Nangpan asks me why I have started learning Russian. First of all I have always wanted to learn it, just as I want to learn Arabic and Hindi one day, and maybe eventually Turkish and Swahili.
But why now? We are redoing The Linguist system and I wanted the experience of starting another language from scratch to see what I can learn about learning. I believe some of my experiences with different Russian learning systems can help us develop an even better Linguist system.
As to the father and son at the Sushi counter last night, they were Korean. They were customers at the Japanese restaurant. Nangpan asked how they reacted to my speaking to them in Korean. The son was interested and the father not so much.
In my experience, amongst Asian people, the Chinese are the most pleased to hear you speak their language. I believe they would like to see a greater international role for Chinese, perhaps a little bit like the French with their language. The Chinese are also quite willing to chat with people they do not know. I have always found it easy to strike up spontaneous and casual conversations with Chinese people I meet in my travels.
The Japanese react in a friendly way when I speak to them in Japanese, but are not so impressed, since they are more used to foreigners speaking their language perhaps. I also find that the Japanese, especially the younger ones, have an easier time dealing with a foreigner as just another human being. With the Chinese I meet I often feel a certain tension as they are concerned about the relative position of their culture or national group vis a vis others. What I call the “cultural ego” is stronger with Chinese people, particularly those from the Mainland.
The Koreans I find the most closed or reluctant to strike up conversations with people they do not know. They normally show the least interest in the fact that you speak some Korean, unless you already know them.
Of course I am generalizing and there are as many exceptions as cases which would confirm these observations. These are just an impressions that I have formed. Perhaps my initial impressions have tended to make me selectively remember only those people who confirm my impression. What are the opinions of others?