General Question

Drewseph's avatar

Should I take Chinese or Latin in high school?

Asked by Drewseph (533points) October 28th, 2010 from iPhone

What will benefit me more?

Observing members: 0 Composing members: 0

29 Answers

bob_'s avatar

It depends. If you intend to actually learn the language (which will take more than just the classes from high school), take Chinese. If you don’t really feel like learning Chinese, but might be interested in a Romance language in the future (say, Spanish), take Latin.

Lightlyseared's avatar

If you are planning on studying biology or medicine in the future then latin will be helpful, otherwise Chinese as one third of the human race speaks it.

LuckyGuy's avatar

Go with Chinese while your brain is still flexible.
You will use it.

weeveeship's avatar

Chinese. Easier to find people to practice with.

crazyivan's avatar

Chinese, for sure. When the first moon hotels are built, it will be the Chinese building them so when you go you won’t be frustrated.

(Unrelated side note that is still on-topic enough to belong in the General Section: There are more English speakers in China than there are in the US)

JLeslie's avatar

Chinese and Spanish if you are in America. Spanish teaches you enough of the Latin roots of a word, while having very practical applications.

Joybird's avatar

If you aren’t fluent in Spanish than that is the language you should be mastering. After Spanish would be the ability to grasp a smattering of romance languages and then Chinese. But keep in mind there are more than one dialect of Chinese.

chyna's avatar

So many of the jobs in the United States are going to China. Learn Chinese.

Aqua's avatar

Definitely take Chinese over Latin, but take them both if you can. Knowing Latin will help you understand English better, and help you learn Spanish too. Both Spanish and Chinese are key languages in the business world and speaking them fluently will help you in almost any chosen field.

Auxilium's avatar

Take whatever you’re more passionate about. If you start out with Latin and find it to be interesting but not something you’re passionate about, go with Chinese, assuming you’d have a spark for Chinese.

I took Spanish for years just because I thought it would be “best,” but I lacked a passion for the language and culture.

Now, I’m hoping to take Japanese in college, something I’m actually passionate about. Because I’m passionate about my major and work hard, I have a 4.0, so maybe the same logic applies to what foreign language class to take.

Colleges aren’t going to be more or less impressed by what language you take. Don’t buy the idea that Latin is somehow less impressive, it’s a hard language and is considered prestigious at the university level.

cobalttinor's avatar

I would say it depends on what career you’re going for… I think Chinese would be easier to apply in real life though.

lifeflame's avatar

Chinese. Then you can chat with me!
Aside from the fact that it is becoming increasingly practical, it’s a beautiful language. The written language embodies an entirely different logic in its use of ideograms. If you master it, you will also get a step up in mastering other Asian languages (e.g., Japanese)..

Drewseph's avatar

I would only stay with Latin so that I can do better on the SATs.

wundayatta's avatar

Latin is easier, says my daughter.

Drewseph's avatar

I’m more interested in Chinese though, so that might make it in effect easier.

JLeslie's avatar

Spanish will help you on the SAT too. Verdant, pensive, castigate, just a sample of vocabulary words in English that Spanish speaking people would easily get correct on a multiple choice test, if not come up with the right answer, even without answers being provided, even if theybhad never heard of the words in English.

Not that I am trying to talk you out of Chinese, I think it could be very useful, and give you a big advantage in many industries; although as someone pointed out there are many languages spoken in China, I think Mandarin is the most common? I would guess Chinese businessmen speak English, like in Japan, and places like Singapore English is the official language of the government, although there are 4 or 5 official languages of the country. Spanish is useful here in the US, and obviously Latin America if you will be dealing with the end consumer, marketing and advertising, or if new immigrants will be working in your business. Do you have any idea what you are interested in pursuing as a career?

Kardamom's avatar

If you are interested in going into international business or will be studying Chinese art or would like to teach English in China (or to Chinese immigrants in the U.S.) after you graduate from college I would suggest taking Chinese. If you are interested in the biological or natural sciences; medicine; English or literature (English or any of the European or Latin American countries) then I would suggest taking Latin.

