What to Learn?

For those of you who love to travel as much as Curzon, Younghusband and I, you’ve surely already learned or thought about learning a foreign language to ease your way through the world. Yet, with so many languages and around 200 countries, where do you begin? I speak German and English with bits of Spanish, Serbo-Croat and Arabic. Curzon and Younghusband both speak English, Japanese and bits of other things like Chinese. Yet, if we leave interest aside and speak on a practical level, where will you get the most bang for your buck in terms of foreign languages? ComingAnarchy tells you…

There are a number of ways to rank languages, but I’m concentrating on practicality, thus though Chinese speakers outnumber speakers of everything else, it’s not necessarily a practical language to learn (yet).

1) English – This is a no brainer. Spoken by the US, Canada, UK, NZ, Australia, South Africa and others. English is the #1 second language throughout the world and the lingua franca of the 21st century. If you don’t speak English, don’t leave your home.

2) Spanish – Spoken by over 350 million people (natively) in 20 countries, all of which also have a high birth rate, Spanish is easily the second most important language in the world after English covering essentially all of the Americas and Caribbean. Additionally, being a Romance language, Spanish will get you far in Portugese speaking countries, Italy and also somewhat in French speaking countries.

3) Arabic – Spoken as a native language in around 20 countries, and spoken by minorities and as a 2nd language in around 5 others, Arabic is a heavyweight on the world stage also being one of the 5 official languages of the United Nations. It’s influence on other languages such as Farsi and Urdu as well as its alphabet being used in those two countries plus places like Malaysia makes Arabic a fine, very useful, yet difficult pick for travellers.

4) Russian – Spoken in the largest country on earth by around 145 million people natively and 110 million as a second langauge, Russian can be used from Eastern Europe to the Pacific in regions like the Caucasus and Central Asia, though often not people’s favorite second language. Lastly, though there are many Slavic languages, Russian has enough similarities to others that you’ll be able to communicate with those who don’t speak Russian but speak things like Polish or Serbo-Croat.

5) French – Ranked the 9th most spoken language in the world with 115 million native speakers and 65 million second language speakers. French is also globally distributed and thus practical on almost all ends of the earth. French was a world language of the past and is thus still practical though quickly losing ground.

There are naturally a few others which could be useful such as Turkish, but this list is concentrated on the big boys. Again, one’s interest will also dictate what is worthwhile to learn. Whereas Curzon and Younghusband are clear Asian lovers, I have almost no interest at all in Asia. Yet, Central Asia is one of my loves and thus Turkish (due to its strong similarities to Central Asian Turkic languages) is a good choice for me as is Arabic and Farsi for the Middle East.

Readers, any other recommendations? What has helped you the most in getting around the globe, aside from English and sign language =)

About Chirol

Sir Ignatius Valentine Chirol (1852 - 1929) was a journalist, prolific author, world historian, and British diplomat. He began his career as a foreign correspondent and later became editor of the London Times. After two decades as a journalist he joined Her Majesty's Foreign Ministry as a diplomat and was subsequently knighted for his distinguished service as a foreign affairs advisor. Additionally, he wrote a dozen books on foreign affairs including The Far Eastern Question (1896), Serbia and the Serbs (1914), The End of the Ottoman Empire (1920) and The Egyptian Problem (1921). He is generally credited with popularizing "Middle East" in reference to the Arabian Peninsula with his book The Middle Eastern Question (1903). "Chirol" is a US citizen and graduate student studying Defense and Strategic Studies and government contractor. As with the historical Chirol, he has traveled to over two dozen countries and lived abroad for many years. Chirol speaks English and German fluently with basic knowledge of manyl of others.
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37 Responses to What to Learn?

