Well, learning Chinese. My thoughts and ideas.
First let me tell one of the reasons I came to China was to learn a second language. I always wanted to speak something other than good ole English. So why not Chinese. If you going to go for totally crazy than yeah awesome.
My goals with learning Chinese are not unlike other goals I set for myself. Totally out there. I mean, I would like to be native. But really, I think the word native habors a little, well, born and raised aspect to it. But nontheless I would like to speak Chinese like a Chinese person. It’s going to take a bit but someday.
Will this benefit me, No. Kind of. Only in China. Maybe I could find a job outside of China where in I would need to speak Chinese but that would be rare. So I do plan on being here for a bit. If not to learn Chinese then to expand my perspective on life and all the philosophical Goobly gooby gook. All Chinese now have to study English in school and most suck at it. This means that really, English is going to take over.
These are from a blog I found a bit ago. The site is here.
Why Learning Chinese Could Be a Waste of Your Time
- Many Well Educated Chinese People Would Prefer to Speak to You in English – Even if your Mandarin is better than their English
- Little Applicable Value Outside of China - Most mid to upper level Chinese managers speak okay to great English. The only people you typically need Mandarin to communicate effectively with in a business environment is low level management. If you aren’t stationed in China, then, knowing Chinese won’t help you much in communicating with most Chinese companies.
- Possible Negative Market Value – To really be able to use your Mandarin, you’ll need to move to China, where you may have to take a large pay cut to get a job in which being fluent in Chinese would be an asset. This quote from the economist article linked above sums up things nicely:
Within China companies can hire an expatriate who speaks Chinese. Or, more often, they take their pick from an abundant supply of local graduates in English who are happy to work for 2,000 yuan (£130) a month. “I took an 80% pay cut to come here because I wanted to learn the language,” says Ken Schulz, a software engineer from Silicon Valley who studied Chinese full-time for four years at Beijing’s University of Language and now works in the capital at WorkSoft, an outsourcing firm. “I’m the only foreigner in an office of 1,200 people, and I hardly get any opportunity to use my Chinese.”
- Huge Opportunity Cost – To really learn Chinese well, including reading and writing, you need to spend years studying intensively. These are years in which you could learn several romance languages or another skill set or perhaps even a profession.
- Non-Negligible Maintenance Costs - Even though I speak Mandarin when dealing with customers, read a Chinese magazine / newspaper daily, watch a bit of TV, and speak almost exclusively in Mandarin with my girlfriend (and some friends), my Chinese skills are slipping. It takes a lot of effort just to maintain, nonetheless improve, your Chinese.
Do I Regret Learning Chinese?
No, but from a practical standpoint there are many things I could have done with my time to get into a better job and develop a skill-set that is worth more on the job market. Learning Chinese was a good move for many other reasons, just not the ones that have to do with making money or getting a better job.
The author above states some good opinions.
1. Yes I agree. However we are talking about international companies that at global. Big companies in China that do not need to be international probably do not speak English. Factories and such. But there are people, I’ve met them that want to speak English to you whatever it takes. You start speaking Chinese to them, they speak English to you. They want to prove that they are just as smart or smarter then you for speaking English. It becomes a war. I hate it, but it comes with being in a foreign country.
2. True. Think about it. Where the H would you need Mandarin outside China. Not many places. You have effectively cut out a good percentage of the world. Or have you. Maybe not. Who knows, no one really. But odds are that you are not going to be able to use your killer Mandarin skill outside of China.
3. Yeah kind of. This dude that came here to learn Chinese. Well, he probably didn’t have a job while he was learning it. I do, I may learn it slower, but I guess that I’ll have a paycheck. After learning Chinese your market value could go up, at least in China.
4. You could be doing better things than say, studying, and living in China. It takes time to learn and master during which you could learn how to make rockets that go to the moon. Either way.
5. This is probably going to be me. However, I do get a kick out of talking to random people on the street.
All and I enjoy learning something new. I’ve found out that I need new things to keep awake in life. In Chinese there is something new everyday.
If you want to drop everything and do something new, bail and get to China. Learn some Chinese.
If you want to really learn Chinese, you going to have to be here for a stint. 5 years, 8 years, who knows. But it’s going to be a bit. Long term commitment.
If you deal with China come here for a month then leave, and repeat. Yeah learn some Chinese. Basics. Bathroom, food, beer, hello, good morning, take off your clothes (kidding), daily things. I would spend the most time on studying the culture as a whole. The philosophy of Asians, China, and so fourth.
Being able to talk to a perspective business partner is important, but not as important as how he is screwing you because you haven’t read The Art of War, or know his negotiation tactics. In this case finding as much information on the thinking of the Chinese businessmen would be more important then studying about how to say you like his hair. Just my thoughts anyway.
Learn the customs, what not to say, do, gift giving, receiving, etc. Then after you got a handle on that, you can fill in with some more Chinese. Body language and actions are just as important as words. They will think you don’t know because you can’t speak Chinese. This could be an advantage.
There are a ton of sites out there to help. I like to pretend that I am smart and go to MIT. So there is a link to free Chinese course from MIT. HERE
Me, I just go for it. Why not. So as they say in China, 加油 or add gas, in other terms my Grandma would say, Light a fire and get a move on.