10 May 2009
Twice I enrolled in a Mandarin Chinese language class and twice I dropped out, because for the life of me I could not and still cannot distinguish among the four tones. I can recognize some Chinese characters (一 for 1, 二 for 2, 三 for 3, 四 for 4, 伍 for 5, 六 for 6, 七 for 7, 八 for 8, 九 for 9, which of course I know from playing Mandarin Mahjong!), but that's about it. Yet Chinese is the language most spoken in the world (okay, mainly by Chinese persons, but overseas Chinese happen to be all over the globe). If some predictions about the world economy in the 21st century will come true (and since linguistic power follows economic power), Mandarin Chinese will be the world's international language. I might be illiterate for the rest of this century or that portion of it when I will still be alive. It could be neurosis or even psychosis, but as a literary critic wanting to know world literature and knowing full well that I cannot read the literature of the world's next superpower, I am frightened by the possibility of being left out. Maybe I will enroll again and force myself not to drop out.