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Learning Chinese

Shortly after his arrival in China, the late great 19th-century Sinologist Robert Hart would write his frustrations in his private diary, confiding that the convoluted phonemes of the Chinese language struck him like nothing so much as “the sounds one would make talking to a horse,” and bemoaning his placement in Shanghai, a damnable city far from the imperial capital where he considered it impossible to pick up Mandarin “through one’s skin.”

Fast-forward more than a century, and while none of us are running the Chinese government yet, the joys and frustrations of learning the Chinese language are as high and low as they have ever been. Fortunately, we have a new avenue for kvetching in podcast form, which is what Sinica stalwarts Jeremy Goldkorn and David Moser have joined Kaiser to do this week. Also in the studio representing the next generation of Chinese speakers are newcomers Jessica Montesano and Charlie Melvoin, who share their own experiences learning Chinese and talk about what exactly is happening in the States with bilingual education programs.

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