Asian languages can sometimes be lumped in the ‘too hard’ basket.
But there are many reasons why learning an Asian language should be on your bucket list. Not all Asian languages are character based or tonal languages – some Asian languages such as Bahasa Indonesia (and Bahasa Malay) are considered one of the easiest languages to learn.
The US Department of State lists languages by how long they take to achieve working proficiency and both Bahasa Indonesia and Bahasa Malay are listed in category II, taking approximately 900 hours to achieve working proficiency.
Category III languages are considered ‘hard’ and on average require 1100 hours to achieve working proficiency. Asian languages in this category are – Bengali, Burmese, Hindi, Khmer, Lao, Mongolian, Nepali, Sinhala, Tagalog, Tamil, Thai, Tibetan, Urdu and Vietnamese.
Most of the languages in Category IV are Asian languages and these are considered ‘super hard’ requiring 2200 hours to reach a working proficiency. These languages are Cantonese, Mandarin, Japanese and Korean. Arabic is also in this category.
So does this put you off learning an Asian language?? It shouldn’t! Learning one of these ‘super hard’ languages is not impossible! There are so many reasons why you should consider learning an Asian language.
I’ll admit, I am biased!
My language learning background is almost entirely in Asian languages! I first learnt Japanese as 12 year old, followed by a short stint of Bahasa Indonesia. I continued Japanese through high school and into university. As an 18-year-old, I spent a year living in Vietnam and continued studying Vietnamese on my return to university in Australia. It wasn’t until I was in my early 30s I started learning Mandarin Chinese.
So I am a complete Asian language convert! And I am no language genius…. it is just something I enjoy and make time for.
So here are my 8 reasons why you should learn an Asian language:
The Asian Century
We’re officially in the Asian Century! And have been for almost twenty years…! So what does this mean exactly?
The term ‘Asian Century’ refers to the growth in prosperity of the Asian region and with that the region’s expected growing dominance.
The Asian Development Bank found that during the 21st Century, an additional 3 billion people in Asia could expect to reach living standards similar to much of western Europe.
The countries in Asia are predominantly young and growing fast. The population in Asia is expected to grow from 4 billion to 5 billion during this century. This represents all kinds of opportunities and challenges.
Do you like to travel? Asia is home to many of the worlds most amazing tourism destinations. The beaches of Thailand, the snow-capped mountains of Japan and Nepal, the history of India, the food in Vietnam and the Great Wall of China. Travelling to a country where you speak the language (or at least some of the language) is a huge advantage. Even knowing a few key phrases can enhance your travels immensely. Read my post key travel phrases to know before heading off on a trip.
Chances are if you live in a decent sized city, you are able to meet with migrants from Asian countries such as China, Vietnam, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Mandarin Chinese is the most spoken language (after English) in Australia, followed by Italian, Arabic, Cantonese and Greek. Other commonly spoken Asian languages in Australia also include Punjabi and Hindi.
If you are learning an Asian language, connecting with native speakers in your home-town could be one of the best ways to progress in your studies and learn about its culture.
As you’ve read above, learning some Asian languages can be a serious challenge. But guess what, if you put in the effort and you get to a certain level of proficiency, that gives you such bragging rights! People you meet might well be impressed you can speak an Asian language, and it could come in super handy for travels, making friends, and getting a job.
Experiencing the food of Asia is one of the reasons you might consider learning an Asian language. Do you long for a steaming hot bowl of Bún bò Huế or a Bánh mì thịt nướng? How great would it feel to be able to order these foods and understand the ingredients and methods of cooking?
Food and drink is such a connector of people. Together with language, it makes the world go around.
Arts and sports
Films, books, music are a few of the other reasons you might consider learning an Asian language. The film industries in Asia are huge – with the Indian Bollywood industry accounting for a huge share. Hong Kong, China, Japan and Korea also have large film industries. Japanese anime and manga have been huge for ages, and continue to be so popular. K-pop (Korean pop music) is growing crazily in popularity.
It’s sports too – Taiqi, Qigong, Karate, Judo, Taekwondo plus others all originate in Asia. If you do these martial arts, knowing the language could also give you insights into the practice.
Connecting with people
Learning another language allows you to connect with others in a way you might not be able to without your language skills. Language learners I’ve interviewed most commonly cite meeting new friends and connecting with people in their language as the number one advantage of learning a language. Read my Language Learning Stories interviews here.
Bring something different
Whether this is a different perspective, different experiences or understanding of another culture, this knowledge provides you with an advantage or an ‘edge’ over others who don’t have these experiences. This can be incredibly important if you are looking to progress your career and use your language skills to get ahead.
Ultimately though these reasons are all well and good, but it has to be your passions that drive which language you should choose to study.
Are you learning an Asian language? What are your challenges? Or are you considering studying an Asian language? Let me know below!
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Until next time,