  1. Younghusband says:

    bq. What has helped you the most in getting around the globe, aside from English and sign language

    The language of _love_ baby! ;)

    Japanese tourists are everywhere, and a lot of developing country-folk went to Japan in the 80s to work. You’d be surprised where you find guides that speak Japanese. I had one guide in Chinese Turkestan and 2 in Iran that spoke Japanese. French helped out a bit in Iran, but I totally suck at it. I have yet to use my “Georgian”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Georgian_language.

  2. Chirol says:

    YH: The language of love goes without saying =)

    Speaking of Japanese, I saw guides in Turkey who spoke it. Very odd. They even had the body language down which made it especially bizarre. How much will Japanese help you in Asia? Obviously Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese etc are totally unrelated languages, but was there significant Japanese influence on them? Who speaks it as a second language? What about Chinese?

  3. Curzon says:

    Ohh, fun topic.

    I’ve long felt that, when I have kids, I will demand they learn one other “first tier” language (other than English). I consider five languages in this first tier, in order of importance:
    1.) English (North America, Britain, Australia, Singapore, New Zealand, India, Hong Kong, elsewhere)
    2.) Chinese (China, Singapore, elsewhere)
    3.) French (France, much of Africa, Quebec, Iran)
    4.) Spanish (Spain, Latin America, large US cities, Philippines)
    5.) Russian (Russia, former USSR, former satellites)
    These languages have intercontinental importance. All but Russian will stay in the top tier for the rest of our lifetime.

    Second tier:
    6.) Japanese (Japan; other [see below])
    7.) Arabic (North Africa, Middle East)
    8.) Turkish (Turkey, adaptable to Central Asian languages)

    Third tier:
    9.) Portugese (Portugal, Brazil, Angola, Numibia, Macau, East Timor, other nations in Africa)
    10.) Farsi (Iran, Tajikistan, Los Angeles)
    11.) Hindi (Most of India)

    Additionally comments:
    Russia will shrink in importance as former satellites move to other, more international languages — “Mongolia”:http://www.onestopenglish.com/ProfessionalSupport/Travellog/teaching_english_mongolia.htm being one example. But for now, it remains the language of intercultural communication in places such as Kazakhstan and slightly more useful than Turkish.

    Arabic simply doesn’t belong on the first tier, despite its geographic reach from Morocco to Iraq. It’s ranked as an important language by the UN and that’s about it. It is almost irrelevant in business except in the provincial Arab sense. You can get away speaking French or English in much of the Arabic world.

    Japanese is, believe it or not, widely used in cosmopolitan, connected cities in Asia, and I’ve used it to speak with people in Thailand, Singapore, Korea, and China — as MutantFrog’s Roy can attest, it was more useful than English in Seoul. Add to that fact that Japan is the world’s number 2 economy and the Japanese can’t, excuse me, speak English to save their life, and Japanese gets in the top of the second tier.

    Sorry, German doesn’t make my list, it being spoken little outside Germany and with many Germans speaking very good English.

  4. Chirol says:

    Of course German doesn’t make the list. I know that =) It’s not even necessary for traveling in Germany. On occasion it comes in handy in the Balkans (because there were and are so many refugees/immmigrants to Germany during the war, some of which have returned) and in Turkey but still not that useful.

    Interesting about Japanese though. But I can’t agree about Chinese as in terms of practicality, it won’t carry you as far across the world as Arabic will. It has a great deal of influence on other languages and the alphabet is fairly widespread making it useful in the Middle East, Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Malaysia, Brunei etc.

    Sure, Singapore may speak Chinese but English works there anyway.

  5. Richardson says:

    Japanese more useful that English in Seoul? Don’t thinks so. Actually I know it’s not so.

    I’ve lived in several parts of Seoul; English can be spoken virtually anywhere there, and most places in Korea. Japanese is rare, unless you’re around some elderly folks that learned to speak it well before 1945, are at a tourist/business locale, or happen to run into some of the few students of that language. Chinese will get you much farther in Korea that Japanese.

