January 12, 2009

Why I chose Mandarin

First of I would like to introduce myself, my name is Niel de la Rouviere, and I'm currently studying a BA at Stellenbosch, South Africa with majors in English Literature Studies and Mandarin, coupled with minors General Linguistics and Applied English Language Studies.

I was one of those kids that came straight out of high school with no clear goal as to what study or what career to follow. All I knew was that I'd kill myself if I had to sit with same old job and repetitive work routine every single day. Creativity was what I needed. So there was art... nah, only a hobby. Music: couldn't qualify. So I chose the next best thing that I loved to do: write.

I've been writing ridiculously lame plot deprived sci-fi short stories for a while now, so I thought, you know why not study language, try something creative, like writing novels, if not, there's always journalism.
So when I signed up for my course I knew I wanted to take another third language (my home language is actually, Afrikaans, which I will write about in future posts). I narrowed my options to French and Mandarin, and just like in this case, I was stuck with the question, what language do I want to pursue.

My surname is of French heritage and the romanticism of the French really sat well with me. My father also momentarily did a few French courses. So it sounded good, albeit my dad annoyingly raised his voice every time he spoke in French; strange how accents affect your voice.

Then there was Mandarin. The most spoken language in the world (not to be mistaken with English which is the most widely most spoken language). It seemed like a challenge. A new frontier; and the Asian mysticism intrigued me immensely.

In my case, both languages had value and passion, but Mandarin excelled in both. China is full speed ahead at becoming the world's next superpower, thus it is an amazing asset to have. That's the value.
Now the passion: China is one of those strange sub-plot characters in a sci-fi comedy novel: on the outside, it's just there, participating without us knowing, brooding it's own nest, but when we get to know it better, it becomes the most loved character of them all.

Any, English student will know of Othering, and thus I couldn't sit back and let China be that other country. I wanted to know how they think, how they converse and most off all how that amazing pictographic writing system works.


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