very large Brazilian population so I could use Portuguese anyway).
     
Zeeb  (op)
Mac Elite
Join Date: Feb 2006
Location: Manhattan, NY
Status: Offline
Reply With Quote
Aug 18, 2008, 04:17 PM
 
Mandarin it is then. I'm excited--it's been ages since I've been in a language class. How long did you study before being able to get by in China?
     
nonhuman
Posting Junkie
Join Date: Jun 2001
Location: Baltimore, MD
Status: Offline
Reply With Quote
Aug 18, 2008, 04:26 PM
 
Depends on what you mean by 'get by'. When I first when I knew, essentially, no Chinese. While there, the friend I was visiting (American teaching English) leant me an old phrase book he had from his first visit in high school. While he was off teaching during the day I would wander around the small city we were in (Huzhou) and, essentially, just try an experience life in China. I quickly discovered that the most important thing to know is your numbers. If you know your numbers you can buy things by pointing at them, and negotiate a price. (Also, just by knowing your numbers, you'll get an immediate reduction of the normal foreigner markup. The more Chinese you use, and the more varied your conversation with the shopkeeper is able to be, the greater the reduction.)

So I would say that you can 'get by' with nothing more than a decent proficiency in numbers. Of course you get very lonely very fast when your only form of interaction is financial. I would say that by the end of my first month in China (which was before I put in any formal study), I was proficient enough to actually get by and enjoy myself in China. In fact, when I finally did get around to taking classes I was proficient enough that I really should have been in the level 2 class which was mostly Overseas Chinese who had grown up using the language (in a limited manner) at home.
     
paul w
Mac Elite
Join Date: Feb 2005
Location: Vente: Achat
Status: Offline
Reply With Quote
Aug 18, 2008, 04:31 PM
 
I studied Mandarin briefly last year for a few months before I got too busy to keep up. Few hours a week.

It's really, really hard. I mean like I was punchy and in need of a stiff drink after the course. And I was one of the better students in the class. Generally, as a group we were kind of lost. The teacher did his best but it was just too intense.

Prior to that I'd been proud of my language skills and had generally had little to no trouble learning a language if I set myself to it. I think that there are some languages for us westerners that demand a bit more effort and concentration than casual learning can manage.
     
Zeeb  (op)
Mac Elite
Join Date: Feb 2006
Location: Manhattan, NY
Status: Offline
Reply With Quote
Aug 18, 2008, 04:40 PM
 
That's actually a good insight nonhuman--thank you. If I can get the numbers down in my first class perhaps I can negiotiate a better deal when I order General Tso's chicken for delivery--though I doubt it. I'm hoping that I can find some shopkeepers that speak Mandarin in our Chinatown--I'm counting on using that neighborhood to brush up my skills. It will also make it less scary to plan a trip to China someday(not that I'm afraid for my safety in China--just that I'd get hopelessly lost and unable to order lunch). The only question that remains is whether I take the class for credit or non-credit. I suppose it might be helpful to have this class on a transcript one day so credit is probably the way to go.
     
Andrew Stephens
Mac Elite
Join Date: Jan 2004
Status: Offline
Reply With Quote
Aug 18, 2008, 05:01 PM
 
the trouble with learning Mandarin (as a friend of mine found out, is the huge number of chinese people in most countries that can speak both the language of their home country AND mandarin, normally fat better than any new learner. This makes the skill pretty valueless.

Go for a party impressing African language, preferably one with loads of interesting clicks and whistles like Xhosa.
     
Randman
Posting Junkie
Join Date: Mar 2004
Location: MacNN database error. Please refresh your browser.
Status: Offline
Reply With Quote
Aug 18, 2008, 05:08 PM
 
Mandarin is very difficult. you won't do much by trying it in Chinatown. Unless you're going to an Asian country.

This is a computer-generated message and needs no signature.
     
analogika
Posting Junkie
Join Date: Feb 2005
Location: 888500128
Status: Offline
Reply With Quote
Aug 18, 2008, 05:12 PM
 
paging oísin.
     
paul w
Mac Elite
Join Date: Feb 2005
Location: Vente: Achat
Status: Offline
Reply With Quote
Aug 18, 2008, 05:14 PM
 
Originally Posted by Zeeb View Post
That's actually a good insight nonhuman--thank you. If I can get the numbers down in my first class perhaps I can negiotiate a better deal when I order General Tso's chicken for delivery--though I doubt it. I'm hoping that I can find some shopkeepers that speak Mandarin in our Chinatown--I'm counting on using that neighborhood to brush up my skills. It will also make it less scary to plan a trip to China someday(not that I'm afraid for my safety in China--just that I'd get hopelessly lost and unable to order lunch). The only question that remains is whether I take the class for credit or non-credit. I suppose it might be helpful to have this class on a transcript one day so credit is probably the way to go.
Yeah if you're in Brooklyn (holla!) they're more likely to speak Cantonese on the phone and the delivery guys fuxian(?). Cantonese is fun though as it has what 9 tones to Mandarin's 5.
     