  6. Curzon says:

    Richardson: I have spoken with hundreds of people in Seoul in japanese — at hotels, Lotte shopping malls, mom&pop establishments, restaurants, guided tours of the DMZ, etc etc. None were pre-1945 old — all were part of a Japan-based tourist economy. Japan was the number one source of tourist cash for South Korea in 2004, sending 2.5 million tourists in 2004. Remember also that there is a steady rotation of hundreds of thousands of Koreans studying or working in Japan.

    I must admit that were I to do it all over again, I would also learn French. In fact, a year from now I may evern take it up as a hobby… we shall see.

  7. Kushibo says:

    Japanese can be useful with older people here.

    There are MANY young people in Korea who learn Japanese, but EVERY young person is required to learn English to some degree. And next year’s crop of college freshman will have started learning English in third grade.

    For me, I would add Chinese, Japanese, or Korean: any language where you must learn Chinese characters (with Korean it’s not enough to just learn the language; you have to expose yourself to the hantcha).

    Even if you can’t speak with the other person, a Chinese-speaker, Japanese-speaker, or Korean-speaker with adequate knowledge of Chinese characters can communicate to a high degree.

  8. Curzon says:

    Excellent point, Kushibo — learning Chinese characters does open up a different avenue of thought inside the mind. In China, even if I can’t say a word, i can write the character in Japanese and 80% of the time the other party will understand me.

  9. ElamBend says:

    I’ve let external events choose for me. My long time girlfriend and [hopefully] future wife is a Russian emigre. So, Russian it is. (While hopefully keeping my Spanish passable).
    It’s definitely upped my interest in Central Asia and it helps that it is a top tier (albeit falling) language. I don’t know what I’d have done had she been say, Armenian or Qechuan.

  10. Richardson says:

    Your personal experience points to Japanese being more useful; I would say that is defiantly the exception, not the rule.

    My point is, English is much more useful that Japanese in Seoul, and in Korea. After having lived there (Seoul) a few years and traveled to nearly every major city in the South (minus Cheju-do), I know this to be true. Even the majority of street signs are in Korean and Roman letters, with Chinese characters (hanja) in many places as well.

  11. Younghusband says:

    ElamBend, you are lucky to have the chance to learn a top tier language! I would love to have a Russian girlfriend to help me with my Russian, but Mrs. YH (who is Japanese) would kill me! The language of love only goes so far…

  12. Mutantfrog says:

    The lists of what languages are considered useful varies a lot depending on the field. The list I would make for business, for scholarship, and for simply getting around as a tourist would be very, very different. These are some of my thoughts on the usefulness of languages, purely for the purpose of tourism.

    I would probably rate Spanish above Chinese overall. Despite China’s vast size and population, it’s just totally unnecessary in any other country. Most people in Singapore speak English well, and most people here in Taiwan speak enough for a simple tourist not to bother with Chinese. There are Chinese populations in SE Asian countries, but English is just as useful there.

    I haven’t been to the Phillipines yet (only three more weeks until I do go actually!) but every single Phillipino I’ve met is perfectly fluent in English, and not a single one is fluent in Spanish.

    For touristy tourists, don’t underestimate Japanese. They travel more per capita than anyone else, and you can find Japanese speaking guides in the most surprising of places (like the ridiculous number of fluent Japanese speaking guides that we met in Xinjiang.)

    As for Japanese in Korea-if you are there as a tourist and going to the typical tourist places you’re more likely to find people who speak Japanese than English, but if you go anywhere else (except maybe an old folks home) the situation is reversed-but any place you go there’s a decent chance of one language or the other getting through. The same thing is true in Taiwan, where most of the extremely old people and many young people can speak at least some Japanese.

  13. Curzon says:

    Thank you MF for articulating what I was trying to say. I wasn’t saying that everyone in Seoul spoke Japanese — I was saying that in my experience, as a tourist, Japanese was more useful than English.

    As for Chinese, it will become increasingly useful as Chinese tourists head overseas — add to the fact that it has, over the past decade, become the most popular language across the world to learn after English.

