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Want to master either Chinese or Spanish after 30, is it possible?
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MdWanderer Offline
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Want to master either Chinese or Spanish after 30, is it possible?
I want to get back to learning and eventually mastering a foreign language again. Actually begun Spanish when I was 11 years old, was really good up until high school when I took Latin for four years (don't remember any Latin) then started back up in college again but wasn't very good at it. Studied it for a few years again but was in a standstill. Can understand basic speaking and listening, and intermediate writing.

However I think Chinese would be important too especially with this global economy. I want to eventually work for an embassy or do business in Chinese (my alma mater's MBA program has a Chinese business program I was interested in that I want to find more information about) plus I enjoy the culture which would make immersion easier. My plan is to live there for six months after I leave the military (by then I would of have had 2 1/2 years of independent study under my belt). I want to find a private tutor and take lessons twice a week and do independent study the other five days.

Have any of you mastered a language past the age of 30 or known somebody who has? (I am 30 now). I know no Chinese and would be starting from scratch, but that would not be the case with Spanish, although I have a greater interest in learning Chinese than Spanish and quit Spanish several times because it bored me (I only took it because I knew it was an important language to learn).
(This post was last modified: 04-29-2016 08:12 AM by MdWanderer.)
04-29-2016 08:11 AM
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RE: Want to master either Chinese or Spanish after 30, is it possible?
(04-29-2016 08:11 AM)MdWanderer Wrote:  I want to get back to learning and eventually mastering a foreign language again. Actually begun Spanish when I was 11 years old, was really good up until high school when I took Latin for four years (don't remember any Latin) then started back up in college again but wasn't very good at it. Studied it for a few years again but was in a standstill. Can understand basic speaking and listening, and intermediate writing.

However I think Chinese would be important too especially with this global economy. I want to eventually work for an embassy or do business in Chinese (my alma mater's MBA program has a Chinese business program I was interested in that I want to find more information about) plus I enjoy the culture which would make immersion easier. My plan is to live there for six months after I leave the military (by then I would of have had 2 1/2 years of independent study under my belt). I want to find a private tutor and take lessons twice a week and do independent study the other five days.

Have any of you mastered a language past the age of 30 or known somebody who has? (I am 30 now). I know no Chinese and would be starting from scratch, but that would not be the case with Spanish, although I have a greater interest in learning Chinese than Spanish and quit Spanish several times because it bored me (I only took it because I knew it was an important language to learn).

Comparing the difficulty levels of Spanish and Chinese makes no real sense, amigo.

You can get fluent in Spanish with a few months (one year max?) of studying (assuming you are American, or even better, from a "roman language" area), but Chinese or any other Asiatic language, especially tonal ones, well... you are facing couple of years of hard studying before speaking quite well.

Good news is, at 30 years of age you should still have intellectual agility enabling you to learn and memorize quite well.

Now, to be perfectly honest, if you failed at learning Spanish for lack of perseverance, then ten-times-much-harder Chinese might not be a realistic aim for you... Think hard, will you have the will and long-term commitment to do it? If the answer is yes, go for it!
(This post was last modified: 04-29-2016 08:22 AM by Going strong.)
04-29-2016 08:17 AM
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RE: Want to master either Chinese or Spanish after 30, is it possible?
You can totally master Chinese at your age, but the question is how much you are willing to sacrifice to do so.

Doing so will require total commitment for a period of time and that period will be much longer than six months. Count on two years in country, however, if you really want to master it.

Independent study might be useful for memorizing characters, but don't count on it making the process of actually speaking the language any easier or shorter. I've plenty of guys to 4 years of university study in Chinese who can barely string a sentence together once they actually are in China.

How much do you really know about Chinese culture? This culture is sick and corrupts just about everyone who gets "immersed" in it, so don't count on your time here to be butterflies and rainbows.

Learning Chinese is only useful if combined with other skills. It's also mostly only useful if you live in China. If you go back to the USA with "Chinese fluency," you're now competing with thousands of immigrants and the children of immigrants who speak, read and write both Chinese and English better than you, so it's not much of a competitive advantage.

The goal of working at the embassy in Beijing is a pleasant one, but realize that if you go into foreign service, you have no control over where you will actually be posted or if you will be hired at all. If you are a foreign affairs officer, you will be moved around from post to post as a matter of policy to build your skills and experience. If you move to Beijing and apply for jobs specifically at the embassy, be prepared to be offered nothing more than low paid paper pushing positions. I've seen the ads.

