chinese: the next international language?

Damian   Thursday, June 10, 2004, 16:40 GMT
Chinese would be a major challenge...learning all those characters. As with most things, I guess it would turn out to be easier in the long run than at first sight. I cannot even begin to imagine starting to learn all the rules of a language like Chinese or Japanese or Korean...etc
vincent   Thursday, June 10, 2004, 18:10 GMT
But THEY (chinese,korean, japanese people) have to do so with your language.It's as difficult for them to learn english than for ye to learn japanese. Life is unfair...
Dulcinea del Toboso   Thursday, June 10, 2004, 19:04 GMT
Paul, who will be reading English in this phonetic alphabet? I don't understand the intended audience.

Let's suppose people from China choose to use it. Are they not doing themselves a disservice by reading the language in a form that is different than that used by the entire English speaking world? They would not be able to travel to North America, the UK, Australia, New Zealand, etc. and read what is written there. If they write in the phonetic alphabet, then they are constantly relying on software to translate it into a form that the rest of us can recognize. I suppose that is ok if you want to constantly rely on software for every bit of communication everywhere.

Perhaps I completely misunderstand, but I see these efforts as futile.
Paul   Friday, June 11, 2004, 14:45 GMT
Hi Vincent
I don't accept that all languages are inherently equally different to learn.
Obviously, Esperanto is easier to learn to speak and write than Chinese.
It takes the average Chinese student 8 to 10 years of intensive schooling to become functionally literate. Students in Japan find the work so difficult that sometimes suicide is attempted.

Has anybody done any work access the inherent difficulty to learn these languages fully, for native and foreign speakers.

Obviously, every child will learn to speak and understand any language from its mother or just by being exposed to speech and through interaction. But also obviously Literacy and Second Language learning are not learned with intensive directed teaching. And different languages take more time.

Paul   Friday, June 11, 2004, 15:03 GMT
Hi Dulcinea del Toboso

Let's suppose that people from China choose to use a phonetic English Alphabet

They are not doing themselves a disservice by reading another language in whatever form they can manage. Reading is an individual activity, not a participatory activity.
They still get the benefit of getting usefull information.

Secondly, say they do travel
to North America, the UK, Australia, New Zealand, and try to speak with people using the pronunciation derived from a Phonetic English Alphabet.
Hey, they probably will be understood. That is a good thing.

They may be at a slight disadvantage reading, but they can ask an English speaker what does that say, write it down phonetically, and decipher it at their leisure, whatever is written there.

If they write in the phonetic alphabet, they can read it and resay it whenever needed. They provided their own language interface, when they are traveling.

And if they need to make up a complicate written document they can just go into any Internet Cafe, type it up and print it off with standard spelling.

In the future people may carry Digital Assistants to do some of this work, but you should realize a phonetic transcription is still useful without a computer. We can learn to translate it ourselves.
Why would only foreigners know a phonetic alphabet?

Regards, Paul V.
Paul   Friday, June 11, 2004, 15:06 GMT
I guess that we should all know, that languages are normally learned first vocally and only with difficulty through strictly a written medium.

Anybody here learn English, strictly through books?

Regards, Paul V.
Dulcinea del Toboso   Saturday, June 12, 2004, 01:03 GMT

I suppose the situation you describe isn't much different than Westerners who learn Chinese by first starting with the Roman alphabet for Chinese words.

Just for an example only, I could probably learn Chinese faster using Romanized spelling, as the prospect of learning both the new words (the sound) and also trying to associate that sound with the traditionally written Chinese character is daunting.

Eventually, however, I would want to learn the Chinese characters so that I would not be at a disadvantage should I travel there, but also because I believe the written language is part of the culture of the people who speak that language.
Paul   Monday, June 14, 2004, 14:02 GMT
Hello Dulcinea del Toboso

We should learn every new language with all the tools at our disposal.
We should not minimize the work involved or limit ourselves to that which is politically correct.
I have a personal preference for Phonetic Alphabets,
Thank goodness I was lucky to learn English as a child in Western Canada, from well educated parents.

We don't realize the comparative ease of learning language as a child until we are compelled to do it as an adult.
All these Head-start programs should concentrate on 2d Language learning.

Say, maybe they have and nobody noticed. That could be why these kids are so successful in school later in their education?

Regards, Paul V.
Paul   Tuesday, June 15, 2004, 15:00 GMT
Are we finished? Can we close this post?
Oliver   Tuesday, June 15, 2004, 15:05 GMT
Paul. I think you are forgetting the Technological Solution.
Using a modern Chinese word processor, (i.e. NJSTAR) you can type in English or Mandarin Pinyin and have ideographs show up on screen. They use a simplified vocabulary of 7000 signs and frequency tables to optimize their writing. See
Dutch   Tuesday, June 15, 2004, 15:20 GMT
Chinese can very easily be the next international language. As long the idiot multiculturalists in the world have their way all it takes is for a small percentage of China's population to emigrate to, lets say, England, thereby making a dramatic change in the economic, political and social climate of the country. Large sections of England would seem like a foreign country to the British citizen, where a different language is spoken, different system of writing is utilized, etc... Go to parts of New York where you would not even have to know english to get around, all you need is to know spanish.
Paul   Tuesday, June 15, 2004, 17:05 GMT
Ethic Ghettos of NYC are a local anomaly.
It only seems significant, because the local "news" people who feed into the Networks are too lazy outside Manhattan to travel to show off the real america.
Oliver   Tuesday, June 15, 2004, 17:07 GMT

Outside Manhattan should go after the word 'TRAVEL'
Dulcinea del Toboso   Tuesday, June 15, 2004, 18:37 GMT
Consider the vast expansion of Spanish through the west and southwest U.S.. It is possible to travel from Texas, through New Mexico and Arizona, then up through California all the way to central Oregon and hear only Spanish on the radio (yes, you can hear English, too, but if you wanted to hear only Spanish on that trip, you can). This is possible only because there is a sizeable enough poplulation that has come to the U.S. from Mexico and other Spanish speaking countries to support it.

I would say the number of Spanish speaking broadcasts on AM radio in California is easily 50% and in some places 100%. Even in Oregon, there are good sized towns where you see very little English and lots of Spanish.

For the Chinese to spread their influence and language, not only would China's emigration policy have to change, but the immigration policy of other nations would have to change also.
Paul   Wednesday, June 16, 2004, 18:28 GMT
We have a number of chinese radio stations in Toronto.
The Chinese have lots of influence here and Vancouver. Lesser extent in some other large Canadian cities

Remember the spanish were in those area of the U.S. before English American. They just have not as yet been absorbed into the Melting pot.
Constant new immigration keeps the language alive and vibrant.