  14. sun bin says:

    for basic tourist purpose, perhaps only english is enough.
    then it really depends on your preferred location of ‘staying long’.

    then i would focus on the written form as a way to choose.

    i would choose arabic over spanish, mainly because it has a different alphabet.

    then maybe russian

    then kushibo’s point about chinese character (in one of the languages that uses it)….unfortunately there is very infrequent usage of chinese character in korea now so it may not be that useful. (vietnam also romantized).
    i put chinese at the end, because there are a lot more characters to learn compared with phonetic languages.

    spanish and the roman languages have a lot in common, and you can at least use your knowledge of english alphabet to do a little something

  15. Curzon says:

    Yeah, this entire ranking comes from different factors — importance for travel, business, tourism, number of people worldwide who speak it, etc tec. My “tiered” language ranking noted in the second comment got a lot of followup mentions — that’s my overall preference, and I stick by it, but I would love to hear “alternate” top ten rankings.

  16. Chirol says:

    Allow me to repeat my ranking was based on usefulness for travelling. Of course purpose would considerably change the list.

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  18. Mutantfrog says:

    Learning Chinese characters for traveling Korea is an utter waste of time. The only ones you’re likely to see are either on historical sites, advertising, or signs written for Chinese or Japanese tourists. You’re better off learning to just read the hangul alphabet, which you can learn to do on a basic level in a day or two if you work at it.

    Sun Bin’s suggestion on learning Arabic for the alphabet is worth considering, but I would propose instead as a corollary that any serious traveler pick up the Arabic and Cyrllic alphabets, which will at least allow you to puzzle out the rough pronounciation of dozens of different languages, and may be a huge help in reading maps throughout much of the world.

  19. Joe says:

    For anyone who seriously wants to become a polyglot, or make their kids multilingual at a young age, Mark Rosenfelder’s article on the subject is required reading. It goes a long way to explain why I keep saying I’m going to learn Chinese “any day now…”

  20. Pavlov3 says:

    I think Curzon and Richardson are correct for different reasons.
    The English phenomenon in Korea is complicated. 90% of the population has an English vocabulary that puts my Korean one to shame. However, they have no practical application experience and their grammar is non-existent. Combine this with a historical shame complex at looking uneducated factor and viola, a population much more comfortable speaking in a third language; Japanese or Chinese. (Sometimes French, German, or Spanish)

    There are several people who I worked with for a couple of weeks. Everything was conducted in Korean, one day I said “So desu Ka”Â? and a chorus of “So desu ne”Â? startled me. About a week later I was having full conversations in English! It took them some time to get comfortable with me, and understand that I would not look down on their English ability. Once they learned how poor my Japanese was, it was open season on English. Also, I noticed that section chiefs would dismiss the staff and ask to talk to me alone, and immediately switch to decent English. They did not want to make any mistake in front of their subordinates.

  21. Matt says:

    Quite a few Chinese people can speak Japanese, though of course many would refuse to out of their dislike of the country.

    I’d also like to nominate my second language, Italian, as being among the most useless- since they were such lousy colonialists, Italian is only spoken in Italy, the Ticino province in Switzerland, and pockets of Dalmatia (Croatia), Albania, Eritrea, Ethiopia, and Libya.

    Oh well, it’s fun to speak, anyway. Isn’t it fashionable now in Europe for people to say, “Ciao?” Sort of like people in China saying “Bye bye” at the end of their phone conversations.

    Finally- is there a foreign language more difficult than Chinese? Someone please tell me, “no”, so I’ll feel much better about my own struggles to learn it.

  22. Kushibo says:

    sun bin wrote:
    then kushibo’s point about chinese character (in one of the languages that uses it)….unfortunately there is very infrequent usage of chinese character in korea now so it may not be that useful. (vietnam also romantized).
    i put chinese at the end, because there are a lot more characters to learn compared with phonetic languages.

