After periodic perusing of a Mandarin-English dictionary/reference the last couple of weeks, I had an “ah-ha” moment today while reading more about Mandarin. In spite of the thousands of characters in the language, there are still some common aspects of the English language not included in Mandarin. For example, there are no definite articles like “a,” “an” and “the.” There are not as many varieties of pronouns as we use in English. Some English words have no Mandarin equivalent. What do you do then?
The “ah-ha” moment was in realizing that the broken English I have often heard from others for whom English is not their first language is not because they are doing a poor job necessarily of speaking English. They are likely doing an excellent job of translating what they would say in their native language, just without the English additions and constructions our complicated language uses. That realization made me immediately appreciate more the efforts of others to learn my language just as I hope some people this week appreciate my feeble attempts to learn a few basics in their language.
This realization causes me to want to hold off passing judgment on the efforts of others regarding learning my language. It is no small task to learn an entirely different language than what you grew up with, especially one that is different in characters, sentence constructions, parts of speech, the significance of tones in bringing meaning to words, and more.
It’s a good thing to know more than one language, so whether you are interested in doing so for the fun of it or due to a business or geographical need, go for it. If you only know one language, I suggest you dabble a little in learning another one. You might just find it fascinating and enlightening. If you have young children, start them at the task now. No age is too young.
Leap year lesson #111 is Learning another language is good for you.