Are Your Eyes Open?

I am working on a new thing, studying a new language. Studies show the process is good for the aging noggin—hell, it’s probably good for anyone’s. Learning a language is a respectable exercise program for cognitive functions, like running, which is good for your heart. Everyone can benefit from such use.

I had to learn a smattering of Spanish during my years in restaurant management. I also became familiar with Italian during my music theory and vocal studies. But those aren’t what I am currently studying. I’ll work on those after I’ve become competent in this one. 

Oh, what am I learning? Mandarin Chinese.

Someone pointed out that learning Mandarin is a challenging language to assimilate. That is true. But it’s not the hardest one either. English is a real bitch to learn as a second language. Thankfully, I already know that one.

If people can learn English as a second language, I can learn Mandarin.

I spend about two or three hours a day reviewing the lessons and completing three lessons daily. The program’s design gives me two days off a week, but I don’t take them. I get up, have breakfast, and dig right in every day. 

I will tell you, I don’t always achieve that goal.  

About two or three times, I have spent two hours working on one lesson alone. When that happens, I keep driving through until I reach the end of that lesson.

I have a good program for learning it, though. There is no single English word spoken in any of the lessons. That’s right, just like how we learn our first language, figuring out what is going on by deduction. It sounds like a hard way to learn, but I’m in the sixth week and understand elementary vocabulary, grammar, and inflection. I get feedback through the tests and speech recognition. 

It’s coming along well, I think.

There is a byproduct of learning a different language, most likely several, but I’m only concerned about one right now. By learning a different language, your mind starts to understand more about the culture through the language. Through the way it has its constructs, we can see how things happen and move in the respective culture.

Does this mean I understand more about Chinese culture than before? I have better insight than before, but I understand that I am an elementary learner. Just because things make more sense now does not mean I have a gut feeling on the nose 100% of the time.

Hell, I grew up with English, and I certainly don’t understand our culture as well as I would like to. The only way I have more insight into Chinese culture is by comparing it to my milk culture. 

Do any of you truly understand the culture you were born into? If you can, I think you’ll have a great career as a political or advertising consultant and ought to be able to make a killing in almost any business. Start by explaining how the opposite gender works and thinks. Please tell me how that works.

Our culture changes at a breakneck speed. There are days when I don’t understand anything happening around the country. Compared to how fast things morph, Superman doesn’t have any superpowers at all. 

While talking about that, the changes in the United States are nothing compared to how fast the world changes. The three main conflicts around the globe look to me more and more as if they are connected. There are Ukraine vs Russia, Israel vs Iran, and People’s Republic of China (PRC) vs Republic of China (ROC) and the Philippines. Russia, Iran, and China appear to support each other, as do Ukraine, Israel, and ROC. There are also silent participants, those that support with money and technology. They stand behind those in conflict like angry storm clouds, ready to rain down at any given time. They are: The People’s Republic of Korea supports Russia, Iran, and the PRC, and NATO supports Ukraine, along with the USA also supporting Israel and ROC.

Of course, it is not as simple as all that. The lines of influence rival a complicated game of chess. But wait … There are more countries picking sides. To a casual observer, the whole thing looks like several kids stopping off at a neighborhood sandlot baseball game with their hands raised, yelling, “Hey! Can I play?”

If you study the whole thing, more and more countries are lining up to put their dogs in the fight. If we take a selfie of the world, more people are shaking weapons in the air than trying to farm or raise food.

I do understand the protection and defense of any nation. I was a soldier and still consider myself to be one. Well-trained defense services are essential to any country, but it is also incumbent on those countries with those defensive services not to force their ideas on other countries. And all of them attempt this. Yes, I know it is human nature to want other people to believe our way of seeing things, but holy shit, who says we hold the true and correct belief or behavior? There are billions of people currently out there, and billions more if you count all our ancestors. Each of them is, or was, convinced that they have, or had, the best and correct way to think. 

Somebody needs to say it. Even if (and it’s a long if) the correct way currently resides in one of us, the odds are multiple billions to one that we can find it. Can’t we all step back and learn how to exchange ideas? That’s right; we should communicate and share our thoughts. Instead of sneaking up and stabbing others between the fourth and fifth ribs with a twist, how about stepping back and relaxing tension?

Everyone should learn another language. It might even open our eyes. The world has enough visually impaired people. How about you? What do you think?


  1. Paul Hoyt

    Love this! I see a lot, but realize that I am opening my eyes wider every day. And with these partially open eyes, I pray that the emotional intelligence of the human race and our desire for self-preservation catches up with our ability to kill each other, 🙁

  2. Yvonne Oots

    Loved your piece. Learning another language really does open your mind. I studied French in High School. It came in so handy when I lived in Germany.

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