PlacidTubs
Forum Regular
Join Date: Sep 2004
Location: Basingstoke, UK
Status: Offline
Reply With Quote
Aug 18, 2008, 05:21 PM
 
I'm currently on the lookout for a good evening school to learn Thai. My brother lives out there, and I plan on trying to visit him once a year, and it'd be nice to feel a bit less of a tourist.
     
Zeeb  (op)
Mac Elite
Join Date: Feb 2006
Location: Manhattan, NY
Status: Offline
Reply With Quote
Aug 18, 2008, 07:04 PM
 
Originally Posted by paul w View Post
Yeah if you're in Brooklyn (holla!) they're more likely to speak Cantonese on the phone and the delivery guys fuxian(?). Cantonese is fun though as it has what 9 tones to Mandarin's 5.
Darn, I was going to stroll into Chinatown in a few months and finally be able to understand all those insults hurled at me. For now, all I can understand are the insults hurled at me in my own neighborhood. sigh.

Nevertheless, I still think it will be fun. Might do non-credit after all though.
     
Mrjinglesusa
Professional Poster
Join Date: Feb 2002
Location: Why do you care?
Status: Offline
Reply With Quote
Aug 18, 2008, 10:36 PM
 
If you live in the US, I would think Spanish would be the most useful. I'm working on that (took it in high school years ago) and then on to French (took it in college).
2.3GHz i7 15" Retina Macbook Pro (Late 2013)
     
Oisín
Moderator Emeritus
Join Date: Mar 2004
Location: Copenhagen
Status: Offline
Reply With Quote
Aug 19, 2008, 02:49 AM
 
When I was in New York, I found Mandarin to be a lot less useful than it is here. Pretty much everywhere, the Huaqiao (Chinese people living overseas) were speaking Cantonese, Fujianese (i.e., Southern Min), Hakka, or some regiolect I couldn’t even identify.

I didn’t use it much in San Francisco, so I don’t really know what the layout is like there; but in Toronto, Mandarin seemed to be the lingua franca of the Chinese community, just as it is here, and ordering in Mandarin was an easy and natural thing to do (though for some reason, the waitress didn’t seem to find it nearly as natural as I did ).

the trouble with learning Mandarin (as a friend of mine found out, is the huge number of chinese people in most countries that can speak both the language of their home country AND mandarin, normally fat better than any new learner. This makes the skill pretty valueless.
Not at all true. There are lots of Chinese people here who speak both Danish and (some form of) Chinese fluently; but very, very few of them are interested in working in translation/interpreting or just doing work where their bilingualism is a direct force or advantage. Though I don’t use Mandarin much here, I’ve still found it a huge advantage, in many (and often unexpected) parts of life.

Also, if you go to China, you’re bound to be pretty much unique (though obviously less so with English as your native language). How many Chinese people living in China do you think speak Danish? Very few, I assure you.



All that said—Mandarin (or any other form of Chinese) is a very tough language to learn from a book. Having studied it a year at uni, I was barely able to put together a simple sentence and keep up the easiest of conversations. It’s just so different. Once I’d been in Beijing for about half a year studying it there, though, I was blabbering away like a madman (literally; people often thought I was quite mad, though that may not have anything to do with the fact that I was blabbering in Chinese).

To learn a language as fundamentally different, not only in grammar, structure, and vocabulary, but also in underlying thought processes and perception of logic and order, it’s absolutely vital to spend time—and lots of it—in a place where you’re forced to interact with actual people around you in that language. Otherwise, you’ll only ever learn Babelfish Mandarin.
     
BadKosh
Professional Poster
Join Date: Aug 2007
Location: Just west of DC.
Status: Offline
Reply With Quote
Aug 19, 2008, 05:39 AM
 
Cobol.
     
Monique
Mac Elite
Join Date: Oct 2000
Location: back home
Status: Offline
Reply With Quote
Aug 19, 2008, 07:57 AM
 
Since you are not going to live in China Mandarin would be fun to learn and as you say it would a language you would be able to practice in Chinatown; now if you are going to live in China Cantonese would make more sense.
     
