Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Oh, THAT explains it

A short article in The Charlotte Observer reported on local schools starting to teach Mandarin Chinese, even at very early ages.

A table at the end compared the difficulty of learning two classes of language -- French and Spanish, which are phonetic and share some roots and cognates with English, are "Category I" and take about 480 hours to become "minimally proficient". Students can aim to "function professionally" after 700 to 900 hours.

Chinese, though, and Arabic as well, are "Category IV" languages which take "at least 1300 hours" to even get to the miminum level, and 2400 to 2700 for professional fluency. Bu hao.

I'd be interested to know how Arabic differs structurally from English -- as far as I know it also is a phonetic language, though reading right-to-left in a totally different script is bound to make it at least a Cat II. I'll ask my Syrian-born colleague at work if I think about it.

All the more interesting in light of the 53 hours or so we were able to invest before landing in Shanghai.

Update: I did speak with my Syrian coworker, and he said that the complexity of Arabic is grammar and pronunciation. It is phonetic, anyway.

No comments: