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Year 9 language. Latin or Chinese?

(12 Posts)
LeFaye Mon 18-Feb-19 08:43:32

DS1 got accepted to his first choice independent secondary, yay!

But he now has to make a decision on languages. He has to continue to take French, and he also needs to add another language.

He is bright, received an academic scholarship and loves most subjects. He does not love French though, and it’s the only subject that he struggles with, especially verbally.

He doesn’t mind Latin, he’s taken it for a couple of years and is at the top of the class, but he doesn’t find it very interesting.

He is bilingual as we speak a Nordic language at home.

On the one hand he is really interested in Chinese, both the language and the culture. On the other hand he knows he struggles with languages, and that Chinese is very much about the pronunciation. He is worried it will take too much time and energy from his other subjects, he is also worried he will never reach a level in Chinese that is expected from a scholar at the school.

Continuing with Latin will be the easy way out, but perhaps not the most fun? Then again, the interest in Chinese might fade and then he can’t take Latin for GCSE which he might want to.

I know this is only his decision, but he’s asked for my input and so I’m asking for yours smile

It’s Dulwich College btw, if anyone has any actual experience of the language department there?

OP’s posts: |
ohmywhattodo Mon 18-Feb-19 08:56:13

We’re not at independent school (no Latin on offer) but we jumped at the chance (and so did ds) to learn Mandarin over Spanish. He’s going to China this year (yr 8) for 16days too. It is a difficult language though and requires some dedication to learn it. Also Dbro does a considerable amount of work with China and he says the languages of business are now English, Mandarin and Spanish. That said if your ds may want to go down an English or Classics route later then of course Latin will be very useful indeed!

amidaiwas Mon 18-Feb-19 09:14:15

DD1 is doing both mandarin and Latin.
They're completely different disciplines I think. Latin is about grammar really and vocab.
Mandarin is complex, learning both the pinyin and the characters, the sheer volume of words etc. It takes a lot of work and definitely requires an interest and determination.

peteneras Mon 18-Feb-19 12:19:14

This is a very interesting question and I've been pondering about it for a while in order to come up with some sort of an "answer". My end conclusion is, do you want to learn a language to make it "work" for you in future, i.e. a live language; or learn a language to make it look impressive on your UCAS application and nothing much else, i.e. a "dead" language?

If the answer is the former, then without a doubt Chinese is the way to go. This is the language spoken by at least half of mankind! With China poised to be the world's most powerful economy in the not too distant future, if not already, then the ability to speak Chinese will stand you in very, very good stead. It is not a simple language to master (it has many dialects) but you only need to learn Mandarin and perhaps also Cantonese for good measure. The written word is the same for both all the dialects - only the pronunciation is different. The Chinese find it tremendously impressive and fascinating to see an European speaking any of the Chinese dialects. Although it is a difficult-to-learn language, I've seen some non Chinese speaking Chinese very fluently. In Asia, for example, there are many Indians speaking Cantonese. Likewise, this British pilot speaking Hakka almost took my breath away when he spoke like a native before take off.

And I almost fell off my chair recently in a Soho Chinese restaurant seeing a black African man speaking fluent Cantonese with his no doubt Hong Kong middle-aged female employer. I know that because I asked and was told he came from Ghana but had lived in HK for many years.

Latin, on the other hand, I only enjoy it when I attend a Sunday mass said in this language. Oh, and also listening to Karen Carpenter singing Ave Maria. Not of much use to me otherwise.

amidaiwas Mon 18-Feb-19 12:49:10

or learn a language to make it look impressive on your UCAS application and nothing much else, i.e. a "dead" language?

I could not disagree with this more!!
DD1 gains a huge amount from learning latin. Her vocab has expanded. She can work out what complex English words mean/their root from the Latin. She knows complex grammar structure that we just don't learn in English but it is there in our language. It helps in her Spanish. I'm sure she could do Italian GCSE fairly easily once she has Latin. I could go on! The "dead" language argument is so, well, DEAD

cantkeepawayforever Mon 18-Feb-19 14:07:18

Of the subjects I did for O-level (yes, I am that old), the one I use most regularly other than English and Maths is Latin.

I use it to read signs and other information when travelling in Italy and Spain. I use it to identify and explain roots of English vocabulary and mathematical terms. I use it when trying to work out what on earth the government did when defining grammar terms for Y6 SATs (when we did the first specimen paper as a staff, those of us who scored highest all studied Latin as children). I use it when looking at all kinds of artefacts when teaching History.

It's a bit like having a key to all kinds of 'codes' within the modern world - and thus like many 'dead' historical figures, still has huge relevance in understanding modern life.

peteneras Mon 18-Feb-19 14:09:36

Try negotiating (say) a business deal; or seek urgent important advice/information on e.g. medical/educational or other life and death issues from around the world using Latin and Chinese and see what kind of response(s) you get with the two different languages.

DS has A*s in both Latin and Ancient Greek GCSE's (never mind French and English) - being educated in probably the world's most classical of colleges - but since then have left these two languages redundant rather regretting he hadn't paid more attention in learning Chinese instead which he learnt from age five to nine).

cantkeepawayforever Mon 18-Feb-19 14:38:09

I suppose it depends on levels of fluency. I absolutely agree that a true knowledge - as in decent speaking level, probably representing a level at least as high as A-level - of a living language is of more immediate practical utility.

However, at a lower level than that - a decent acquaintance with the written word and its structures, a smattering of spoken language, which certainly represents my knowledge of both the Latin and the French I did at O-level - then Latin, which appears so much in the foundation of languages such as French, Spanish and Italian - has wider utility.

Certainly I have visited a large number of Spanish-speaking countries, a language which I speak not one word of, and been able to navigate at least the basic written word in a business context using Latin.

amidaiwas Mon 18-Feb-19 15:14:53

Try negotiating (say) a business deal; or seek urgent important advice/information on e.g. medical/educational or other life and death issues from around the world
With GCSE level? Good luck with that...

OP i would just let your ds decide. Both options are valid. My only advice would be that he has to really want to do Mandarin. It is hard.

LondonJax Mon 18-Feb-19 15:21:53

Another state school child doing Mandarin here and I agree, it is hard. Four hours a week, loads of homework but he loves it! He's in year 7 and is already translating Mandarin when he sees it on signs - he headed to China Town recently.

He doesn't learn Latin so nothing to compare it with. As someone said though, you really do need to want to learn Mandarin. One girl in his class is really struggling at the moment whereas he's in the 90 plus bracket for tests. But he started learning the language at primary school as they offered an after school class and he desperately wanted to learn.

randomsabreuse Mon 18-Feb-19 15:34:32

Is he musical? Mandarin has a load of tones ?8? which affect meaning massively. I am generally good at languages, have a good ear for accents (mistaken for a native in France) and really struggled to hear and reproduce the tones.

peteneras Mon 18-Feb-19 15:36:17

With GCSE level? Good luck with that...

Perhaps if you had studied Latin or (never mind) Chinese, then you'd have a better grasp of what I wrote...

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