Andy8
Mac Elite
Join Date: Apr 2003
Location: Hong Kong
Status: Offline
Reply With Quote
Aug 19, 2008, 08:02 AM
 
Originally Posted by Monique View Post
now if you are going to live in China Cantonese would make more sense.
If your living in Hong Kong or parts of Guangdong province only perhaps, where they actually speak Cantonese.
     
Monique
Mac Elite
Join Date: Oct 2000
Location: back home
Status: Offline
Reply With Quote
Aug 19, 2008, 08:20 AM
 
Originally Posted by Andy8 View Post
If your living in Hong Kong or parts of Guangdong province only perhaps, where they actually speak Cantonese.
So what do they speak in China? That should be the language he is going for if he is going to move to China or do business with the Chinese.
     
Meneldil
Dedicated MacNNer
Join Date: Jul 2002
Location: Singapore
Status: Offline
Reply With Quote
Aug 19, 2008, 08:28 AM
 
Originally Posted by Monique View Post
So what do they speak in China? That should be the language he is going for if he is going to move to China or do business with the Chinese.
Putonghua, a type of Mandarin, is the official language for the PRC. There are loads of dialects such as Cantonese, Shanghainese, Hokkien, etc. but if you want to get around in China (and most other countries with large Chinese populations) Mandarin is what you want.
--
     
analogika
Posting Junkie
Join Date: Feb 2005
Location: 888500128
Status: Offline
Reply With Quote
Aug 19, 2008, 08:28 AM
 
Originally Posted by Monique View Post
So what do they speak in China? That should be the language he is going for if he is going to move to China or do business with the Chinese.
Um, Mandarin?
     
moep
Senior User
Join Date: Nov 2003
Status: Offline
Reply With Quote
Aug 19, 2008, 03:44 PM
 
Kind of related: http://www.livemocha.com/

I found that page a few weeks ago but didn’t want to open a new thread for it.
It’s obviously no replacement for a real education or living in a different country but the idea is very cool and it seems to work. Maybe you can use it to get an idea of the language before you sign up for the courses.
"The road to success is dotted with the most tempting parking spaces."
     
nonhuman
Posting Junkie
Join Date: Jun 2001
Location: Baltimore, MD
Status: Offline
Reply With Quote
Aug 19, 2008, 03:49 PM
 
Ooh cool, I may have to use that to practice my other languages!
     
imitchellg5
Posting Junkie
Join Date: Jan 2006
Location: Washington + Colorado
Status: Offline
Reply With Quote
Aug 19, 2008, 05:37 PM
 
Oh hai. U shud lern lolcat. Srsly.
     
wataru
Addicted to MacNN
Join Date: Oct 2001
Location: Yokohama, Japan
Status: Offline
Reply With Quote
Aug 20, 2008, 09:25 AM
 
Igpay Atinlay.
     
Don Pickett
Professional Poster
Join Date: Mar 2000
Location: New York, NY, USA
Status: Offline
Reply With Quote
Aug 20, 2008, 09:54 AM
 
Basque.
The era of anthropomorphizing hardware is over.
     
nredman
Addicted to MacNN
Join Date: Jul 2002
Location: Minnesota - Twins Territory
Status: Offline
Reply With Quote
Aug 20, 2008, 09:55 AM
 
i'd love to learn a new language but i butcher the english language on a daily basis so i should probably relearn that first.

"I'm for anything that gets you through the night, be it prayer, tranquilizers, or a bottle of Jack Daniel's."
     
Oisín
Moderator Emeritus
Join Date: Mar 2004
Location: Copenhagen
Status: Offline
Reply With Quote
Aug 20, 2008, 10:05 AM
 
Originally Posted by Don Pickett View Post
Basque.
I’d love to learn Basque—except that I tend to experience a greater-than-usual amount of brainfarts and brain-BSODs when trying to learn ergative languages. Silly construction.
     
Sherman Homan
Mac Elite
Join Date: Sep 2006
Status: Offline
Reply With Quote
Aug 20, 2008, 10:13 AM
 
Spanish
Mandarin
C++
(not necessarily in that order!)
     
Mithras
Professional Poster
Join Date: Oct 1999
Location: :ИOITAↃO⅃
Status: Offline
Reply With Quote
Aug 20, 2008, 10:13 AM
 
You should learn Objective C.
     
TheWOAT
Grizzled Veteran
Join Date: Jan 2006
Status: Offline
Reply With Quote
Aug 20, 2008, 12:18 PM
 
English.
     
   
Thread Tools
 
Forum Links
Forum Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts
BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Top
Privacy Policy
All times are GMT -4. The time now is 11:24 PM.
All contents of these forums © 1995-2017 MacNN. All rights reserved.
Branding + Design: www.gesamtbild.com
vBulletin v.3.8.8 © 2000-2017, Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd.,