Learning a foreign language is not the easiest thing to do, especially if you plan on learning one that is linguistically very different from your native tongue. That said, learning a second or foreign language has always been viewed as something desirable. After all, there are many advantages to knowing more than one language including easier integration for those moving to a foreign place, better business relations for those dealing with people with different nationalities, and a deeper sense of self for those with mixed races and second generation immigrants. Of course, there’s also the matter of learning a new language for pleasure since it opens up new worlds to appreciate as you watch movies and read books in the original language.
But why study Asian languages instead of “more popular” languages like French, German, Italian and Spanish? And what Asian languages should you bother learning?
Believe it or not, the most common spoken language on Earth is actually an Asian language – Mandarin. With over a billion speakers worldwide, Mandarin speakers actually outnumber English speakers by about 150 million, making it THE Asian language to learn, especially if you are targeting the Chinese market with your business.
Nihongo, which is the language spoken by the Japanese, is not nearly as common as Mandarin or any of the other Western languages mentioned above but is still a pretty useful language to learn if you are serious about tapping the Asian market. You cannot ignore Japan’s economic and technological presence in today’s world market, and since majority of the Japanese are not fluent in English, you need to learn their language to get an advantage over your competitors.
If you want to be fluent in an Asian language for pleasure opting for more exotic, albeit less practical, Asian languages like Korean and Thai is the way to go. Both languages look very distinctive with the “letters” unlike any other. You bet that even if people don’t understand a thing you write in either language, they’ll be quite impressed with the pretty writing.
When it comes to the spoken language though Korean is actually very unique and is unlike any other language, being classified as a language isolate. This means that it was not derived from any other language that existed on Earth! Thai, on the other hand, is a mishmash of Pali, Sanskrit and Old Khmer, making for a rather really interesting sounding language. Thai is also considered to be an analytic language and is tonal (like Mandarin), which makes it quite different to learn. So if you are planning on learning Thai on your own, you’d better rethink your strategy because it is pretty unlikely that you’ll end up fluent in the language unless you take Thai classes or have a native speaker as a friend/tutor.
Whatever your motivation may be for learning an Asian language though, keep in mind that you’ll always be in the winning end each time you learn something new.