Knowing Chinese makes you sexy, rich and happy :)

China successfully launched its first space station TianGong-1

Video of the TianGong-1 launch by China Central Television. That’s really impressive! I’ll do a more complete writeup of the TianGong-1 mission in the next days. In case you want a more complete picture of the Chinese space program, check out my China spaceflight article.

China wants to rescue Europe and Chinese learners may profit


Yesterday we heard it again in the news. China is ready to give cheap money to Europe. That’s not new. Previously China has offered a helping hand to Euroland with its debt crisis and I think that’s a ongoing topic whenever Chinese and European leaders meet.

The money doesn’t come for free of course. China wants to have unrestricted access to the European markets. Less trade barriers when selling products to Europe and less paperwork when Chinese companies want to establish a presence in Europe. While I do like less paperwork in general, I’m not sure if less trade barriers will be helpful for Europe. Cheap Chinese products mean lower prices in our shops, but also more competition for low wage countries in southern and eastern Europe. Essentially Europe gets money but has to give up competitiveness.

But there is also some candy in the store for learners of Chinese. China wants Europe to reduce paperwork for Chinese companies and help them to establish themselves in Europe. More Chinese companies in Europe mean two things. First more jobs in general. Second a unique opportunity for learners of Chinese, because these Chinese companies are Chinese companies, and their management probably will be Chinese. And who else could be a better choice than a European with Chinese skills to make sure communication between Chinese managers and European employees is smooth?

Sure they could send some Chinese persons who have learned English. However not everyone in Europe speaks English and when it comes to the more obscure languages of Europe I doubt China has enough people with those language skills.

If you are a Chinese learner this move will probably increase the value of your language skills. If you aren’t learning Chinese already, this might be a good idea to get started learning Chinese.

The evil forces of the media

As my regular readers might know, this blog had some downtime during Spring 2011. In May I continued writing, but so far I’m still much below my old level of readers.

I could blame my readers, but I have to blame myself. The last posts have been very thoughtful, and I do enjoy that, however they haven’t been very successful in terms of number of readers. And I do know that. The statistics tell me, that since I started this blog shallow posts had a good ROI. Instructional posts are second best. While I do write this blog for exchanging ideas, I also want to learn about digital media. And there was not much learning about the digital media part recently. Therefore, I want to move to some more mainstream topics in the coming weeks and months.

Just in case anyone is curious, here is a selected list of highly rated gems. Posts that have been rewarded by my readers with lots of visits. They might be not that thoughtful however.

Language diversity vs. economics

The comments in a recent article went a little off topic. We were talking about translating certain modern words, then the discussion turned towards the language abilities of the general public and the economic value of a harmonized language landscape.

Aremonus wrote:

Are we to decadent and assertive to accept that our native language isn’t necessarily the most important in the world?

The by far most important language in todays world is English, and I’m sure most people coming from whatever country do understand that. However, accepting that English is the most important language, doesn’t necessarily mean everyone needs to learn English.

On the other hand, there are certain groups here, who really should. Last week there was an article in our local newspaper, where the local tourism organization lamented on the low number of international visitors. The reality is, you can’t buy a train ticket at a German train station in a small town using English. You can’t order a meal using English in a restaurant. I have witnessed a lot of incredible situations here, a city of about 20,000 inhabitants, where tourism is considered a major part of the local industry.

Aremonus wrote:

If I have to write laws [...] in 20 different languages

My mother tongue is German, but I don’t understand German legal speak. I can’t see changing the court language from German to English would benefit me in any way, despite having a solid grasp of the English language.

Aremonus wrote:

… costs …

During the last 10 years, in Germany, 50% of all wage earners got their wage reduced, when adjusted for inflation. That is despite an economic growth. During the last 10 years we have seen so many increases of productivity, increased GDP, yet 50% of all workers have to accept wage reductions. I have a very hard time understanding this. Why should those people support the companies to save costs by learning a common European language. Why should these people do that, when the end result will be a reduction in wages. The problem is simple: If we all speak the same language, not only your company will benefit, all companies will benefit equally. As soon as one company decides to put that saved money into marketing, the others will follow to stay competitive, the workers would gain nothing. You can’t ask the common people to do something, when they have nothing to gain. In fact, they would be stupid if they did learn one common language, just to fill the manager’s pockets. Pay them to learn and they will learn. Or did I miss something?

Looking at the topic from a non-commercial perspective…
Looking at the topic from a non-commercial perspective there are reasons to keep different languages and there are reasons to switch to one single language. Everyone has reasons, and everyone will prefer different points of view. Anyone is free to speak English or Chinese in public or at home or with friends. I don’t see a need for any discussion of what is the best way. The decision is up to the people and they can make a democratic decision at any time. When enough people in Germany speak English in everyday situations, then English will become an official language.

Justrecently wrote:

If we harmonized Europe with some kind of putong-english or putong-esperanto, this continent would become culturally and economically weaker, rather than stronger.

I agree.

USA: Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China 2011

I just came across this document titled “Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China 2011″. It is written by the USA and report for the US government to get an overview over China’s military and security situation.

