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Old 05-04-2021, 01:12 PM
 
10,506 posts, read 7,078,635 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Oistrakh12 View Post
Will Mandarin Chinese ever become an international lingua franca? Do you think it will eventually replace English in that regard?

Mandarin isn't even spoken in all of China.



And China is enjoying a very short period of prosperity before it begins its inexorable slide due to demographics and its internal contradictions as a country.



China is already teetering on the edge of a massive population decline. Not only that, but it will hit the hardest in its working-age population. Between now and 2050, China is expected to see its working-age population shrivel by 250,000,000, while its elderly population soars. This does not bode well for China's fate as an international power.
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Old 05-04-2021, 01:15 PM
 
Location: Elsewhere
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I don't think Mandarin will become a lingua franca, but my daughter is teaching it, and her current high school students are anxious to learn.

There's a great advantage to knowing Mandarin: Whenever we go to an authentic Chinese restaurant, the staff is usually so taken with this young blonde white woman able to converse with them in their own tongue that we usually are sent specialty dishes to our table for free. Works for me.
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Old 05-04-2021, 01:53 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fabio SBA View Post
I studied Mandarin until the HSK 3 level, and my perception is that the Hanzi script is, indeed, more suitable to the features of the language than an alphabetic version. Mandarin has a lot of homophones and each syllable has a meaning on its own; it looks to have no real "words" in the western sense. Moreover, that script is not that difficult as it looks. Once we get familiar, it's even easier recognizing each "word" by a Hanzi than by the pinyin version. What happens is that Hanzi only works well for sinitic languages. Japanese, for example, uses the Kanji (adapted Hanzi) mixed with two other scripts, what makes a nightmare to grasp the language, and surely would do better for learners if it switch to a latin script.

On the other hand... a former girlfriend of mine, daughter of japaneses, said it would difficult to switch the scripts since the new generations wouldn't be able to read older texts. It would make all the history of the literature obscure to the new generations. And this is not a small issue.
I agree with all of this. Since you mentioned Japanese, one of the big problems is that each character/kanji does not have a single basic pronunciation as it would in Chinese. Japanese ended up with a frightful system in which each kanji has at least two pronunciations depending on whether it is being used in a native Japanese word or a Chinese loanword, and the pronunciation in Chinese loanwords can vary depending on whether the word was an early import from one dialect or a later one from another. Memorizing the pronunciation of a Chinese character is simple by comparison.

The argument that altering the Japanese script would make it harder to read older texts is valid. And it's valid. For example, modern Koreans have trouble reading texts that are not even that old because they include hanja. That's also an argument for not altering English spelling.
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Old 05-05-2021, 12:56 AM
 
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International Business English is a peculiar mix that enables businessme around the world to converse with each other, while a native English speaker would not understand. They are saying written English, using continental phonetics and accent rules. . An international Mandarin would need to go through a similar transition.

Someone mentioned homonyms, which is also an issue. If a syllable is ambiguous, the speaker will write the unique character in the air with his finger. A Chines speaker can walk into a conversation and it might be a minute or two before he figures out the context of all the homonyms. I once saw a poem that was the spoken syllable "ma" repeated over 100 times, but in written Chinese, the ma's all had unique and comprehensible meanings that gave context.
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Old 05-05-2021, 08:16 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by arr430 View Post
I once saw a poem that was the spoken syllable "ma" repeated over 100 times, but in written Chinese, the ma's all had unique and comprehensible meanings that gave context.
That famous poem uses the syllable "shi," not "ma." The poem is readable because of the nature of Chinese characters, which convey meaning apart from pronunciation, but totally incomprehensible if read aloud in Mandarin.

It's sometimes presented as evidence that it's absolutely necessary for Chinese to be written with characters, because without them people won't be able to understand their own language. But that's misleading, because first of all, the poem was written in Classical Chinese, when the pronunciation of those characters was much more varied, and second, if translated into modern Mandarin, the words and structure are entirely different and doesn't need to be seen to be understood.

Last edited by saibot; 05-05-2021 at 09:23 AM..
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Old 05-05-2021, 08:42 AM
 
Location: Metro Phoenix
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I don't know of many people in China who think that China will become a lingua franca. The main hurdles imo are the alphabet and tones - pinyin helps when you are learning, but it doesn't really enable you to read literature or even fully grasp an article or signage. anyone who wants a working ability to read Chinese needs to memorize at least a few hundred characters. Most people will probably have some difficulty with this unless they start to learn young.

For people who aren't used to a tonal language, Chinese can be extremely tough. I can understand the tones, but when speaking, my voice is very deep and even when I feel like I'm straining uncomfortably to make it clear that I'm using the first tone, most people think I'm using the third. The grammar and sentence structure isn't terribly hard, but the tones are a place where it can get very confusing for people, and is probably the #1 complaint about the language you'll hear from expats in China.

