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Tea with AK71: Learn a second language!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

I remember a Caucasian lecturer from New Zealand telling me before that he wished he was bilingual. He only knew the English language and he didn't think he was totally proficient in the language either. He said he thought the Singapore government did the right thing in schooling us in two languages.

It seems that learning to speak a second langauge also makes us smarter if what I read in a magazine is to be believed.

Bilingual children performed better than monolingual children in a series of tests that assessed ability to solve complex problems. This is according to a study by Toronto's York University.

People who are more effectively bilingual also are less likely to suffer from dementia and other symptoms associated with Alzheimer's disease. This is from a study by the University of California, San Diego.

Seems that I should spend more time brushing up my Mandarin. Time to buy a copy of the Chinese language papers, perhaps.

Reference:, 27 March 2012.


INVS 2.0 said...

Hi Ak71,

My first language taught and spoken was Mandarin. Since then, I developed an interest in this language and went on to learn the Classical Chinese.

But my English was terrible. I can't utter an English word until Primary 2. I can't finish an English essay that can be recognised by proper words and sentence structures until Secondary 5. I can't submit an essay with less than a page of grammatical errors until JC. :(

I spent 1 to 2 years in JC fixing serious misconceptions and errors on my command of English. While it is still stained by grammatical errors here and there as you can see, I am glad that I have come so far from the days where I can't even make sense of English words.

Chinese language, on the other hand, is much harder than English and is difficult to learn if you don't absorb it fast and right enough in your childhood days. The writing part is a barrier where many people give up.

My advice would be to type Chinese words using Hansware/Hans Vision where you can use the software to translate your English words into Chinese and learn from there onwards. :D

INVS 2.0 said...


Btw, I think being Bilingual is still not enough. We need to be more specialised on Bilingualism. For example, if we are learning the Chinese language, why not try to learn the ancient Classical Chinese? Instead of writing just simplified Chinese words, we can also learn the traditional version. This would make the learning a more interesting one. :)

As for English, maybe we can learn the Shakespearean version. :D

AK71 said...

Hi INVS 2.0,

Sounds like you had a long and difficult journey with English.

As for Shakespearen English or English of the Elizabethan era, that is easy compared to Middle English. Read the Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer? ;)

I went to a communist primary school which had her school anthem sung in Mandarin. So, I was forced to pick up Chinese and although I was one of the least masterful students of the language, what I picked up saw me through Chinese exams in secondary school and JC. Well, it was B3 all the way but good enough to get by. At least I didn't have to go to Chinese camp in NUS. ;p

Derek said...

Hi AK,

Yes, I realized the importance of a second language more specifically Mandarin. I think my Mandarin sucks although I do not know how I manage to scrap through with Bs during my O levels. It was only recently after my trip to HK and Guangzhou that I felt incredibly helpless. The words looked alien to me. The worse part was when I wanted to order some of the mouth watering dishes but I don't know how to read the words. I only know it is a Chicken, duck, pork etc.

I do agree with INVS that we should be a little more specialized. I'm looking at being able to recognize everyday characters e.g. from a menu or street sign and also specific terms used in IT.

I even created a blog to force me to learn and publish a post on new words daily.

SnOOpy168 said...

Learning or updating a skill is always good. But it is pointless learning, getting a certificate and then never use it.

Imagine China is still sleepy closed door, I am sure many will still be learning hard to speak Cantonese (the HK language) or Japanese.

My English from near failure in Secondary school to it's proficiency level today, has the BBC & British Council to thank. Listen and try to speak as much while I was roaming about their library in Raffles Place, after school.

So, to brush up your chinese - watch more drama or programs of your interest, then speak to the Chinese. Preferably those from North of Beijing, whose pronunciation has lesser slang.

Perhaps you want to start a Passive Income Seminar for your neighbours or in China. Good income too.

Nothing beats good old practice.

Ray said...

Hmm, I am proficient in both English and Mandarin Chinese. In fact, I used to do translation work for my church.
But that didn't really give me advantage in my career. :D Other than when I had to travel to China for business purposes, I didn't leave them scratching their head with my mandarin :) Apart from that, nope, no advantages whatsoever.

Regarding dementia, hmmm I also speak Hokkien and Cantonese pretty fluently. Does that mean I have lower chance of dementia? :D

AK71 said...

Hi Derek,

My Cantonese sucks! Hahaha... ;p

I was forced to pick up Chinese words and phrases which are industry specific in my job because we deal with factories in Taiwan. I also liaise with suppliers in Hong Kong but the people I deal with speak and write passably well in English. So, I am never forced to improve on my Cantonese.

I see you are working hard. Add oil! :)

AK71 said...

Hi SnOOpy168,

Indeed, why bother learning if we are not going to use it? For self improvement? Fun and laughter?

