Counting in Chinese: A Linguistic Case Study

三七二十一…

七八五十六…

I always catch myself counting and doing math operations in my first language, Mandarin, even though my most fluent language now is English (my thoughts are always in English, and this is usually a definite indication of which language is an individual’s strongest). Anyway, the action piqued my interest and I decided to do a little research online using information collected from forums and various articles.

Apparently using your native language to do math operations is a fairly common phenomenon for bilinguals. Furthermore, Psychology Today conducted a study which found that the language of instruction is more essential than an individual’s first language. Since we had more concrete practice and our brains made more neural connections when we first memorized the multiplication table and began to understand other operations, it is easier to recall the primary information than new material processed later on .

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The Journey Begins

So junior year is finally over! No more stress and no more late nights (Oh wait, I’m still up until midnight every day doing God knows what). But wait, the summer between junior and senior year is one of the most important time periods of a high school student’s career. There’s only college essays, internships, summer classes, volunteering, and jobs to balance. Either way, it’s still better than being physically at school.

For a long time now, I’ve wanted to become a polyglot. When I tell my friends of my ambitious goal, some of them initially don’t understand what a polyglot (one who is able to converse in my languages fluently…as in more than 6 or 7 languages) exactly does. One of the inspirations for becoming a polyglot myself came from watching the interviews of Tim Doner, an 18 year old who is known to speak over 20 languages at varying levels, including Russian, Italian, Persian, Swahili, Indonesian, Hindi, Ojibwe, Pashto, Turkish, Hausa, Kurdish, Yiddish, Dutch, Croatian and German. Not only did I find his linguistic abilities impressive, I became fascinated with the act of learning language. It’s so easy to forget in our modern day and age that technology is by no means perfect and even the best translators make errors. When one learns a language, one also gains a part of the culture and a greater appreciation for the history and people. I believe that each time we allow a machine to serve as an intermediary between two parties, a little bit of the original significance is lost.

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