5 Reasons Why Learning Chinese is Important
My Personal Language Journey: Why I Decided to Relearn Mandarin and Cantonese
Language attrition is the process of losing a native or first language.
Have you ever dealt with the loss of a language? Was it your first language that you were taught and “raised” with?
You’re not alone.
Hundreds and thousands of people have suffered with language attrition because of inevitable and unavoidable matters like adapting to new cultures, immigration, quality of life, and more. As a Chinese-Canadian university student, I suffered from an identity crisis because I could not subject myself to being “Chinese” since I gradually lost touch with the culture and language because I wanted to achieve “bilingualism” – being able to speak more than one language. But I also didn’t want to fully recognize myself as just a Canadian, because even though I was raised in Canada, I am proud to say that the first language I was taught was Cantonese.
But I remember that, as a previously fluent child, I did not always feel this way.
Having parents that immigrated from Asia took a toll on my early education in Canada because they were not fluent in English – which is the main language that we speak here (aside from French). This resulted in having a “language shift” from Chinese to English and, in turn, I was associated with a more Canadian culture that I am grateful for.
However, I can’t pretend that becoming fluent in English and adapting to Canadian culture only had benefits – which was my parents initial goal that inspired the move to Canada in the first place. Sure, being fluent in English is a pretty common “need” that can open many successful opportunities and help achieve career goals, but at what cost?
Losing my first language changed my everyday life – and I didn’t even know it until I tried to have a conversation with my parents… and I couldn’t understand them.
It was such a simple conversation in Chinese, and I was shocked to realize that I could not formulate the sentence to “make sense”. I found myself using only one or two words as a response in Chinese – not because I was “lazy”, but because I simply forgot.
While this “language barrier” took a toll on me, it was the loss of culture that truly made me feel isolated. I believe that food is important to cultural identity and people all around the world are able to learn, communicate, and show cultural appreciation through food. Traditional cuisines from different cultures are passed down and are a way to create a connection with people. To me, food is nostalgic because it enforces a bond in relation to family and culture. It tells a story.
All this contributes to why I felt embarrassed about my lack of knowledge of the traditional Chinese food that I used to eat regularly as a very young child. I didn’t even know how to say the exact food names – and I used to.
It was the fact that I used to know all these types of food from Chinese culture that made me upset to realize I no longer do. I became comfortable with Canadian culture and ate foods that were considered “normal” in Canada… and while there is no issue with that, I did not want to keep going down the path where I felt disconnected from where I came from, how I was raised, and the proud culture I was given.
With that being said, I decided to take on my own personal language learning journey and start over, but this time, with a better finish. Here are my 5 takes on why learning Chinese is important:
1. It is Not Just About Learning the Language, but also the Culture!
Have you ever wanted to visit China or Hong Kong but are afraid of culture shock?
While you learn one of the many Chinese languages that are available (Mandarin or Cantonese for example), you will find that many language teachers will also share facts about the culture so that you can understand the structure and/or logic of the Chinese norm. U+ Education offers qualified online Chinese classes that showcase “normal” Chinese culture including food, traditions, beliefs, values, and more!
2. More Career Opportunities
If you want to go above and beyond, travel, and open more doors for opportunity… learning Chinese can help you do just that!
Instead of limiting yourself, learning Chinese can help you connect with BILLIONS of people AND advance your career path.
Most companies nowadays respect people who are able to speak more than one language… and with the large and growing population of Chinese people, it is extremely valuable to have basic communication skills.
It is no secret that the Chinese language has a huge presence in the business world, so get your money up and not your funny up!
As I said before, learning Chinese can help you connect with millions of people! You can even take it a step further and familiarize yourself with different social media platforms that Chinese people use, including WeChat and Red! Like TikTok and Instagram Reels, WeChat also has a feature for short videos and this can help with your language journey since many have subtitles!
You also don’t need to restrict yourself with just online networking (even though it is extremely convenient and effective). Take on coffee chats and build relationships with people you can learn from and connect with!
4. Celebrations and Events
Chinese New Year, Spring Festival, Dragon Boat Festival, Mid-Autumn Festival… any of these ring a bell?
Holidays are essential to Chinese culture because it is a great time to connect with the people that you love including friends and family! These celebrations are worth learning and participating in. After all, they give you the chance to spend time with the people you love, eat (new) foods, learn new things (like the Chinese zodiac), and more!
5. One of the Easiest Languages to Learn
(Especially if it is Online!)
While I did unfortunately experience language attrition… I am thankful to know that learning Cantonese and Mandarin is a lot easier than learning other languages! I am able to build a platform of knowledge for the culture by learning Chinese online.
Something that prevented me from relearning the language again was the commitment… I didn’t want to commit to once a week on a specific day. Thankfully, there are many businesses that offer flexible online language learning which allows me to learn on my own time like U+ Education.
U+ Education carries quite a unique and special class environment because they make it seem like it is not work or hard effort – but it is fun and rewarding!
If you are considering picking up Chinese – my advice is to just do it! Watch some Chinese drama, expose yourself to Chinese artists/music, and take the leap to register for a class.
~ Jina Wong