Why do people learn a new language and why I am learning Chinese

Written by youth   Jun 19, 2017   Read:531


Why do people learn a new language


and why I am learning Chinese


Why do people learn a new language?


Tiān kōng shì lán sè de.


A couple of months ago, I found myself suddenly awash in a lot of extra time, i.e. unemployed. Since idle hands make the devil’s work and all, I thought it would be a great time to take a Mandarin class. It was good for me to get out of the apartment, meet new people, and have something positive to look forward to every week while I looked for a new job.




Admittedly, part of me wasn’t sure if it would last beyond one or two levels. When I first moved to Canada (Ottawa, to be precise), I briefly dabbled in learning French, but I quickly gave it up, partly as a result of my militant, proselytising Separatist French instructor.

Given the bilingual nature of good jobs in Ottawa, I found it difficult to fight for the jobs I really wanted there, because I didn’t speak French. Even though bilingualism in Vancouver is not really an issue, I have no intention of making the same mistake twice. The French language isn’t prevalent here, but Chinese dialects are. I found the following from the 2006 census:


Greater Vancouver population: 2,116,581

Cantonese-speakers: 125,940

Mandarin-speakers: 120,205

Chinese, n.o.s. speakers: 69,265




315,410 people. That means that in 2006, almost 15% of residents in the Greater Vancouver area spoke some dialect of Chinese language. I’ve heard, but have no reliable source to confirm it, that that number is now closer to, if not exceeds, 20%. The connections between people in Vancouver and people all over Asia are numerous and complex, and as a forward-thinking person, I am not content to set myself up for success in only one city or country, or even one continent. “Unwise that would be,” I imagine Yoda would say.


There are lots of reasons to learn a foreign language, not just related to business and employment. In my first Mandarin class, there were a number of reasons for learning Mandarin represented. Two ladies spoke Cantonese, one lady spoke Korean, and one man spoke Japanese, and they all wanted to add Mandarin. One woman was preparing for an upcoming vacation to Shanghai. Two younger ladies had numerous Chinese friends and wanted to be able to communicate with them better. One acquaintance of mine is attracted to Asian women, and while I don’t think I’ll ever be able to verify this, I think he began learning Mandarin to pick up women. Fair enough. Sex is fun.



So, why am I learning a new language?


Then there’s me. Escapism? Yes. More employable? Yes. Need stimulation? Yes. Need a challenge? Yes. Promote health? Yes. The thought of being a rare Mandarin-speaking white girl? Yes. (Granted, I do not enjoy the attention of the masses, but in certain contexts, I’m all over it.) Do I have multilayered reasons for wanting to learn Mandarin? Yes. I’m sure this is the case with the others as well, but we all need our secrets. ;)




Will learning a new language stick on me this time? Most definitely. Not only have I taken a beginner’s class in Mandarin at a community centre, but I’m also taking it at a local college and practicing using Rosetta Stone, as well. I watch Mandarin news on tv, pretend to read news in Chinese on the Internet, read about learning Mandarin on various blogs and occasionally listen to Mandarin music on YouTube. I’m at stage two of learning Chinese, according to John Pasden at sinosplice.com.


I’m not prepared to lie on my resume about speaking Chinese, but clearly, I’m a badass because I can say “the sky is blue” in Mandarin.

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