I gave up learning Japanese after 10 lessons although I kind of enjoyed the classes. It was a hassle rushing to class after work and apart from using the language for an hour in class, I didn't use it otherwise.

I love watching Chinese drama especially from mainland China. I particularly enjoy those set in the Ching era. I used to buy boxed DVDs sets. These days, I watch them on PPS using my iPad for free. :)

As for organising investment related classes, you are not the first one to suggest this but I really do not have the credentials and might end up behind bars especially with the government becoming quite strict with financial advisors these days. ;p

AK71 said...

Hi Ray,

You are a quadlingual! Wow! Your chances of dementia is probably 25% that of a monolingual and 50% that of a bilingual. ;p

I am sure it is always useful to know more languages. Whether it means we are smarter or not is something else.

Anyway, take the studies with a pinch of salt. :)

Ray said...

AK, u bought iPad? what happens to frugality? :D

AK71 said...

Hi Ray,

I didn't buy an iPad. A friend gave me his old iPad sometime middle of last year after he bought an iPad2.

However, I did buy 2 iPad2s, one late last year for my mom and one earlier this year for my niece. I am sold on this gadget. ;p

SnOOpy168 said...

Well AK, there is always that element of "learning for the fun of it". Go for it. At your income group and young age, there is nothing to lose . I have Class 2B,2A,2,3,4 & 5. Missing are the forklift, school bus and taxi licenses. Do it need them ? No, but good for showing off lah. heheehe. Would be nice if I am type certified for the A320 or 737. That will be another lifetime lah.

Seminars - well, if I am president of some REITs / investor's club, you will be my regular guest speaker. For someone who had made it with such generous passive income. No need to show CFA, CFP or such atas papers. Sometimes, the man in the street makes more sense than those paid to say things.

Looking forward to your investments sharing on the blog.

Huat ah.

AK71 said...

Hi SnOOpy168,

You are a good example of someone who is into lifelong learning and just for the fun of it too. Salute! :)

Seminars, ok, I will shelf this thought for future consideration. I will keep my options open as to what to do upon retirement. ;)

Everbody huat ah! :)

INVS 2.0 said...

Hi Ak71,

Talking about lifelong learning, I have a manager here in my workplace who has 3 masters, 5 degrees, 4 advanced diplomas and normal diplomas, and 6 other specialised certs. This leaves everyone in the organisation stretching their head, as to why he bothers working as a typical manager earning not more than $5k/mth? Hmm...

AK71 said...

Hi INVS 2.0,

There are people who simply enjoy formal education. :)

I know a diploma holder who could have gone to a JC and then to NUS or NTU. Very intelligent person with a sterling set of "O" Level results. However, he took the diploma route because it was a subject that he was interested in.

Then, in recent years, he went on to do a BBA and is now doing a LLB! Mind-boggling!

He is in the sales line making $3+K a month...

Ray said...

call me pragmatic but I will only invest my time and money on studying if it benefit me financially.

Derek said...

Hk AK,

My Cantonese is only as good as your. I don't know if language is in one DNA. My GF is reasonably proficient in English, Mandarin, Cantonese and Japanese. Her brother is one better - basic German.

I'm a 'pure' Hokkien but my mom has been watching HK drama for as long as I remember. I can understand most Cantonese and Hokkien but I can never seem to speak them. Same goes with Mandarin. I'm an odd ball.

AK71 said...

Hi Ray,

I am pragmatic too but I would like to be able to learn a new language one day simply because I enjoy it. Another item for the bucket list. ;p

AK71 said...

Hi Derek,

My Hokkien is not bad actually but my mom thinks otherwise. ;p

I think I know what you mean. Some are linguistically inclined. Some are not.

Well, I am sure you are better than your GF at some things. Isn't life fair? ;)

talesteller said...

Hi AK71,

I've read about those studies as well :)

In my case, learning different languages appeals to the artistic side of me. There are always works, whether it be books, movies or other media, that sound and feel best in their original language. Chinese has its Tang and Song Dynasty poems, English has its classical novels and plays. When I try to read translated versions of Chinese poems, they sound so stilted I bemoan the inadequateness of the English language, but then when I chance upon Chinese translations of English songs they are so awkward I usually burst out laughing. There are some things that just can't quite be expressed in the same way in another language. It's quite mysterious, really.

Maybe it's because a language encapsulates the essence of that people's culture, and only when one has an understanding of culture through its language, can one fully appreciate what the author of that work was trying to express.

AK71 said...

Hi talesteller,

Well said! For sure, a living language evolves with the people that use it. It helps to express the realities of its people.

The people living in the Arctic might have many more words to describe snow than the English, for example. To extend this example, to a tropical Singaporean, we might not know the difference between the words "snow" and "sleet" although it might be common knowledge to the English. ;)

To understand the culture of a people, it pays to know the language, without a doubt. :)

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