Thursday, 14 April 2016

"No one should be shy of learning Chinese"

Later: printed in the Financial Times 25 April, 2016, as above headline.

To the Financial Times:

I thought Jeremy Paxman's article a refreshingly robust case for English as the global language ("Voila!", April 8). He is spot on.
Another language that repays study is Chinese. I speak as one who learnt Mandarin Chinese, to interpreter level, as an adult. My mother tongue was Italian and I've spoken passable French and German in my time. So I agree with Alan Watson who says that knowledge of a "starter" European language is not a necessity for learning Chinese. (Letters 14 April).
 [Indeed it may well be a hindrance in learning a tonal language with ideographs, which nonetheless has a very simple grammar -- simpler than all European languages].
My point is this: that English is the global language. And Chinese is a hugely helpful language in most of Asia: China itself, of course, as well as Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, much of Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia.
No one should be shy to take on Chinese. It takes study, to be sure, but it repays that study in spades, from insights into "Asian values" to appreciation of the elegance of Classical Chinese calligraphy.
Yours, etc...

[Sent from Cathay Lounge, Hong Kong, on our way to Burma, sailing on the S/Y Dalinghoo]