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[The following was written in 2006 or so.]

Yeah, I'm studying multiple languages simultaneously... nuts, I know, but the main goal isn't fluency so much as understanding the greater context. English is the lingua franca for internet development, but grammar and vocabulary are only part of the total communication... knowing how different cultures structure their primary communications is a key asset in learning what is being said, and what is being heard.

Looked at another way, English is a hub language. Primary-English speakers may not have the immediate incentive to learn other languages that people in other parts of the world may, which is both advantage and disadvantage. Primary-English speakers, particularly in multicultural cities such as San Francisco, have a potential comparative advantage in increasing our skills to connect spokes... a conversation between Japan and Brazil would find it just as expensive to learn one of their primary languages as an English speaker would, but if English is used as the common tongue, then a primary-English speaker can add value, particularly if that speaker has a better understanding of how each culture uses English. Same when connecting to Sofia, Hong Kong, Bangalore, Oslo, Mexico City... if English is the internet's common language, then a little extra effort on the part of primary-English speakers may help the whole effort quite a bit.

I'm interested in more languages, but am focusing on these three now:

  • Why Japanese? I studied for a few years awhile ago, and did some intensive review earlier this year in advance of a business trip. Japan has a strong technical and economic base, and the consumer base in mobile phones is in advance of most of the rest of the world. My next near-term goal is to be able to read online discussions.

  • Why Hindi? India has a rapidly expanding technological base, and I work with many accomplished engineers who grew up there. Although there is still great disparity in incomes in that country, their market economy and entreprenurial culture holds promise for rapid consumer growth. Near-term goal: A basic level of conversational skill, and the ability to read at least some signs and headlines.

  • Why Mandarin? This is sort of a wildcard... very low labor costs, large population, yet it currently has an authoritarian political structure and things could go either way over the next ten years. There are many resources in San Francisco, including television, radio, and street conversations. The written language, and even some spoken words, can leverage my existing skills in Japanese. I suspect my progress here will be faster than with Hindi, although the goals are similar at this stage.

I work with Macromedia, a developer of internet technologies, and maintain another blog oriented towards items of interest to web developers. This blog here is more of a personal blog and will likely contain more personal opinion than the other... if you don't agree with me on something, please don't assume that my co-workers agree with me too, thanks....


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