Here is the link:

The document is pretty big and I only read a few parts. Let me point out a few highlights that caught my interest:

  • p. 16: Map of China’s border disputes
  • p. 16f: New missions for China’s army: peacekeeping and protecting China’s interests beyond its border.
  • p. 17: “Most recently, the PLA employed lift assets to assist in the evacuation of PRC citizens from Libya.”
  • p. 20/21: Where does China get its oil delivered from?
  • p. 35: How far do China’s intercontinental missiles reach?
  • p. 41: China’s military spending (2010 estimated at $US160 billion)
  • p. 67f: China’s arms sales

The USA really seems to be concerned, that it might lose its leading position sooner or later. Currently the USA invests incredible sums into its military, but that will only help for a while. For a long term success, my suggestion to the USA is: Increase population, make more babies. Otherwise, accept that you will be at place 3 at some point in the future, behind India and China.


Occasionally I translate some text from English to German. This year I’ve been struggling with translating one certain word: SOCIAL

Personally I don’t believe in the social hype. What does social really mean? I’m talking about social in the context of the new Web 2.0 websites and certain products. Does it mean: We give you some crap and therefore we take ownership of all your private data and then sell it? That’s how I see it.

I once learned, that a translator has to try to achieve two objectives:

  1. Stay true to the original text
  2. Translate in a way the meaning is NOT lost during the translation process.

Making a translation true to the original is easy. Making sure the meaning of the original is not lost is more difficult. Whoever set up those rules probably meant: Translate in a way the meaning as intended by the original author is NOT lost during the translation process, even if the original meaning is a intended to mislead the reader. Yay!

Here is the original bugger:
Music made social – BBM Music is a cloud-based, social music service that allows you to share and discover music with your friends, creating a continually evolving music library:

and a few lines later they state how SOCIAL they are:

Monthly fee: $US 4.99

Do people learn a language because of its economic value?

In a comment to my last article, my reader Justrecently asked a question:

“Have you ever met someone who learned Chinese successfully simply because a boss told him or her so? I haven’t.”

While my answer is not exactly a yes, it’s close.

While at school I learned English and Latin as foreign languages. English proved to be useful, Latin didn’t. After graduating from school, life becomes more serious. Comparing myself to others I realized, that a lot of people here speak at least two more or less useful foreign languages. Looking at my CV with English being the only foreign language was a bit depressing.


So I decided I have to learn another language. At that time I wasn’t interested in China. I wasn’t to interested in any other country, so I made my decision purely on an economical basis. I needed a second foreign language to make my CV competitive. I wanted to learn something that had a good ratio of time invested vs. expected progress and it should be a language with a good amount of native speakers. Spanish seemed perfect. It’s close to English, has easy grammar and it is the third widely spoken language after Chinese and English.

It was a pathetic failure. After one year I could barely ask someone for their name. So I gave up, but the issue with the CV was still unsolved. At that point I had thought about Chinese for a few months. Language with highest number of native speakers, it doesn’t have word flexions, one of my main concerns with spanish, and Chinese women don’t look that bad after all. I decided to give it a one semester chance. It was supposed to be among the hardest languages out there and I needed something for my CV in the not to distant future. After one semester of lazy learning, I could ask a person in Chinese, what is their name, if they are hungry, how old they are and many other things. I even could understand their reply. Chinese is so much better than Spanish.

My love for the Chinese language developed afterwards. Initially my decision was mostly driven by economic considerations. There are people out there, who start learning a language because of economic concerns.

Furthermore, while attending classes of Chinese, I did meet a few people, who learned Chinese because their boss told them to do so. Don’t know if each of them made / will make it until the fluent stage, but they put in some efforts. Maybe they liked the language as well after they started learning.

To my readers:
When you started learning Chinese (or some other language), how important was the economic aspect?

Only very few Germans learn Chinese

I just read an article about Chinese learners in Germany. The weekly magazin “Der Spiegel” seems to have some numbers. A good moment to answer the question “How many Chinese learners are there in Germany?”

First, let’s look at the key points of the article “Kaum ein Schüler lernt Chinesisch”, which loosely translates to “Only very few school kids learn Chinese”. Here are the main points:

- At German public schools, in the academic year 2010/11, Aproximately 5570 school kids at 226 schools learnd Chinese. Either as part of the regular curriculum, or in voluntary after class lectures. The exact number is expected to be higher, because just about 50% of the schools with a Chinese program returned the questionnaire.

- In the academic year 2007/08 the number was at 3200.

- In an unspecified year, probably last year, 7,500,000 school kids learned English, 1,700,000 learned French, 56,000 learned Italian.

Interesting numbers. Let’s find out a bit more. Germany, Switzerland and Austria combined have about 5000 students of Chinese at the university level. Finally we have evening schools, independent students and others learning the language outside of school or university, for example myself. I couldn’t find any statistical numbers for this group, however I think there are not that many. When I was in evening school learning Chinese, there were rarely more than 10 students at my level in a city of more than 100,000 inhabitants. Given these numbers, I’d say less than 20,000 people in Germany are actively learning Chinese at this moment. How many of them will learn until they are fluent? I don’t know, but the number could be much less.

That being said, I think it might pay off eventually to keep on learning Chinese. I just checked There are a lot of jobs posted with “Chinese nice to have”. But there are also a few jobs labeled “fluent Chinese and German required”. So far I have met few Chinese persons who are fluent in German.

In conclusion: Awesome!

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