Learning Chinese is plenty boring, so if boredom turned you off from Spanish, it's going to be four times worse with Chinese thanks to the writing system. Long story short, don't even commit to this until you've spent sometime in China and are confident that learning the language is worth the investment.

Also, don't waste your time with your alma mater's program, you'll never learn Chinese if you are busy with an MBA program.
04-29-2016 08:29 AM
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RE: Want to master either Chinese or Spanish after 30, is it possible?
(04-29-2016 08:29 AM)Suits Wrote:  You can totally master Chinese at your age, but the question is how much you are willing to sacrifice to do so.

Doing so will require total commitment for a period of time and that period will be much longer than six months. Count on two years in country, however, if you really want to master it.

Independent study might be useful for memorizing characters, but don't count on it making the process of actually speaking the language any easier or shorter. I've plenty of guys to 4 years of university study in Chinese who can barely string a sentence together once they actually are in China.

How much do you really know about Chinese culture? This culture is sick and corrupts just about everyone who gets "immersed" in it, so don't count on your time here to be butterflies and rainbows.

Learning Chinese is only useful if combined with other skills. It's also mostly only useful if you live in China. If you go back to the USA with "Chinese fluency," you're now competing with thousands of immigrants and the children of immigrants who speak, read and write both Chinese and English better than you, so it's not much of a competitive advantage.

The goal of working at the embassy in Beijing is a pleasant one, but realize that if you go into foreign service, you have no control over where you will actually be posted or if you will be hired at all. If you are a foreign affairs officer, you will be moved around from post to post as a matter of policy to build your skills and experience. If you move to Beijing and apply for jobs specifically at the embassy, be prepared to be offered nothing more than low paid paper pushing positions. I've seen the ads.

Learning Chinese is plenty boring, so if boredom turned you off from Spanish, it's going to be four times worse with Chinese thanks to the writing system. Long story short, don't even commit to this until you've spent sometime in China and are confident that learning the language is worth the investment.

Also, don't waste your time with your alma mater's program, you'll never learn Chinese if you are busy with an MBA program.

If you are a foreign affairs officer, you will be moved around from post to post as a matter of policy to build your skills and experience

^True, other reason (for the moving-around) being, to prevent you from forming too-strong foreign allegiances.
04-29-2016 08:42 AM
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RE: Want to master either Chinese or Spanish after 30, is it possible?
My mom used to work in a small company that did fish import/processing/export. A ton of the stuff came from China, so her boss was always over there. We was likely mid 30s. He ended up marrying a girl from there, and along with the help it would give to his business he learned. Busted his ass. Always over there practicing, studying in Canada, repeat. So doable yes, but generally with strong motivators like business + wife.
04-29-2016 08:47 AM
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ball dont lie Offline
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RE: Want to master either Chinese or Spanish after 30, is it possible?
Jesus man learn Spanish.

Im not sure what you mean by "master" but if it means being able to spontaneously give talks about the economy or politics its going to be 4 years of hard study, giving up your native tongue and exclusively living, breathing in Chinese.

All the people I meet who studied Chinese for year or two suck. Its shit. Their tones are horrible, the cadence of their speech sounds nothing like Chinese should and their vocabulary makes them sound retarded. Just the same words over and over. Same sentence patterns.

Chinese is simply not worth it time wise. In 5 years you might become awesome at Chinese if you study all the time and live in China, but the opportunity cost of living and doing that for 5 years would be horrendous. Better off learning Spanish and getting actual work experience or business experience. People in China know English, or something that resembles it.
04-29-2016 08:48 AM
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RE: Want to master either Chinese or Spanish after 30, is it possible?
(04-29-2016 08:48 AM)ball dont lie Wrote:  All the people I meet who studied Chinese for year or two suck. Its shit. Their tones are horrible, the cadence of their speech sounds nothing like Chinese should and their vocabulary makes them sound retarded. Just the same words over and over. Same sentence patterns.

You're right. I need to make more effort.
04-29-2016 08:54 AM
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RE: Want to master either Chinese or Spanish after 30, is it possible?
As a person who learnt both English and Mandarin from birth, I would say go for Spanish.

Or to play devil's advocate, why limit yourself exclusively to these two languages? From what OP wrote, you want a practical language that serves you well climbing up the career ladder. Have you considered learning German or French?