    Koreans are required to learn some 2000 hantcha to pass the college entrance exam (the numer goes up and down; at one time the number was essentially ZERO). That means that if you need to communicate, you might be able to write something down and have a hantcha-literate Korean get the idea.

    The caveats are that not every Korean gets to college SAT-level hantcha-reading ability. Also, the Koreans and the Japanese have tended to use hantcha-based vocabulary constructed from different characters. Plus, as sun bin (?) noted, Koreans tend to use non-simplified characters, a luxury Koreans have over Japanese and Chinese because Koreans need to manually write Chinese characters only occasionally (there are many characters a typical Korean can read but not write accurately).

    So if a Korean were to write æ°¸éÂ?  for ‘eternal’ or ‘forever,’ a Chinese (or Japanese) might be able to pick up on the meaning as æ°¸æÂ?’ (right?), at least because of the first character.

    And a Korean would easily figure out that Ã¥”ºÂ½ is supposed to be 圔¹.

    On the other hand, a typical Korean (or a Japanese?) would see 明天 and not recognize it as tomorrow (do I have the right word for that?). Instead, it looks like it would mean ‘bright sky.’

    Even though 明æ—Â¥ is an (underused) term for ‘tomorrow,’ the 天 would throw off a lot of people, since this is not used to represent ‘day,’ to my knowledge.

  23. Kushibo says:

    I don’t know why that crossing-out occurred. It doesn’t mean anything.l

  24. Kushibo says:

    Matt wrote:
    Quite a few Chinese people can speak Japanese, though of course many would refuse to out of their dislike of the country.

    Why would someone go to the trouble of learning the language of a country they dislike?

    There are lots of people in Korea who learn Japanese, and even if they don’t like Koizumi or have serious opinions about Yasukuni, they are interested in Japan as a country, at least its traditional culture, pop culture, people, or something, and they’re not going to NOT speak something they’ve gone through the trouble of CHOOSING to learn, if the situation came up.

    I’d also like to nominate my second language, Italian, as being among the most useless- since they were such lousy colonialists, Italian is only spoken in Italy, the Ticino province in Switzerland, and pockets of Dalmatia (Croatia), Albania, Eritrea, Ethiopia, and Libya.

    Italian is a very useful language if you’re in Italy, which is at the top of my short list of countries I would really like to live in for three to five years (followed by Japan).

    For English speakers, it’s not all that hard to learn, apparently.

  25. Kushibo says:

    Pavlov wrote:
    The English phenomenon in Korea is complicated. 90% of the population has an English vocabulary that puts my Korean one to shame. However, they have no practical application experience and their grammar is non-existent.

    Do you live in Korea now? Ten years ago, the “no practical experience” would have been true for almost everyone, but not so much anymore. From the mid-1990s on, many kids have been exposed to native English speakers, and so their confidence level and ability are both much higher (though still leaving a lot to be desired) compared to five or ten years ago.

    Combine this with a historical shame complex at looking uneducated factor

    What you’re saying does apply to a business situation, but for a tourist situation, especially when it comes to figuring something out for a visitor in obvious need, even terrible speakers will usually try to muster what little ability they have to fix the situation.

    and viola, a population much more comfortable speaking in a third language; Japanese or Chinese. (Sometimes French, German, or Spanish)””?-

    But the problem with your theory is that the percentage who have elected to learn Japanese is considerably smaller than those who have been required to learn English, because the latter group is EVERYONE. Even more so with Chinese.

    In an office, a person who speaks functional Japanese or Chinese might be the only functional Japanese or Chinese speaker in the place, so yes, there is less worry about looking stupid in front of others. But that’s an office situation, not an on-the-street tourism situation.

    English still reigns supreme, and the odds of finding someone to help you in English is much greater than with Japanese.

