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Learning Asian Languages – Article and Interview by Angela, Teen Blogger

“Most people (Canadians) think Asian languages are impossible to learn, but everyone has the ability to do it if they try,” said Xing Xing.

Xing Xing is one of my best friends. She is always curious about languages of other countries as she plans to travel around the world in a few years. The whole business started out two years ago with her addiction to Japanese singers, Koda Kumi and Ayumi Hamasaki. Xing Xing was curious to know what the songs were about, so in order to understand the lyrics, she learned quite a few conversational Japanese phrases.

While she was at it, she realized that learning Asian languages was not that hard at all. Xing Xing then decided to learn another Asian language, Chinese. She chose her Chinese name ‘Xing Xing’ from the translation of her real name which means ‘stars’. Using resources available to her, such as, language websites and imported language books (yes, she got them shipped from way over the other side of the world), she learned the crucial phrases for her to survive in Asian societies.

However, reading excessive amount of texts might not help completely. Just by reading the pinyin [Editor's Note: pinyin refers to Chinese words that are written in a Latin script, rather than written using Chinese characters] and the alphabets could sometimes give you the wrong idea. In Xing Xing’s case, she needed to hear audio recordings or listen to real conversations to make out the actual pronunciation. Thanks to her friend, which is me (yes you are welcome :P), she was able to experience real life Chinese conversations.

The following is a short interview I had with the star of this post, Xing Xing:

Why are you interested in learning Asian languages?

Asian languages are becoming the most important languages in the world, and the opportunities and benefits are endless when it comes to learning them.

What are the challenges of learning Asian languages?

The most challenging thing about Asian languages is that their vocabulary is completely unique, whereas many languages derive from Latin and Greek and share many similarities.

So how many languages are you learning at the moment?

I am currently learning Mandarin Chinese and Japanese.

Which of them would be the hardest to learn?

I’ve found Japanese had the hardest grammar and Chinese had the hardest pronunciation because of the tones.

Is there any other Asian language you would like to learn next?

My main goal is to master the languages I’m working with now, but I would also consider trying Korean or an Indian language like Hindi.

What methods of learning are most useful in terms of strengthening language skills?

I would suggest learning by audio as much as possible and trying to mimic what you hear, rather than learning from reading. And I would say repetition is the best way to remember what you learn. Repeating and using what you learn in real conversations.

What advice would you give to other people in order to help them learn an Asian language?

I suggest they keep an open mind, do not give up because something is scary or hard and to practice as much as they can.

How does learning an Asian language help you?

In my experience, learning Asian languages made me feel more connected to Asian cultures and helped me understand the immigrants around me more.

Good point. Thanks for your time.

If you are ever thinking about learning an Asian language, you can borrow free books and CDs from the library!


Japanese- Complete Course-book and DVD Thai Travel Pack - Book and DVD cover Chinese For Beginners- book and DVD cover Korean Travel Pack- book and DVD cover


There are plenty of other useful materials around the library, just check the foreign language section.

Have fun!


Teen Blogger

Editor's Note: I would also suggest checking out BBC Languages, which features free online lessons for over 30 languages!


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