Saturday, May 22, 2010

Studying Mandarin

Working at the Census, my inclination to learn another language has been reinforced tenfold. I have always believed that those who speak more then one language have a benefit, a profound natural understanding of a variety of cultures, especially if they were raised bilingual. Not that I am any closer to having children, but I have always wanted to raise my kids bilingual. Unfortunately, both my boyfriend and I are failed Spanish students who have retained almost nothing from generic high school programs. Beyond that, I attempted Italian during my sophomore year of undergrad but never really immersed myself in it.

Living in Los Angeles is a constant reminder that I do not have the added language skills I wish I did. My friend Jane is Taiwanese and speaks both Mandarin and Taiwanese. At the census, it has been practically a requirement to have additional language skills, especially Spanish or Armenian, as I live in a highly Armenian area. I find it totally charming and fascinating, and as I begin to think about my internship next summer (premature, I know), I am trying to decide what language to learn. Ideally, I would like to be in Hong Kong, which I know speaks Cantonese, however, a girl I work with at the census from Hong Kong said that Mandarin is quickly becoming the Asian business language of choice and it would behoove me to learn that opposed to Cantonese. Also, the idea of learning 9 tones versus 4 (something I have come to discover as a big difference between the two languages) seems wildly overwhelming. My friend Jane gave me an example of 4 tones, and I could honestly barely tell the difference.

So, in an effort to begin expanding my repertoire early and get a jump on potential internship opportunities in Hong Kong, I will be learning Mandarin. Oddly enough, my boyfriend has expressed interest in doing this with me. As shocking as it may be, I might be able to raise my kids bilingual after all. Fingers crossed!

By the way, any help or advice as how to go about learning Mandarin would be greatly appreciated! I am looking forward to speaking with my Mandarin-speaking classmates as well!

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