Why learn Chinese?

August 24th, 2008

[Update: June 2009]

I originally had a list of bullet points on this page highlighting the cultural insight or potential economic benefits learning Chinese can bring. But after being in Shanghai for about half a year now, I realize that the main reason I like studying Chinese is that it is so different from any language I already know. Even Japanese has many, many English (and Portuguese, and German) loan words. If you don’t know the Japanese word for something, you can quite often just say the English word with a Japanese accent and you will be right. This applies for simple words like “door” and “service” and to specialized terminology from the domains of finance and computer science.

Chinese doesn’t really offer any clues to a native English speaker, so everything you come to understand without having explicitly learned it is a kind of pure revelation. I think that’s what I really like about learning this language. Now that I have a foundation, I am looking forward to some more travel to see how much I can build on it.

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