Sunday, 31 July 2016

No one should be shy of learning Chinese

Came across my letter to the Financial Times, by accident:
No one should be shy of learning Chinese
APRIL 25, 2016
Sir, I thought Jeremy Paxman’s article a refreshingly robust case for English as the global language (“VoilĂ  — a winner in the battle of global tongues”, 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 (Letters, April 14) who says that knowledge of a “starter” European language is not a necessity for learning Chinese. 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.
Peter Forsythe
Discovery Bay, Hong Kong