If you are just taking one of these languages for fun, decide how much difficulty you want to endure. Latin would be a little bit easier only because the letters are the same as with English writing. Chinese would be a little harder because you would also have to learn the writing.

Let us know which one you pick. Both sound wonderful!

genkan's avatar

With regards to the link between learning Latin and studying medicine, I don’t believe that Latin helps that significantly. Most of the things have names derived from Latin, but a lot of names come from Greek as well. In addition, it’s strange to learn a whole language just so you can have a marginally less challenging time recalling body parts. Only a minuscule fraction of the language will have any practical use to you this way. At any rate, if I see a term constantly appearing, e.g. ‘teres’ from teres major, ligamentum teres, pronator teres…, a quick google search solves the problem.

Chinese, on the other hand, has obvious practical value. A hefty proportion of the world speaks Chinese as a first language. The only drawback is that there’s a huge range of Chinese dialects, so learning one dialect won’t guarantee the ability to communicate with everyone who claims to speak Chinese.

cyn's avatar

I would recommend taking Latin. It’s the origin for a lot of languages spoken today: Spanish, French, Italian…. I don’t know what you can do with a Chinese language degree or whatever other than if you’re going to move to China.

crazyivan's avatar

Chinese also has the advantage of increased employability in the future. My brother’s fluency in Japanese greatly increased the starting salary he was able to command out of college. This was in the early nineties and I have to feel that fluency in Chinese will have the same value in another 4 or 5 years.

SamIAm's avatar

Latin will help you with your SATs and to learn the roots and such for other words… can help with your vocabulary too.

elhaha1001's avatar

Chinese should be better.. In the future Chinese would be useful in doing business, especially with the Chinese.

Drewseph's avatar

But besides for my career, if I wanted to get a perfect score on the SATs, could I still do it if I was taking Chinese?

JLeslie's avatar

You can take Chinese and study English vocabulary and grammar a little harder and it will help you on the SAT and in life in general. English is considered to be a Germanic language, although it is true many words are from Latin, especially in science, and even the law. What Latin does not give you is a language that is spoken, it is essentially a dead language.

mattbrowne's avatar


Or Spanish instead of Latin.

RocketGuy's avatar

I would agree with @lightlyseared. In general, I think knowing at least 2 languages will help in many ways. I know English, French, and Thai. I was able to learn computer languages faster than many of my peers. It is good to know a tonal language like (Mandarin) Chinese. It would help learning other tonal languages, such as Cantonese or Thai.

Fatfacefun's avatar

Although Latin is alive in many modern languages today, the language itself is dead. Mandarin however is the largest natively spoken language in the world. The Technological and Economic growth and advancement in China is profound. Mandarin is considered to be a useful language to learn as it is becoming more and more important in modern culture. During the USSR’s prime some students were encouraged to learn Russian for the same reasons those today are being encouraged to learn Mandarin. Having said this however, due to the collapse of the USSR, Russian became a wasted choice for many people. China’s development may deteriorate too though so bare this in mind. If you are looking for a language which will open other linguistic doors then consider Latin as it has many modern successors which are all interlinked. If you are interested in the history of European languages then Latin is a good choice for obvious reasons. These reasons may seem far off and disconnected from high school – I am only in my first year – but they could be important to bare in mind when deciding.

Good luck, I hope this helps.

Charlev's avatar



RocketGuy's avatar

Unfortunately, language is best learned before puberty. Most of us would have trouble.

@Charlev – Chinese written language is based on characters to represent a whole word. There is no spelling – you have to just memorize it. Some of the older characters looked kind of like the words they represent e.g man, fire. The newer, simplified, version coming out of China takes out much of the detail, making it harder to figure out. Reminds me of “plus ungood” and “double plus ungood” from 1984.

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