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Language/nich pair with best ROI?
Thread poster: MoeJohnson

Balasubramaniam L.  Identity Verified
India
Local time: 14:35
English to Hindi
+ ...
Very true Aug 26, 2015

Christine Andersen wrote:
If you sit down and learn the alphabet systematically, I bet it is no more difficult than remembering the icons on a smart phone.



I totally agree. Script is not an integral part of any language. I know of several languages that are written in more than one script (Hindi is one of them - it is written in Devnagari as well as Persian-Arabic script - the latter form is nowadays called Urdu).

The written part of language came when man learned agriculture and started to live in settled colonies (villages). Since agriculture provided plenty of food with minimum effort, it afforded man with a lot of leisure time and all cultural, philosophical, and creative pursuits and achievements resulted out of this leisure time. The script is also a part of this development. It is only a few thousand years old, whereas languages are as old as mankind itself.

Scripts can change too. Turkish is an example, which abandoned its original script and adopted the roman script a few decades ago.

Scripts are much more easier to learn than languages. The latter can only be properly learned when attempted at an early age. This is because language is in some poorly understood manner biologically intrinsic to us. Most children under five have already absorbed 99% of all their linguistic knowledge, and learn just about 1% more in their entire later life. This 1% mostly has to do with script, grammar rules, and conventions imposed by the language community - all these are an insignificant part of the language, although they are important in professional use of language which has to confirm to these standardized norms of the language.

Your effort at learning the Marathi script by reading shop signs from a bus reminds me of an Iranian friend of mine who learned not only the entire Hindi script but also became proficient enough in Hindi to be able to communicate with me in written Hindi by a similar process. I once asked her how she managed this, and she told me that Bollywood films are immensely popular in Iran (as they are all over the world) and in the 60s and 70s, the titles of these films, as well as publicity material (posters, etc.) were printed in both Devnagari and Urdu scripts. Since Persian is also written in the same script as that of Urdu, my friend had no difficulty in reading the Urdu texts and using that as a cue, she laboriously picked up the Devnagari script.

I have myself started learning the Urdu script recently by a similar process. I had always wanted to learn Urdu because half of the literature of Hindi is in Urdu and to become properly expert in Hindi it is essential to learn Urdu as they were the same languages until recently until imperial politics divided them. I managed to lay my hands on a small book that explains the intricacies of the Urdu script in Hindi, and using it as a starting point and delving liberally into internet resources, have now mastered the Urdu script - that is the reading part. Writing the Urdu script is a different kettle of fish altogether as it requires a high level of calligraphic skill, which I will never probably acquire. But it is not needed also, as I can produce equivalent results by tapping the keys of my computer.

All this just to attest that learning the script is least of the trouble involved in mastering any language.


 

Bruno Depascale  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 11:05
Member (2009)
English to Italian
+ ...
Passion is the best ROI Aug 26, 2015

I think the best ROI you can have is doing a job that you love, trying to improve yourself every day. Money is an important thing, but it must be a secondary thing in our lives. I think the most important thing is to do a job you like. Money should not be your main objective.

 

Preston Decker  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 05:05
Chinese to English
If it's an alphabet it's not difficult to learn Aug 26, 2015

Here's a second to Christine's thoughts. Learning most alphabet-based languages is not a difficult thing to do. It's funny that many Westerners recoil in horror at the idea of learning Thai, Arabic, and other 'letter' based languages--we're talking about fewer than a hundred possible characters/accents. I'm studying Uyghur, which is written in the PRC using an Arabic based script, and after 3 weeks of study anyone with a bit of an educational background should be able to give a decent pronunciat... See more
Here's a second to Christine's thoughts. Learning most alphabet-based languages is not a difficult thing to do. It's funny that many Westerners recoil in horror at the idea of learning Thai, Arabic, and other 'letter' based languages--we're talking about fewer than a hundred possible characters/accents. I'm studying Uyghur, which is written in the PRC using an Arabic based script, and after 3 weeks of study anyone with a bit of an educational background should be able to give a decent pronunciation of every word in the Uyghur lexicon.

Character-based languages are an entirely different monster of course. And kudos to the Japanese>English translators on here who had to learn two separate alphabets and a whole bunch of kanji.




[Edited at 2015-08-26 20:54 GMT]
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Dan Lucas  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 10:05
Member (2014)
Japanese to English
Japanese harder to read, Putonghua harder to speak Aug 27, 2015

Preston Decker wrote:
Character-based languages are an entirely different monster of course. And kudos to the Japanese>English translators on here who had to learn two separate alphabets and a whole bunch of kanji.

What killed me when I was starting Japanese was the way that many of the more common kanji have multiple readings, with multiple different suffixes with one of the worst examples being the character "to live", which has tons of variations.

I really, really didn't like that back then and it still strikes me today as a massively inefficient system. It's only a writing system, it's not the language. Why make it so stupidly complex?

By comparison when I and a couple of friends decided to study Chinese in our lunch time at work - we had an excellent Japanese-speaking tutor who hailed from Harbin - I found Chinese a doddle to read.

That was partly of course because I was no longer scared of characters and instead was having fun mentally comparing hanzi to kanji, but also because the Chinese writing system is just a lot simpler. There may in theory be more characters than in Japanese, but I find learning characters is easy when you have pretty much one character = one sound. I guess there may be exceptions but at our level we didn't hit them.

What did get me with Mandarin was the sounds. Oddly enough all three of us latched on to tones pretty quickly and our tutor was very happy with that; obviously you'd need immersion to get really good.

No, it was the pronunciation that we struggled with. There are no sounds in Japanese that do not occur (as far as I can make out) in English, but there are quite a few in Mandarin that simply have no equivalent in my mother tongue. I sweated with those. Again, immersion would be the key.

The nice thing about having gone through hell to get Japanese and/or Chinese under your belt is that nothing scares you any more. You look at a European language and think "It's all in Roman script and it has spaces between words! Walk in the park!"



Regards
Dan


 

Jeff Henson  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 11:05
Member (2015)
French to English
A walk in the park Aug 27, 2015

[quote]Dan Lucas wrote:

Preston Decker wrote:

The nice thing about having gone through hell to get Japanese and/or Chinese under your belt is that nothing scares you any more. You look at a European language and think "It's all in Roman script and it has spaces between words! Walk in the park!"



Regards
Dan


Exactly. That is precisely why I was so surprised by Balasubramaniam's suggestion that Hindi would be an easier choice as a first foreign langauge for a complete novice over Spanish.


 

MoeJohnson
United States
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks for the answers! Aug 27, 2015

Thanks for the answers guys! Very interesting and helpful.

 

Balasubramaniam L.  Identity Verified
India
Local time: 14:35
English to Hindi
+ ...
Hindi has that too! Aug 27, 2015

[quote]Jeff Henson wrote:

Dan Lucas wrote:

Preston Decker wrote:

The nice thing about having gone through hell to get Japanese and/or Chinese under your belt is that nothing scares you any more. You look at a European language and think "It's all in Roman script and it has spaces between words! Walk in the park!"



Regards
Dan


Exactly. That is precisely why I was so surprised by Balasubramaniam's suggestion that Hindi would be an easier choice as a first foreign langauge for a complete novice over Spanish.


Even in Hindi there are spaces between words! So learning Hindi is a walk in the park too!


 
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