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HUFFPOST SUPER USER
Erewhon7
Join atheists, our non-prophet organization
02:00 PM on 02/24/2011
"Could such a famously-difficult language really become as popular as English?"
In one word-- No.
Chinese written and spoken language is is too ambiguous to be adopted as world's "Lingua Franca"
Chinese has no future or past tense, Try writing a business contract in that!
Among other serious issues, Chinese is unsuited for post-modern world with our penchant for concise and precise communications.
01:45 PM on 02/24/2011
It'll never happen because Chinese (Mandarin I'm assuming you're talking about) is a tone language and too hard for most people to learn easily enough to make it universal. The words are ll one syllable and the meaning changes with the tone you use. Thus one small mispronunciation entirely changes the word's meaning. It would take years and years for most people to become fluent in Chinese. English wins out because its a whole lot easier to learn.
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satanlite
Liberal blogger
01:36 PM on 02/24/2011
Two things are clear.

1) The Chinese influence will dominate the world in the next decade and for the foreseeable future. Influence of the US is over due to our imperialistic maneuvers, immoral behavior and unethical conduct of our political leaders and corportations.

2) American BMs (members of the American Bagger Movement) will hasten the demise of the US with all of the policies they've borrowed from the criminal conservative Republican party. They will rejoice in passing regressive policies then wonder why, in a few years, our nation is the biggest 3rd world nation on the planet. Then they'll blame liberals, of course.
06:05 PM on 02/24/2011
2) True. I read in a forum years ago where someone of that persuasion when faced with the fact of the Chinese rise answered to the person who said it that he had forgotten 2 things: All the aid and support we have been sending China for decades caused it; and they are mean to the Falun Gong.

So you can expect the Tea Partiers will confront it with non sequiturs as they are sunk.
09:45 AM on 02/25/2011
I was just thinking about how nice that this thread is apolitical and you had to ruin it.
01:21 PM on 02/24/2011
My goal is to eventually learn Chinese (Standard/Mandarin). It is, of course, a challenge for those whose primary language is Germanic/Latin. But I know several who have done it.

Being fluent in a second or third language is really essential for living today, in our global world. I wish more Americans learned more than one language.
ByAndForThePeople
and corporations aren't people!
06:49 PM on 02/24/2011
There's an old joke:
* What do you call somebody who speaks two languages? Bi-lingual.
* What do you call somebody who speaks three languages? Tri-lingual.
* What do you call somebody who speaks one language? An American.
07:32 PM on 02/24/2011
Lol. I've heard that one. :)
08:11 PM on 02/24/2011
My father speaks 1 language, English, and makes mid 6 figures. Who'd have thunk it?
09:56 PM on 02/24/2011
Yes but why limit yourself to 1 language and 6 figures.
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anfractuous
Like you care.
12:57 PM on 02/24/2011
Let's give cuneiform another chance.
Zadeekah
Like Sisyphus, it's hopeless but keep trying
12:50 PM on 02/24/2011
Ting bu dong.
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FearlessFreep
A radical leftist with a JS Woodsworth avatar.
02:19 PM on 02/24/2011
Which means "I don't understand what you're saying," right?
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12:44 PM on 02/24/2011
Flatter tones? I don't think so.
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12:43 PM on 02/24/2011
Wow, I think this paragraph.....:

"A Chinese friend told me that he's grown accustomed to these accents, with clear annunciation but often arbitrary tones. Despite this, he's still able to understand what they're saying; context determines that the speaker isn't talking about a medical procedure but numbers. In a Globese future, the role of tones will likely be minimized."

is EXTEMELY unusual for a Chinese native speaker. The person the writer is referring to must have had significant exposure to individuals who speak Chinese as a second language AND significant facility in other/western languages. When I was in China --teaching English to Chinese and teaching Chinese to (mostly) European and American ex-pats-- I rarely found a Chinese person who
understood a word that was pronounced with the wrong tonality. RARELY. I told my students who were learning Chinese that if you don't get the tone of the word right, you WILL NOT be understood. And for the most part, that's what happens.... I told them that the word shu (first tone, meaning book) and shu (third tone, meaning rat) are as different to a Chinese as the pronounciation of "book" and "rat" is to an American. Getting the tones right is essentially to even establish the "context" of the conversation.
01:26 PM on 02/24/2011
Interesting. Fanned. I remember learning the importance of tones with this sentence: "Is mother scolding the horse." Which translates into four different tones of "Ma ma ma ma."
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An Xiao Mina
08:00 PM on 02/24/2011
You're right, but that's exactly my point.

Take, for instance, the average American who's never been exposed to foreign accents. It's incredibly difficult for native English speakers to understand foreign accents, esp. among those learning English as a second language (which is why many documentaries subtitle interviews with foreigners fluent in English). A world traveler or someone living in a diverse city can pick up foreign accents much quicker.

Native Chinese speakers rarely understand foreigners' tones because native Chinese speakers rarely hear foreign accents. Most Chinese still look surprised when they see a foreigner speaking Mandarin. But that will change. What I'm suggesting is that as the language becomes more global, more Chinese will hear common tone mistakes and compensate automatically.

If you've ever sent a Chinese person a message in pinyin (not characters), you'll get a sense of this: it's easy enough to figure out what the message is about, both without tones and without characters.