Yi Xiang

A Young Writer in Search of His Voice

Benefits of Learning a Foreign Language

Learning a language takes a lot of effort. It’s hard to justify that only to talk to a few people. Thankfully, you do get other benefits to make these effort worthy.

Explore New Ways to See the World

Your thinking is enabled and limited by the language you speak. Learning another language will help you realize some of your assumptions come from your culture and language.

For example, the use of “he or she” to indicate gender neutrality is almost exclusive to the English language. No other language has such great fear for angering women.

In Japanese, you talk about certain feelings as “chi”, as if they’re concrete objects. The way Japanese language doesn’t distinguish what’s within from what’s without is as beautiful as it’s problematic.

On the one hand, you have a language that can express the feelings of affection with so much force that your soul vibrates with it. It’s one million times better than English at expressing romantic feelings. You have to see it to believe it. Personally I’m so addicted to this that I have to sing Japanese love longs to my girlfriend. Nothing else is as adequate.

On the other hand, this also means when you feel hurt in a relationship, instead of saying “I feel hurt”, you will say “you are so mean”. The whole idea of expressing one’s emotion by making a sentence starting with “I” is totally foreign.

In Japanese and Chinese, it feels forced and strange when someone is talking openly about how he feels fear or insecure or hurt. In English it feels more natural.

English also tends to be more logical and could easily be used to communicate effectively. Just look at the writings, most good ones are clear and try hard to avoid misunderstanding.

Chinese and Japanese culture, traditionally, prefers implying to stating, leaving rooms for interpretation and misinterpretation. This is reflected in the writings too.

No wonder so many Chinese books are as poorly written as The Power of Now

On the other hand, you surely could learn something from the “Eastern” ways. You white people have relied so heavily on rational thinking in the last few centuries that you have generally forgotten how to appreciate the beauty of symbols.

(“Eastern” is quoted because the way of thinking in symbols exists in the Western culture too. It’s just not the mainstream. You could find it in Astrology, Tarot and other esoteric things.)

Get to Know a Culture

You don’t know a person from what others say about him. You don’t understand a culture from your local newspaper.

We all have a tendency to overgeneralize our experiences and people around us. It’s easy for an American to say that all Americans are sold on consumerism and will all get into debt to pursue instant pleasures. Even though this may not be very far from the truth, it is still an overstatement.

This overgeneralization happens in China too. Many stupid young Chinese males believe that all Chinese women will do anything to get money so the only way to find a partner is to become rich. This bullshit is so widespread that even some foreigners buy into it. But I haven’t dated even one gold digger, and most women here don’t actively try to find a rich partner. They’re waiting for someone to make them feel loved, just like most women in the rest of the world.

But, if even a native would believe in the bullshit that all young Chinese women are gold diggers, how do you expect foreigners to get it right?

You know how most Chinese people view the western world (Europe and America )? They see it as a heaven, where the air is fresh, people trust each other, and full of attractive, fit people.

Myth is born when you get only secondhand, vague information.

You do not really know a place until you’ve seen it with your own eyes. And you do not begin to understand a culture until you begin to speak with its people, read its books, listen to its stories, which requires you knowing its language.

Gain Access to What’s Exclusive to One Language

Not everything is available in every language.

Even if a book has a translation, it will be a very different experience from reading the original.

After learning English:

Easier access to quality information.

In the English world, you can create a blog, sell quality information, and profit. It happens so often that good blogs are everywhere, and on every conceivable topic. Even if there isn’t a blog, there will be a YouTube channel.

While you might take this as granted, it is a privilege. You can’t find so much information with such great quality on Chinese blogs. With a limited influence and income, they ain’t gonna prosper.

And you have books too.

I began reading English at a young age to get information, learn programming, specifically. I found English books to be clearer and easier to understand, while the Chinese IT books are often unreadable.

After learning Chinese:

I Ching and Feng Shui

Honestly I don’t know why you want to learn Chinese if you aren’t interested in its people or its traditional culture.

After learning Japanese:

Otaku stuffs (anime, Japanese games, magna, and visual novels)

Manga and anime are not text-heavy so you could easily find a translation. But many games and visual novels aren’t and won’t be translated into English. There are too many of them, not all of them are popular, and they often have too much text.

But are they worth learning a foreign language? Aren’t they just pervert craps?

Otaku stuffs are pervert. I don’t deny it. Many are sexual by nature. But some games and visual novels do have very good stories that are worth it, even if they have sexual scenes.

For example, there is this visual novel that happens in a world without prisons. When people commit crimes, instead of getting a sentence, they get a restriction appropriate for their offence. They might be forbidden to love, they might be limited to have only 12 hours a day, they might be forced to absolutely obey their parents. They are governed by people specifically trained to … well, govern them. And these governors can basically do anything they want to people they manage.

Sounds interesting, right? It’s called Sharin no Kuni, Himawari no Shoujo and I highly recommend it. It contains explicit visual sexual scenes, which makes up less than 1% of the content.

More Opportunities to Make Money

Let’s not talk about translation, it’s obvious.

Learning another language enables you to talk to different people and do business in different markets in the world. Bigger market, more money.

I started freelancing by working on Upwork and learned negotiations and work ethics, etc. These skills later helped me get web development gigs in my own country. I have also self-published a short book on Amazon and earned a little loyalties.

All of these are not possible if I do not know English.

Of course, other languages might very likely not be as useful as English when it comes to moneymaking, especially when you only try making money online.

Or is it? There is a website called StudiVZ, a Facebook clone in Germany, which was sold at 100 million euros.

The internet might seem to be an integrated whole, but it’s different worlds divided by languages. People won’t visit websites in a language that they do not know. Learning a foreign language can help you reach these people.

And no, just hiring someone to translate your website won’t do. For example, Chinese people generally don’t pay online with credit cards or PayPal, you need to use AliPay, a local product. If you want to business with them, you’ve got to know them, and the first step, is to know their language.


Learning a foreign language is about learning from people and culture different from your own. It’s about the fascination towards the unfamiliar, the strange, and the foreign.

It’s similar to the lust after new romance and new continent, you will have your thrill that comes from newness, which can enrich your life and help you learn something about yourself.