chinese: the next international language?

Axel   Wednesday, May 19, 2004, 14:08 GMT
Of course there are languages easier than other, but it doesn't mean languages aren't equal! You know, once again (I think I wrote this millions times!) it is very subjective point of view. If you believe a language is quite simple doesn't mean you don't like it!
Moreover, as wrote Vincent, "english is as difficult -for asian people- as chinese for us". Then why shouldn't we learn Chinese??
I just would like to add that nothing is done for eternity: I mean English is the main international language nowadays, no one can deny it. But nothing says it will be the same at the end of this century.
I am not writing that I believe Chinese will be the next main international language: in fact I don't know... and nobody knows! I just want to say that what is true today could be false tomorrow.
endie   Wednesday, May 19, 2004, 15:27 GMT
Ok, I can agree that all languages are quite equal and it maybe easier for Japanese to learn Chinese but look, you forgot about my other point - English has already given birth to a good load of mass cultural products (films, books, operas). Now please could you give me at least some good examples of Chinese cultural products which can be "edible" by European and American and African audiences. China is still producing culture for internal use and not for export. English is so widespread courtesy not only to economics but also to a grand dominance of Anglo-American culture in the world. Swedes and Norwegians watch films in the original. Their TV channels don't dub flicks like Germans do. Many other nations have it like Scandinavians. People watch movies in English, read news in English and etc.
And damn, I do like it like that! EU is already enjoying a fast spread of English over the bureaucratic offices of Brussels and the tendency will remain. My big dream is a transatlantic union between USA, Canada, EU, Australia, NZ and whoever else will join in. Guess which language would be official??? :-))
Ryan   Wednesday, May 19, 2004, 15:35 GMT
Why would it be easier for Japanese people to learn Chinese? They are in completely different language families, although it would be easier for a Japanese person to read Chinese due to the "borrowing" that the Japanese did many years ago of Chinese characters.
endie   Wednesday, May 19, 2004, 16:09 GMT
I wouldn't argue with that. Guess these days Japanese would prefer to learn English. More to say, English mass culture is all through in Japan!
Juan   Wednesday, May 19, 2004, 23:50 GMT
Yeah, why not?

There is a lot of ding dings, dong dongs, ching chings, chong chongs etc. It would be a fun language to learn!
Zhongguoren   Thursday, May 20, 2004, 06:05 GMT
No, Chinese isn't at all similar to "ding ding, dong dong, ching ching, chong chong" but it does sound like that when laowai (foreigners) try to speak it.

Yes, learning the Chinese characters is very difficult. Maybe the Chinese writing system should be reformed and we should write it using a modified form of hiragana and kana (or maybe Hangul) instead.
Chilli   Thursday, May 20, 2004, 15:18 GMT
It's not a madly insane idea. Especially considering that a while ago, the superpower of the world was that little Mongolian chap, Mr. G. Khan who rode everywhere with his armies and took over most of one of the biggest continents on the planet, which I am guessing would have made made Mongolian the spoken language.

I think afterwards the British took over (which made British English the language to speak), then the Germans had a good go at it, then the Americans took over (so now American English is the lingua franca), and who knows which country will be next? I doubt we shall live to see it.
Paul   Thursday, May 20, 2004, 16:30 GMT
You guys are all missing the point.

Putonghua or Mandarin Chinese has 1 Billion fluent speakers, but less than 150 Million fluent Writers. A language which has a writing system that is so difficult to write, that it takes 10 years of intensive schooling to become barely reading literate and only the scholars (Mandarins) become writing literate, will never become a pre-eminent world language. In our modern world you need a writing system that works simply with computers. Talk to the chinese about all the hoops that they have to jump through to use a word processor, and you will realize the fatal flaw of the Chinese Language.

Japan had to develop 2 alternate Syllabic Alphabets (HiraKana, KataKana) in order to overcome the limitations of the Chinese system of writing.
China has attempted a simplification of the writing system, but it is still horribly clumbersome, and they have yet to develop a useful accepted Syllabic Alphabet. They are way behind the Japanese in this aspect.
And their systems of Romanization are inadequate, clumbersome and unaccepted by the People of China. They are stuck.