Or since you want to live in Asia, pick an "easier" foreign language to learn like Korean or Japanese which has tons of loan words from English that makes learning easier. For example, the Japanese word for Captain America is "Kaputen Amerika", compare to this to Mandarin's "Meiguo Duizhang" which one sounds easier for you to pick up?

Mandarin almost exclusively create new words or use existing Chinese words for new vocabulary while Japanese and Korean just Japanize or Koreanize these foreign words. Starting from scratch and learning Chinese is hard since you almost have nothing to start off with. Pick Korean or Japanese and you already have a bank of words you know once you learn how the language pronounces its new loan words.
(This post was last modified: 04-29-2016 08:59 AM by Zerdame.)
04-29-2016 08:57 AM
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RE: Want to master either Chinese or Spanish after 30, is it possible?
(04-29-2016 08:54 AM)Suits Wrote:  
(04-29-2016 08:48 AM)ball dont lie Wrote:  All the people I meet who studied Chinese for year or two suck. Its shit. Their tones are horrible, the cadence of their speech sounds nothing like Chinese should and their vocabulary makes them sound retarded. Just the same words over and over. Same sentence patterns.

You're right. I need to make more effort.

Agree


I haven't heard you speak Mandarin but if you've only studied here and there for a year, it is likely foreigner Chinese. Though I want to be very clear Im not being a dick about it. Just the reality of the situation.

The right way to think about it is: you know all those Chinese people who speak English and it sounds really stupid. Its likely that unless you've studied for a long time, your Chinese sounds like that, or perhaps worse.


Pick up a middle school essay book sometime and read it. Can you speak like that? Its a very humbling experience even for me and I passed the HSK level 6.
(This post was last modified: 04-29-2016 09:14 AM by ball dont lie.)
04-29-2016 09:11 AM
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RE: Want to master either Chinese or Spanish after 30, is it possible?
Even try reading an elementary school book. I remember picking one up and expecting to fly through it back in the day. Was humbled.
04-29-2016 09:20 AM
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MdWanderer Offline
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RE: Want to master either Chinese or Spanish after 30, is it possible?
(04-29-2016 08:57 AM)Zerdame Wrote:  As a person who learnt both English and Mandarin from birth, I would say go for Spanish.

Or to play devil's advocate, why limit yourself exclusively to these two languages? From what OP wrote, you want a practical language that serves you well climbing up the career ladder. Have you considered learning German or French?

Or since you want to live in Asia, pick an "easier" foreign language to learn like Korean or Japanese which has tons of loan words from English that makes learning easier. For example, the Japanese word for Captain America is "Kaputen Amerika", compare to this to Mandarin's "Meiguo Duizhang" which one sounds easier for you to pick up?

Mandarin almost exclusively create new words or use existing Chinese words for new vocabulary while Japanese and Korean just Japanize or Koreanize these foreign words. Starting from scratch and learning Chinese is hard since you almost have nothing to start off with. Pick Korean or Japanese and you already have a bank of words you know once you learn how the language pronounces its new loan words.


I actually would prefer French or German, but wasn't sure if it was practical or useful to learn in the business world. I figured it would be important to learn two out of the three most spoken languages in the world (I already have the advantage of knowing one being English).
(This post was last modified: 04-29-2016 09:50 AM by MdWanderer.)
04-29-2016 09:50 AM
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RE: Want to master either Chinese or Spanish after 30, is it possible?
I studied Mandarin for three years in college (including a semester abroad in Shanghai) and in hindsight I wish I had studied Spanish.

At my best I was barely proficient in Mandarin, and I've lost a good bit of it since I graduated, as I never had the chance to move there for a longer period of immersion. If I had studied Spanish I'd likely be fluent by now, and it's much easier to practice outside of a Spanish-speaking country.

Here is the best essay I've ever read on why Mandarin is so damn hard. Too long to quote here, but definitely worth a read before you invest the time/effort.
04-29-2016 10:00 AM
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RE: Want to master either Chinese or Spanish after 30, is it possible?
english.blcu.edu.cn

I studied here. It's cheap, you can do 6 hours per day, there's plenty of cute international students, and if you work hard and get out into the city and talk to people, you'll be fluent, or near enough, in 6 months if you have an aptitude for languages.
04-29-2016 10:12 AM
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RE: Want to master either Chinese or Spanish after 30, is it possible?
I second the recommendation to either continue with Spanish or switch to French or German.

