Why I Learn German & Three Languages of Past, Present and Future

Before I decided that I will spend my exchange year in Germany, I haven't clearly and consciously realized its value and strategic importance. Now as I read more and more Western classics, I know I have fortunately made the right choice --- study German.

Philosophy, politics, music, society, German intellects dominated almost all these fields in the modern period of western world. As I do my readings, I strongly feel that translation kills. No translation can preserve the original taste of the work. Even the best translation is very far away from the authors intention. In order to best appreciate and critically learn from the masterpieces, I have to read the original work. If I keep working on my German, soon enough I will be enjoying reading "Das Kapital" and "Kritik der reinen Vernunft" in its original flavor.

In ten or twenty years, my children will start to learn to speak. They will grow up trilingual: Chinese, English and German. English is the official language for globalization. It's a must. It's for survival. Most academic papers and the latest news are published in English. The Internet, the computer, the finance and business world, etc. It is also the most efficient way to connect and communicate with the rest of the world. By the way, there are so many great writings and speeches and films in English. An extra perk is that you can find the English translation of other languages' classics pretty easily.

My kids will speak German because it would be my sin if they miss the fun of brainstorming directly with those greatest masters who shaped the modern world, or, at least the western definition of the modern world. And the kids will learn German "as kids", because learning German grammar is too painful for grown-ups...

Chinese is the language of the future. I am not being nationalist here. First, Chinese is the mother language of nearly a quarter of the world's population. Second, Chinese people has already been recording and exchanging their thoughts in Chinese for more than five thousand years! Think about how much wisdom there is to be discovered in this huge treasure! Third, Chinese intellectual output has been severely oppressed for decades. Now it is coming back. Millions of the world's most energetic and hardworking human being will be writing and debating in Chinese till the day we are all gone. It will be an explosion of expressions! I believe that China, after being the world factories for twenty years, will be producing many of the greatest intellectual work in the coming centuries. How can I left my next generation out of the game?

I am so grateful that my mother language is Chinese. I'm also grateful that I have the chance to study English and German, without too much pain. Sooner or later, I will work to share this privilege, to make these languages accessible to anyone who is wise or lucky enough to take on them.

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