Saturday, February 17, 2018

Chinese Learning Update

Here's a graph of the number of hours I've spent per month listening to Chinese lessons. I started with Pimsleur quite a few months before I began tracking this info, so this is an incomplete record. Including the missing period, I think I've spent about 360 hours on Chinese listening comprehension. So far in February I've maintained the January pace, about 1.5 hours per day. 



I've noticed that when I hear something falling off my desk or when I turn on the water in the kitchen and the tap "coughs", for a second I interpret these sounds as Chinese words. This never happened to me while I was learning to understand spoken English, Spanish or French.

One of the most accomplished polyglots living today is a Slovak man named Vladimir Stultety. This is from his blog:

"I honestly have to say that I have never had to learn anything more difficult than Chinese and that maybe it is the only real foreign language I have ever learned." 

I concur.

Did I learn anything new about China itself during this period? Well, one of the lessons was about bicycles, and they mentioned that their theft is a problem there. I was surprised because if your bike is stolen in New York, the probability of the thief being Chinese is roughly 0%. Of course that made me recall that there were no bike locks in the USSR, and that bikes were never stolen there.

I guess in a multiracial society the Chinese always end up filling higher economic niches than petty theft. I remember seeing white American cleaning ladies in far, deep upstate New York. That felt so weird, but it makes sense. There's nobody else around there, and that niche has to be filled by someone.  

While watching a talk by Victor Mair on YouTube I learned that English-speaking Sinologists pronounce the first part of the name of their profession like "sign", and not like "sin".  

I also learned that Sinology has a Bible, and that it was written by an eccentric Englishman named Endymion Wilkinson. I downloaded this work through my Pleco app and browsed it a little. I think one should know something about Chinese history before trying to read it all the way through. Maybe after I read a few volumes of the Cambridge History of China.

I remember arguing with a guy on IRC, perhaps around the year 2000, about whether or not Chinese will ever replace English as the world's lingua franca. I was saying that it will, but in the back of my mind I thought "maybe that guy is right, maybe the Chinese aren't really capable of that kind of cultural pull on Westerners, no matter how much money they make."

Well, when Trump visited China, Ivanka's daughter Arabella became a sensation there for speaking Chinese to president Xi. I'm assuming she attends one of those schools with a heavy emphasis on Mandarin.

Does Ivanka have any motivations in life besides being fashionable? And she has more resources to throw at her desires than 99.9% of women with the same psychological makeup.

Doesn't mean it will happen. Technology may intervene. But it's not impossible.


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