I give the edge to French if you have any interest in visiting Africa.
Also if you will be in North America for the immediate future you could visit Quebec province to practice your French. Pretty much every DVD or Blu-ray released in North America has a French audio track or at least subtitles already, so you can turn every trip to redbox/watching Netflix into a French lesson. You won't have that option nearly as often with German.

German is an interesting language and easy to pronounce but is often frustrating to learn when it comes to grammar and word order when compared to French. Another issue with learning German is most Germans under 35 speak excellent English so you will be very tempted to speak English with them and they may prefer it. This is less of an issue with French people who typically strongly prefer French instead.

Furthermore if you look at demographics France is pretty much the only place in Europe with a close to normal birth rate and estimated to be higher than the US. Germany and German speaking regions are in a serious precipitous population decline so their language will only decrease in influence with time. Meanwhile Africa has the world's highest birthrates and contains many french speaking countries. French women are also generally more feminine than German women.

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(This post was last modified: 04-29-2016 10:27 AM by azulsombra.)
04-29-2016 10:22 AM
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RE: Want to master either Chinese or Spanish after 30, is it possible?
(04-29-2016 10:12 AM)H1N1 Wrote:  ...you'll be fluent, or near enough, in 6 months if you have an aptitude for languages.

No, you won't be fluent in Chinese in 6 months. You won't even be "near enough."
04-29-2016 10:43 AM
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RE: Want to master either Chinese or Spanish after 30, is it possible?
(04-29-2016 08:11 AM)MdWanderer Wrote:  Have any of you mastered a language past the age of 30 or known somebody who has? (I am 30 now).

The ability to develop a completely native-sounding pronunciation drops off around puberty. But adults can certainly master grammar and (especially) vocabulary. Most people who fail at language learning do so because they have a bad plan, or they have a good plan, but they don't work it. Also, they underestimate the size of the task and the amount of effort needed.

Spanish is the easiest major language for native English speakers to learn. The percentage of cognates -- words that look alike in both languages -- is enormous. That gives us a big head start. There are obstacles, of course, but competency as an adult is possible.

As for Chinese, I have an American friend who is excellent at language learning. He works daily in German and French, both of which he learned in high school. In university he majored in Chinese, which involved three or four hours of study a day, and he spent his junior year in Taiwan studying the language. And his Chinese is barely functional. I've heard him order in Chinese restaurants and he's conversational in the language, but he says that his skills are not good enough to use the language professionally. That's why the US Department of Defense rates Spanish as a Category I language and Mandarin as a Category IV language.

David Moser's essay 'Why Chinese is Hard' is a good read: http://pinyin.info/readings/texts/moser.html
Quote:"A Spanish person learning Portuguese is comparable to a violinist taking up the viola, whereas an American learning Chinese is more like a rock guitarist trying to learn to play an elaborate 30-stop three-manual pipe organ."

EDIT: Isaac Jordan, I'm seeing now that you recommended this same essay earlier in the thread.
(This post was last modified: 04-29-2016 10:56 AM by ElFlaco.)
04-29-2016 10:48 AM
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RE: Want to master either Chinese or Spanish after 30, is it possible?
It depends on why you want to learn a new language. If you want to learn a new language as a hobby, go for it! Feel free to send a PM if you have any questions about Chinese (don't believe what people say, the grammar can get very tricky later on).

If you want to learn Chinese for business: don't. As a resume builder, it's awful. The investment required is huge and there is virtually no benefit. You do not need Chinese to get a job in China. Chinese will have minimal effect on your ability to get a job. Furthermore, hardly anyone reaches a level of proficiency to where they can use Chinese in a job setting. It's just not worth it.

Also, if you're looking to get a job at an embassy, you better know someone in the State Department or it's not happening.
(This post was last modified: 04-29-2016 11:56 AM by ovloV.)
04-29-2016 11:54 AM
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RE: Want to master either Chinese or Spanish after 30, is it possible?
If you want to do business in China, better to have a trusted employee/business partner that is fluent in both language and culture (and is actually Chinese). Chinese culture is very insular and loves to simultaneously worship foreigners while raw dogging them in the ass. The combination is a very lethal one-two punch.

If it's a hobby, go nuts. Hobbies don't have to be practical.
04-29-2016 12:54 PM
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RE: Want to master either Chinese or Spanish after 30, is it possible?
If you want to do something do it, anything is possible with heart and effort. Is it guaranteed? No nothing in life is. But live the life you want, not the one you think is reasonably possible.

