Which Language to Learn and Why
How easy is it to learn a new language? Are you a child? If yes, no biggie. If not, good luck.
For Mandarin, things are a little bit more complicated. Infants younger than seven months can distinguish between all possible sounds and tones in human languages, from the Germanic “b” vs. “v” to the Mandarin “mā” vs. “má” vs. “mǎ” vs. “mà”. Once infants get older without having been exposed to a certain language group, they lose the ability to recognize its unique tones. Still, kids can become native speakers to most languages as long as they hear it often enough while they are younger than 12 years. Once you’re an adult, you will need to dedicate more time. And a lot more effort. Estimates indicate it can take adults 3–4 years spent in China before they achieve fluency in the language. In summary:
Mandarin is the biggest human language, spoken by one fifth of the world’s population. Even though most of these speakers are located in the far East, knowledge of Mandarin could be your key to many Chinatowns worldwide alike.
Say that you will invest the time to learn Mandarin. It’s often claimed to be a big career boost, but is that true? You will have a quality that is somewhat unique in the Western world, but this can also be a downside. US and EU companies will usually not require a fluent Mandarin speaker in job descriptions, because it’s simply too hard to find one. Communication is a lot easier in English, in which most Chinese professionals are fluent. Basically, to receive the full career benefits of speaking Mandarin, you might have to enter China’s job market first.
What is really more “intellectual” than knowing a language with which you can’t communicate with over 95% of the people in your country, f.e. speaking Mandarin while living in the West? Exactly.
Imagine this scenario. You’re flying to China for holidays and are waiting in line, ready to board. In front of you, there’s a couple with a small kid, blonde hair and summer outfits. The stewards are talking to each other in Mandarin. Suddenly, the kid replies! In Mandarin!! The stewards are shocked, as are most of the other people in line. The family and stewards start talking vividly, laughing, about — well, obviously, you have no clue what about. How jealous are you? Very jealous.
Fun: Mandarin +2
Someone who knows Dutch can easily learn German. A native Portugese speaker can read Spanish. In the same way, programming languages form their own language group in itself. If you know the basic grammar rules and concepts that recur in every code, such as loops or conditionals, you can apply it to every programming language out there.
PS: Feel inspired to learn the basic concepts that are applied in all programming languages? Start playing Bomberbot.