Learn Latin, not Mandarin??

Here is an article in the Spectator, from the UK entitled: “Forget Mandarin. Latin is the key to success.”. Hmmm. The key to success.

Now I have never thought Mandarin was the key to success either, and frankly we are doing it for issues of keeping Big Boy’s cultural heritage and ability to interact with other Chinese people as he grows up, not so he can rise to the top of the class.

But I understand that many are jumping on the Mandarin bandwagon in hopes of upping their child’s chances in the business world (at least they might be able to be foremen if China invades and takes over the US and Canada!) I think that is silly, since most Chinese learn better English than our children will ever learn Mandarin. But I do think that Mandarin, or more correctly Chinese (since the writing system of characters is not Mandarin, but rather common to all the Chinese languages from Taiwan to Beijing to Jiaozuo and has hardly changed except for “simplification” in thousands of years), does help develop thinking abilities. And especially the written language: which is highly visual and very different from our own romanized languages.

I also think that it is probably true that Latin, with its conjugasions and verb forms (sorry, I don’t know enough about latin to properly praise it) would help with paying attention to language, understanding grammar, verb tenses etc. I am sure that its rigours would help the mind in the same way that math or music help the mind, by giving instruction in something with discipline and structure. Much the same way I expect (and see results of) my son’s karate class to influence his physical and mental self-control. Also we cannot forget that many words in most European languages stem from latin, as well as more technical scientific terms in all these languages.

I do wonder why the writer needs to take a jab at Chinese (which is also great) and Esperanto (which can be very practical and fun)… why “forget” one language or discipline for another? Do we need to say “forget the flute, learn piano”? or “forget biology, learn physics”? I am sure that the more languages you study, the more your mind is going to be exercised, the more people you can communicate with, the better your language skills will become.

So, here’s for latin AND chinese, and farsi and arabic and swedish and yiddish, and engish and finnish, and on and on… Study what GRABS and IMPASSIONS you!

BTW, the comments on that article are as good or better than the article itself! Dig in!

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2 responses to “Learn Latin, not Mandarin??

  1. Being multilingual is ALWAYS positive, provided it doesn’t overwhelm. It’s obviously simpler to learn a second (or third, or fourth) language when a child than as an adult, though it’s possible to learn then, too. If nothing else, a strong linguist is virtually guaranteed employment in any number of fields, simply by virtue of being able to speak multiple languages.

  2. I liked Dimoto’s comment:
    “Unconvincing article.
    If English was taught as it was 50 or 60 years ago, it would have similar benefits … at a considerable cost in time.

    As for Mandarin, about 1000 years older than Latin, for 3000 years a “continental language”, probably the world’s most complex and sophisticated literature, and a writing system which it is estimated, takes an extra two to three years to learn compared to western (alphabetic) languages, but gives extraordinary pleasure in use ?

    Probably correct not to recommend our children learn it, it is just too challenging for our feckless pupils.”

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