Some people are great with languages and are able to crack it. Some people have a deep admiration of the culture, and a yearning to learn Chinese which drives them. Some people who aren't particularly gifted or interested will still pick it up via immersion or necessity. But, the bulk of multilingual people I know who have tackled both English and Mandarin state that English is easier, and English is already, basically, the global lingua franca. The Sinosphere has already invested tons into teaching English: HK and SG are bilingual, it's relatively common in Taiwan, and it's part of the school curriculum everywhere, with kids starting to learn it in kindergarten. I'm currently in my wife's hometown in Hunan and yesterday, I was approached by three separate groups of teenagers who wanted to try to speak English with my daughter and I. Some of them were pretty good at it; I was the first foreigner any of them had ever seen or interacted with in person. I hear shopkeepers say, "very beautiful!" or "so cute!" to my daughter, who can say prices in English, etc, or people on the street say "very good!" or "so cool!" to eachother, despite having no personal link to the language or culture other than exposure to media.

So this begs the question: does the world want or really need a second lingua franca? With so much already invested globally in learning English and the infrastructure for it, not to mention that it is effectively a decentralized language which now belongs to the world as much as it does to England and Anglosphere countries and with neither country specifically or actively trying to exert political control via the language, and with China itself having invested decades and vast sums in teaching its own people English, does it make sense?

Another thing I've pondered, is whether the CCP actually want Mandarin to become a rival to English on the global stage. This is a country that is pushing a homogeneous nationalist social structure and doesn't want people immigrating here. The more people around the world who speak Mandarin, the more people who feel like they have or deserve a stake in China, and also, the more they will be able to articulate their beliefs which are antithetic to Chinese society in a language that a majority of Chinese people across different class and age groups can understand. "Social harmony" is a big thing here, and they don't want foreigners bringing I think that in their mind, it suits their goals better for their people to learn English and go out into the world than it does for the world to learn Mandarin and come to China.

Last edited by 415_s2k; 05-05-2021 at 09:19 AM..
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Old 05-05-2021, 09:29 AM
 
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Now English is the International global language, before that it was French, before that it was Latin. See a trend here?

They are all related languages with ties to old latin/indo-european with 3.2 billion speakers in dozens of countries. They still can't match Mandarin. A native Greek speaker can learn English much easier than Mandarin, which has unique inflections making it a very complex language to learn, even more complex to write.
And in China? They never will expect Mandarin to overtake English as the language of business, instead they are simply learning English from grade school up, just like every other country.

So the answer is no.
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Old 05-05-2021, 10:44 AM
 
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The comment that arr430 about international business language piqued my interest. According to the Wikipedia article, Business English is a subset of English, used by parties who each speak their own native non-English language, but use Business English as a tool to quickly arrange business deals. As the point of the language is commercial, grammar, accent, and structure are placed secondarily to quickly and efficiently expressing ideas.

The associated Wikipedia article that deals with Lingua Franca does recognize many languages as being localized lingua franca; included among them is Mandarin Chinese.

From the 1600's to the early/middle 1900's, French was considered the language of diplomacy. It was displaced by English, due to the rise of the United States in world affairs, with an assist from Britain having established English as the language of commerce in the 1700's. Right now, China lacks the cultural, economic, and military influence wielded globally by the United States (and prior to that by the British Empire). The US has a solid tradition of economic law and property rights, China does not. The Information Age is powered by the English language, China uses mostly Microsoft Windows and JavaScript in its IT infrastructure.

IMO, China has a century or more of work to accomplish, along with an incredibly severe decline in US global influence, to have Chinese Mandarin supplant English as the global lingua franca.
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Old 05-06-2021, 03:10 PM
 
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I have come across some Chinese translations of scientific, legal and medical terms. They are quite a mouthful, clumsy and hard to understand. Street names, cities and people's names when translated in to Chinese, can lead to confusion because they sound different.



Quote:
Originally Posted by Mightyqueen801 View Post
I don't think Mandarin will become a lingua franca, but my daughter is teaching it, and her current high school students are anxious to learn.

There's a great advantage to knowing Mandarin: Whenever we go to an authentic Chinese restaurant, the staff is usually so taken with this young blonde white woman able to converse with them in their own tongue that we usually are sent specialty dishes to our table for free. Works for me.
I bet her pronunciation is far more accurate than the restaurant workers who normally converse in dialects only at home and workplace.

Last edited by orbiter; 05-06-2021 at 04:29 PM..
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Old 05-06-2021, 05:34 PM
 
Location: Elsewhere
88,749 posts, read 85,121,709 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by orbiter View Post
I have come across some Chinese translations of scientific, legal and medical terms. They are quite a mouthful, clumsy and hard to understand. Street names, cities and people's names when translated in to Chinese, can lead to confusion because they sound different.




I bet her pronunciation is far more accurate than the restaurant workers who normally converse in dialects only at home and workplace.
Might be, but she has lived in both Chengdu and Beijing and had to learn the differences. Which she has explained to me, who can't seem to even get a few basic words right.
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