Fate whispers to the warrior, "You cannot withstand the storm." And the warrior whispers back, "I am the storm."

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04-29-2016 01:25 PM
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RE: Want to master either Chinese or Spanish after 30, is it possible?
(04-29-2016 12:54 PM)Peregrine Wrote:  If you want to do business in China, better to have a trusted employee/business partner that is fluent in both language and culture (and is actually Chinese). Chinese culture is very insular and loves to simultaneously worship foreigners while raw dogging them in the ass. The combination is a very lethal one-two punch.

The main advantage of having a Chinese business partner is that you'll know who is going to raw dog you up the ass, even years before it actually happens.

It gives you something to look forward to during your years of sacrifice and commitment.

But if you want an experience that will keep you guessing, partner with an unmarried fellow who seems like a nice reliable chap and then wait for him to get married, have a kid who needs private school tuition and then steal the entire business out from under you!

Not knowing the exact moment that your world is going to come crashing down is what makes it exciting!
04-29-2016 06:45 PM
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RE: Want to master either Chinese or Spanish after 30, is it possible?


04-29-2016 11:42 PM
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RE: Want to master either Chinese or Spanish after 30, is it possible?
(04-29-2016 08:29 AM)Suits Wrote:  How much do you really know about Chinese culture? This culture is sick and corrupts just about everyone who gets "immersed" in it, so don't count on your time here to be butterflies and rainbows.

In what way is the Chinese culture sick? Just curious.
04-30-2016 01:47 AM
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RE: Want to master either Chinese or Spanish after 30, is it possible?
(04-29-2016 06:45 PM)Suits Wrote:  
(04-29-2016 12:54 PM)Peregrine Wrote:  If you want to do business in China, better to have a trusted employee/business partner that is fluent in both language and culture (and is actually Chinese). Chinese culture is very insular and loves to simultaneously worship foreigners while raw dogging them in the ass. The combination is a very lethal one-two punch.

The main advantage of having a Chinese business partner is that you'll know who is going to raw dog you up the ass, even years before it actually happens.

It gives you something to look forward to during your years of sacrifice and commitment.

But if you want an experience that will keep you guessing, partner with an unmarried fellow who seems like a nice reliable chap and then wait for him to get married, have a kid who needs private school tuition and then steal the entire business out from under you!

Not knowing the exact moment that your world is going to come crashing down is what makes it exciting!

I meant a Chinese partner who grew up in the West and was raised under western values of fairness and cooperation.

Partnering up with an actual Chinese person is ... exactly what you posted! Tongue
04-30-2016 01:50 AM
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RE: Want to master either Chinese or Spanish after 30, is it possible?
I've no experience with Chinese, but spent one year learning Japanese and then lived 6 Months abroad in Japan.
Now I'm into learning Spanish since 3 months.

So I can compare learning an Asian language with Chinese signs and Spanish.

While my Japanese is barely functional only for the most common daily situations, I can already handle a light conversation in Spanish.
This is mostly because of the similarity in Vocabulary. Think about fire - fuego, education - educacion etc.
In an Asian language every word could be basically anything. There is no connection in the languages. It is possible to learn speaking Japanese/Chinese if you spend some time abroad. Learning to read and write however is a terrible tedious task as you have to memorize every single sign.

Bottom line: Go for Spanish, Portuguese or French.

From my personal experience (German mother tongue, English, French in high school, Serbian from roomates, Japanese for an exchange semester and now Spanish) I can say you will only succeed in learning a new language if you have access to native speakers and you have some real motivation, like business, going to live abroad, women.

Good luck!
04-30-2016 03:12 AM
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RE: Want to master either Chinese or Spanish after 30, is it possible?
(04-29-2016 10:43 AM)Suits Wrote:  
(04-29-2016 10:12 AM)H1N1 Wrote:  ...you'll be fluent, or near enough, in 6 months if you have an aptitude for languages.

No, you won't be fluent in Chinese in 6 months. You won't even be "near enough."

You very well may not be, others with more of a flair for languages may not have the same struggles.

Chinese is a deceptively easy language to learn to speak and understand. You can certainly gain a near degree of fluency in 6 months - I and many others did, particularly those in ambassadorial roles where progress was a necessity rather than a luxury. Reading and writing will lake longer to reach the same degree of proficiency.
04-30-2016 02:14 PM
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