    I live near MyÃ…Â?ngdong, so I go there a lot and occasionally try out my very poor and very limited Japanese, giving directions to people looking at Japanese-language maps and appearing lost. I know from what they tell me that asking people in Japanese how to find something doesn’t always work. They have to go back to shops with “we speak Japanese” signs in the window and ask them for directions.

    There are several people who I worked with for a couple of weeks. Everything was conducted in Korean, one day I said “So desu Ka”Â? and a chorus of “So desu ne”Â? startled me.

    Even people in Korea who never took Japanese do know those phrases, plus a few more.

    Also, I noticed that section chiefs would dismiss the staff and ask to talk to me alone, and immediately switch to decent English. They did not want to make any mistake in front of their subordinates.

    That doesn’t surprise me, but the parameters were tourism, not office work.

  26. Mike says:

    I learned Spanish first, and then started Mandarin. Geography-wise, Chinese is still somewhat localized, but odds are that will change, and soon. And the fact that it’s ‘only’ in China…come on, China is the third largest and most populous country in the world. And whereas in many other countries you can choose to get by on English, that is simply not an option much of the time in China, unless you’re confined to certain parts of certain cities. And while many of the elite have excellent English, the average man on the street emphatically does not. If you speak Spanish, Mandarin, English, and Japanese, the entire Pacific Ocean is your little polyglot lake to play in. That’s my plan. Think of the frequent flyer miles!

    And I have the same evil plot for my progeny. There was a guy in my study abroad program whose parents sent him to China for high school for a year, and his slang and idiomatic Mandarin was fantastic. Even the Triads complimented him.

  27. lirelou says:

    When I retired from military service my foreign languages were rated Spanish S3/R3, French S3/R3, Portuguese S2/R2+, and Dutch-Afrikaans S1/R1+. I can read Hangul (yes, only took a few days) and have learned the basics of Cyrillic and Arabic in the past. I have done cursory studies in Chinese and Korean, and am presently concentrating on learning Vietnamese for purposes of investigative study and travel (been speaking “GI Vietnamese” with the wife for years, but I need to really learn the language). My own recommendation for any college bound business or public service student would be: English (if it is your native language, master it to where you can effectively speak, read and write at the level of a Cambridge graduate.) Spanish (Anyone who speaks Spanish well can transition to Portuguese with a few months intensive study. Brazilians would rather hear English than Spanish, and get bowled over by non Hispanic Portuguese speakers.) Chinese (Mandarin or Cantonese, and/or written Chinese). Japanese or Korean (both non-tonal). And finally, a Malay language (Bahasa Malay or Tagalog). A removal of the hat and bow to both Kushibo and Mutantfrog. If you are going to live or do business in Asia, a study of written Chinese will mark you as a man or woman of gravity. Someone seriously interested in Asia and Asians. Any motor mechanic can learn to speak passible street Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, or Korean, but anyone who can sit down with his counterpart and split hairs over Hancha is a heavy hitter, even if they don’t speak the language well. (ps, the motor mechanic simile is a nod to the intelligence career of John Nichols, and not meant as a slur.)

  28. sun bin says:

    a little advice if you pick chinese. mandarin, no need to learn cantonese now.

  29. Matt says:

    Kushibo-

    The Chinese aren’t all that fond of the US or the UK either, yet there’s a major national push for Chinese nationals to learn English. I’d say given the nature of Chinese/Japanese commerce, many Chinese learn Japanese out of purely pragmatic reasons. I can certainly say that’s true of English, for my employment in China is a direct consequence.

    Italian of course is quite useful in Italy, especially as Italians are notoriously bad at English. It isn’t difficult to learn at all…..I was an average student of Italian for two years yet after six months living there was able to speak it more or less fluently. By contrast, my Chinese is still middling despite having been in China for fourteen months and having studied it for the past seven months or so.

