So you might know this from my previous journals, but anyway, I am fluent in Mandarin Chinese. I mean, I’ve lived in China for like, seven years, so it’s not like this is something very surprising, but I have been thinking about languages a lot lately, and I just wanted to write about my thoughts.
I love languages. I love reading, writing and learning new words. English is my first language, Chinese is a very close second. I don’t speak any other languages (though I have tried learning German, it’s just that that plan kind of fizzled out because of several difficulties). I just love…words. And literature. Poetry and short stories and really good song lyrics. I write most things in English, like my stories, but I do write Chinese song lyrics.
English is a very different language from Chinese. Some people say that if you can speak both fluently, you must be smart, because they’re so different, but it probably doesn’t apply to me, because look at how dumb I am.
But English is beautiful, and so is Chinese. Their beauty is very unalike. I don’t know to describe it. It’s like, English is…fast and sharp and…young. Like a teenager. And it has its flaws and many confusing places–like, the pronunciation and the grammar–but it’s still growing. It grows every month, every week, it grows as people make new words out of old pieces, out of the same twenty-six letters. And when it’s written well, it flows over the paper with lovely loops and curves.
Chinese is beautiful in a very old way. If English is a teenager, then Chinese is this wise old person. It’s very organized, and compared to English, it sticks to more rules, so it doesn’t grow as quickly, because it’s not easy to make new words. It’s slower, and it takes a long time to learn well, but it has many, many beautiful words that mean many different things, so poetry and songs can say a lot with a few lines. Calligraphy is varied, and it can be free and wild and neat and perfect and balanced all at the same time.
I have wanted to learn a third language for a long time. French, German and Japanese are what I would choose to learn. French is light, and quick, and melodic–it sounds like music; I imagine French as this beautiful, rich, well-mannered woman. German is strong–almost harsh, but not unpleasant to hear, so I think of it as a man who’s rather rigid. Japanese is fast and flat and adorable–it’s old, but it sounds young. Languages all have their own sound and their own personality, and it might seem weird that I think of them as people, but I just love languages. They borrow from each other, and some of them sound very similar, but they’re still different–some of them are used by only a very few people, some are used all over the world–and they all do the same thing, which is get thoughts across and help people communicate. Language is a gift–can you imagine what life would be like, if humans couldn’t read or write or speak? I suppose we wouldn’t be human if that were true, would we?
I wonder what other people think of languages and their use in the world. Some people don’t like words; they don’t even like learning about their first language, which they use every day. Learning about words and learning how to write well seems, at least to me, to be more interesting than learning about chemical equations and mechanics and trigonometry. Maybe you won’t use triangles in your work, but you will have to speak and write and read every day, so I think it’s really important to learn them well.
That’s all I really wanted to say today. Just, the importance and the beauty of languages and words. Most people don’t really appreciate how lovely and powerful words can be, and I guess my love for books and words just makes me rather weird.