Regards, Paul V.
Oliver   Thursday, May 20, 2004, 16:32 GMT
The Roman Alphabet with Diacritics is a ridiculously poor fit for a the Tone Based Chinese Language. Why did they limit themselves to just 26 letters?
Ryan   Friday, May 21, 2004, 01:55 GMT
Good voice recognition software would eliminate the typing problem, but that would make Chinese-speaking offices awfully loud places...
Zhongguoren   Friday, May 21, 2004, 08:16 GMT
When we are writing romanised Chinese, we use accents (four of them) to represent the tones, so that's no problem- minus one for Oliver. However, I cannot imput two of the accents on the computer, so go blame Microsoft.

What is really cumbersome about Pinyin romanisation is that there are so many homonyms in Chinese that cannot be accurately represented by a simple phonetic alphabet. This problem can be solved to a certain extent if some official Chinese Academy sets a standard on how words should be grouped in pinyin, as most Chinese words are compounds. Probably there is a standard, but I don't know about it.

Actually, Pinyin romanisation IS ACCEPTED by the people of China, at least by the people in the cities (1/3 of population= 400 million people, more than the population of the US). In schools here in Beijing, children learn Chinese characters using the romanisations. So, a minus one for Paul on that one.
Paul   Friday, May 21, 2004, 14:32 GMT
Hi Zhongguoren

I agree that China has made an amazing attempt to bring literacy to the entire population, even women, since the rise of the Communists after
World War II. The Pinyin romanization of Chinese, gives a rough phonetic transcription of just the Chinese pronounced with the Beijing Dialect. For the rest of people in China to make use of Pinyin, they first have to be fully conversant in Putonghua or Mandarin Chinese.

There has been serious efforts made to give all students an education in Putonghua or Mandarin Chinese as well as their local Chinese Language.
There have been serious efforts made to encourage everyone in China to use Putonghua or Mandarin Chinese in their businesses and in normal life.
This has been less successful in the outskirts of China and in the rural areas.
But n the cities as you point out, where the more educated people live, there has been much success in giving children an education that teaches them the standard Putonghua or Mandarin Chinese.

But this is still the long way around to Literacy. Full Literacy is not a given for a Chinese citizen. Perhaps it is not now the exclusive privilege of elite civil servants and royalty as it was historically, but as Zhongguoren suggests it
is much more common in the cities and the North where Putonghua or Mandarin Chinese is the mother tongue.

Take a look at, and you will see there have been a number of attempts to improve the Chinese Characters to make them easier to write.
And there have been a number of different attempts to make a more practical writing system for Chinese to little avail, with the qualified exception of hanyu pinyan.

Essentually, in order for the the educated Chinese person to write something, he has to type in a romanization of the chinese character,
and then he has to select from a pull down menu of one of the matching Chinese Characters, the one that represents what he is actually trying to say.
Essentially, he is needs to know two distinctly different writing systems.
Thank goodness the Computer Program can prompt him.

This may not be a plus for me, but it is a definate negative for the Chinese Language.

Regards, Paul V.

P.S. I thought Putonghua or Mandarin Chinese only had 5 tones or 4 tones and a neutral or unmarked tone. This should only require 4 dicritics.
Perhaps you are writing in the Cantonese pronunciation.
al tariq   Saturday, May 22, 2004, 08:12 GMT
next world language will be arab
Zhongguoren   Saturday, May 22, 2004, 18:43 GMT
Yes, Putonghua has 5 tones. The neutral tone doesn't have an accent. What I meant was that two of the four accented tones cannot be typed on the computer.

Also, if you only consider the urban population of China, that's already a very large number! One third of China's population is urban and that's 400 million, around the same as the sum of the populations of the US, UK, Canada, Australia, and new Zealand! And you can compare the 600 million Putonghua speakers in the countryside and additional 200 million Putonghua-as-a-second-dialect speakers with the English-as-a-second-language speakers in various parts of the world. Maybe Putonghua isn't international yet but if you check the statistics, it has much more native speakers than English and even if only a fifth of them (200 million?) can write fluently, that's still a lot of people!

Arabic will also be an international language but to a lesser extent than Chinese. I think in 2050, English= int'l language no. 1, Chinese= int'l language no. 2, Spanish= int'l language no. 3, Arab= int'l language no. 4. French, Japanese, and Russian will be out of the game.
Zhongguoren   Saturday, May 22, 2004, 18:48 GMT
Hello Paul,

Sorry I forgot to address you in above post. Anyway, thanks for your reply.

So, basically, what I'm trying to say is that everyone must remember China is a large country and 30%, 20%, and even only 10% of its population is still a large number. For instance, only 4% of China's population has internet access but because of its large population, China ranks number 2 in the whole world for the number of people on the web. Same thing applies to language.