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January 18, 2006

Comments

Jim

I agre with this all except for one small quibble, about learning the tones; most non-Mandarin speakers never quite manage to overcome the interference of their own langugae'dialect's tone system, and they manage dsepite thier bad pronunciation to get by. As it happens, English speakers have a gratuitous head start on the segmental part of the pronuciation over non-M Chinese, so that evens it out a very little bit.

But the rest is spot on. The only good that can come of this is that lots of people get a taste of how hard it is to tangel with Chinese, and develop some appreciation of what a, lessay, Navajo speaker goes through to learn English, and also loses their insufferable bogus sense of cosmopolitanism at being able to speak some French or quote some German.

Andrew

I heard about this on the radio - if I recall correctly, Mandarin will only be compulsory for one year, after which students can decide whether or not to continue on with it for their A levels (or whatever it's called - I'm still confused how the British secondary school system works). This seems to me more defensible - it makes students get a taste of the language without wasting years and years of their time with it, and probably only those with an aptitude for it will continue.

Factory

Hmm I would say that LOTE education is generally a bit crap because there is very little uniformity in languages that are taught. Learning a few years of one language, then a few years of another language, because the high school you went to doesn't teach the language your primary school taught being the main problem.
IMHO it gets like this because there is no obvious language that has as many speakers, and as much to read as english, therefore are not as 'useful', and we get 'fad' languages taught, like mandarin.

Factory

Oh, and also it should be noted that most immigrants from China come from the south, ergo the average Chinese person you will meet on the street of London will prolly not speak Mandarin.

Andrew

"the average Chinese person you will meet on the street of London will prolly not speak Mandarin"

My experience is of course limited, but I've found that they usually do speak Mandarin, just rather poorly, or at least with a very strong Southern accent (the older they are, the less likely they are to speak Mandarin). Of course, that's not the kind of people you want to help fellow students learn "correct" Mandarin. One hopes that the Brighton head teacher is at least aware enough that he meant there were several Mandarin speakers in school.

Scott Wickstein

Oh, man, I feel for those kids.

20 years ago, it was Japanese that were going to institute the Decline of the West, so I was required to study Japanese at age 13. I think I was already far too old to start learning a language like Japanese with its horrid vagracies; a lovely language to be sure, but with as many sand-traps and grammar bogs for the unwary as English has for non-English speakers.

Some of my more talented classmates were able to cope with the late start, but for dullards like me, I had no hope.

J.Cassian

"20 years ago, it was Japanese that were going to institute the Decline of the West, so I was required to study Japanese at age 13."

Yes, about the same time in the UK there was an outbreak of teaching Russian thanks to a burst of enthusiasm for Gorby and "glasnost". By the early nineties there were a hell of a lot of unemployed Russian teachers in retraining.

Delmore Macnamara

Brighton College is a highly selective fee paying private school, so it is most unlikey that their decision to institute a year of compulsory Mandarin heralds anything at all for the English school system as a whole, which as Abiola has noted generally fails to teach the average child even the rudiments of French.

This is just a bit of PR like the much-heralded introduction of a mixed sex school cricket team at the School. Brighton College's USP among the many feepaying schools in Sussex is its mild trendiness - this makes the leftish professionals who comprise the majority of its parents feel a bit better about dropping their "principles" & buying their way out of the hopeless UK state education system.

Tom Sedek

If we as a nation are to compete with other EC countries such as Germany, who already have a head start over the Uk as most speak 2 languages, we will have to improve language learning skills which are sadly lacking. Germany has improved trade with China by apx 9% the UK 1%, it is plainly in sight that we will have to address this by educating children at a younger age 5/6yrs, this is the only way or the UK will be at the bottom of the pile. Global economy needs global languages. I agree that most children will not continue beyond 16yrs learnign this but it wil still give us an edge even I remember a bit of french and spanish from school... Japan is a small country and they love american english, China is a large country and with 2.5 Billion speakers it must be worth learning how to say 'hello'

Andrew

"I agree that most children will not continue beyond 16yrs learnign this but it wil still give us an edge even I remember a bit of french and spanish from school... "

The question is: how? If you remember a few phrases of Chinese and some basic grammar (surely less than you remember of French and Spanish, given how distant English and Chinese are), how on earth does that help you trade with China? It's not as though you could talk to Chinese businessmen, or read Chinese newspapers, or even understand Chinese "customs" (for lack of a better word, the hidden language of gestures, degrees of politeness).

"China is a large country and with 2.5 Billion speakers it must be worth learning how to say 'hello'"

China has 1.3 billion people, of which only 800-900 million are native Mandarin speakers - the rest learned it in school (or not at all) since they speak other "dialects" (ie mutually unintelligible languages).

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