  30. Kushibo says:

    English, which is compulsory, is in a different boat than an elective language like Japanese. Someone in China wouldn’t take Japanese unless they had an interest for some reason. And that interest would override a hatred of Japanese politics or whatever (or, conversely, such an intense dislike of a country that one would refuse to speak its language would override a desire to go and learn that language in the first place).

    I just can’t see someone having such a “dislike” of Japan that they go to the trouble of learning Japanese but then refuse to speak it.

    English, maybe. Not Japanese. Unless you’re referring to the elderly people of Taiwan who were required to learn Japanese as children in school. I know that some Koreans would avoid using Japanese because of their hatred for Japanese authority, but that is a unique situation more akin to compulsory English study today.

  31. Richardson says:

    Kushibo wrote:
    “I know that some Koreans would avoid using
    Japanese because of their hatred for Japanese
    authority, but that is a unique situation more
    akin to compulsory English study today.”Â?

    Just to be clear, are you comparing mandatory English study today with the colonial period policy of nation-wide forced use of Japanese, including names, which included banning the use of Korean?

  32. Mutantfrog says:

    Actually Kushibo, in my experience elderly Taiwanese people are usually more than happy to speak Japanese. Earlier today I was reading a Japanese book on campus, having my lunch, and an older couple started talking to me. The husband didn’t know much Japanese, but the wife spoke it quite well-not because she learned it in school, but because all of her aunts and uncles used it as their native language when she was growing up!

    The attitude towards Japan and Japanese is completely different in Korea and Taiwan, something that eventually I’ll be writing a lot about…

    And yes, Japanese is NOT looked upon well in China at all. Every single Chinese person to whom I told I was studying Japanese responded with a look combining mild bewilderment and disgust. “Why Japanese? Why don’t you study Chinese instead?” they would say. “Don’t worry, I’ll study it next,” I told them, in an attempt at pacification. And lo, so it was!

    Oh, and Lirelou, thank you for the compliment.

  33. Kushibo says:

    You’re reading too much into that. I am simply suggesting that people might have different attitudes toward languages they learned because they had to than languages they learned by choice. For most Koreans today, and I’m guessing for most Chinese as well, Japanese is in the second category.

    But since you brought it up, there are some people (a tiny minority) in Korea who think that compulsory English education is a result of American imperalism and they resent that English education is such a major thing in their lives.

  34. Kushibo says:

    Mutantfrog wrote:
    Actually Kushibo, in my experience elderly Taiwanese people are usually more than happy to speak Japanese.

    There are quite a few elderly Koreans who are the same way.

    Earlier today I was reading a Japanese book on campus, having my lunch, and an older couple started talking to me. The husband didn’t know much Japanese, but the wife spoke it quite well-not because she learned it in school, but because all of her aunts and uncles used it as their native language when she was growing up!

    Well any Korean older than 65 would have grown up with heavy exposure to it. Many still retain some of it.

    The attitude towards Japan and Japanese is completely different in Korea and Taiwan, something that eventually I’ll be writing a lot about”¦

    There are a lot of caveats there. This gets very misunderstood, but for many, many Koreans who actually grew up during that time, there is a clear distinction between Japanese military authorities and Japanese people.

    The civilian-run government in Taiwan had to answer to the government in Tokyo; in contrast, the military-run government in Korea had to answer to know one. Plus, with Korea being seen as a stepping stone to a higher position, there was a lot of pressure to keep things in line in Chosen.

    And yes, Japanese is NOT looked upon well in China at all. Every single Chinese person to whom I told I was studying Japanese responded with a look combining mild bewilderment and disgust. “Why Japanese? Why don’t you study Chinese instead?”Â?

    I would have taken that more as promotion of Chinese instead of disgust with Japan.

  35. sun bin says:

    Many in China study Japan.

    Yes, there is resistance from some. But the extremist are always louder. Most people do not really care, and moeny is above anything else today.

    Just see how many Chinese student and ‘fake student’ in Japan today. i believe it is from 1/4 to 1/2 million.

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