More than 12 months ago I left China, closing a 5.5-year chapter of life in Shanghai. I abandoned almost all things China-related as I focused on getting my head around the US, another foreign country to me. Recently, though, I started up Chinese lessons again. This has prompted me to look at my motivations to learn this language, and why they remain.
Hopefully some of the reasons I’m listing below help reinforce your own motivations to learn this incredible language!
I am a sucker for a challenge
I am not a natural linguist and I dreaded French class at school; I’m proof that anyone with the right attitude can succeed to some level with Chinese. Nevertheless, to learn Mandarin requires focus, commitment and sustained effort. You have to stumble and make mistakes in order to progress. Chinese keeps us humble and gives us a life-long opportunity to improve, in a way that our day jobs or sports do not.
China’s kinda a big deal
It was reported that China has taken over the US as the world’s largest economy in its purchasing power. Surely it’s foolish not to stay engaged and informed on what’s happening in the country, both from the perspectives of the west and from within the PRC? I also want to do my small part in helping reduce ignorance and prejudice, of which there is plenty in the west, by understanding the language and culture of China.
Those moments of “ahaaa!” are pretty darn special
Chinese people, especially those outside big cities, are so hospitable and friendly. They love to talk with foreigners so even if they may giggle out of awkwardness (disconcerting at first), they’ll usually encourage you along with your broken Chinese. When the language clicks and you successfully converse using that new grammar pattern or phrase, it’s a wonderful feeling! Studying Mandarin, and connecting with those you’d have no way to otherwise, is enormously gratifying.
Chinese makes me more assertive
Living in China forced me to be more direct, assertive, and specific in my communications. How else was I going to get the attention of the waiters, or work effectively with colleagues who’d tend not to ask questions even when they didn’t fully understand me?! I don’t think shouting across a restaurant to get the bill is going to help much in L.A., but I do think I should probably tap into that assertiveness more often.I
It makes us smarter
Bilingualism and the study of another language are known to improve our memories, our problem-solving abilities, and our skills of perception, according to the research. It staves off Alzheimer’s and dementia too. So it’s time to dust off those flashcards, and think of all the good we’re doing for our brains!
I’d love to hear YOUR reasons for learning Chinese, especially if you consider them to be a little unusual.
(Post by Sarah Soulié)