History PhD: Language help for western influence in China

<p>I am still an undergrad and am trying to narrow down what I want to focus on in order to get started with the language courses. One idea, as stated in thread title, is the influence of western European nations on China (I know that is still kind of general). Mandarin is the obvious one but what else would I need to know? Portuguese? I am still searching to find an expert in the field to talk with, so if anyone knows of a professor I could e-mail on this subject I would love that too. Thanks</p>

<p>Well, are you talking about when Europe carved up China in the 19th century? You would best be looking at Mandarin Chinese (though you may want to clear this with your Chinese language professors to make sure it's the right dialect although written is standard), French, German, and Russian. Portgual and Spain didn't go that far out. You may be best focusing on one nation at a time although for history PhD you will most definitely need German and French for pretty much almost any field.</p>

<p>Unless you were solely interested in studying Macau, I wouldn't go for Portugese. </p>

<p>Honestly, if you want to really study the effects on <em>China</em>, you'll need a good understanding of Chinese history before and after the European countries came in, the way that 100 years affected Chinese thinking after it was over, and how various cities still show influence of that period now (architecture, mncs, Tsingdao beer haha..) So I would think your ultimate focus is China, rather than a particular European nation and all of its colonies/concessions abroad. Thus my advice would be to consider Mandarin.. but it's definitely tough and takes a while! </p>

<p>I'd say there'd be a lot more sources in English and Mandarin for studying the effects of that time period than there would be in German, French, etc. Plus it's always good to be able to read local accounts and local reactions/analysis.</p>

<p>Thanks a lot for the help. I have written a couple of professors that might be able to help me. Hopefully I can get the ball rolling. That is good to know about European languages but if I do have to learn one I hope it is French. There seems to be a lot of historical literature in French.</p>

<p>One more question: Are most current Chinese documents of historical significance now written in simplified script? And if so when did they (the government) transition from using traditional characters? Hmm that was two questions... Anyways, I am looking on buying some basic Chinese language books now so I'll need to figure out where to begin. Thanks</p>

<p>That'd be something to ask the Chinese department...</p>

<p>Only Taiwan and Hong Kong still use traditional characters - the mainland uses simplified (since mid-1950's). Anything published before then would be written in traditional, but if it was significant enough to be reprinted later there should be a simplified character edition. I'm learning simplified myself, because I've spent time in mainland China and my research interests are concerning the mainland rather than Taiwan (or Taiwan straight issues). </p>

<p>Hope that helps!</p>

<p>Native Chinese Speaker here, TA-ing in a Chinese Department in one of the flagship state University as a Ph.D. graduate student, majoring in Chinese Applied Linguistics, but have tons of friends in the History Dept. doing Modern and Pre-Modern East Asia and SEA History.</p>

<p>I agree with #3 and #7 by Ig08, there is no escaping getting a good grasp of Mandarin if you want to go where you want to go, so I suggest starting real early because Mandarin is difficult, it just is.... Forget about learning 'what else' or improving your French unless it's because you just like to do it, because learning Mandarin is a full time job demanding total dedication. Also start with Simplified and forget about traditional if you are a beginner in Mandarin lest you get overwhelmed. And as Ig08 said, there's bound to be a simplified version of the text you want somewhere.</p>

<p>One more thing...enroll yourself in a language course. Trying to pick it up yourself is a near impossibility.</p>

<p>Most scholarly work done in North America is in Traditional Chinese. Besides, if you learned traditional, you would not have much trouble learning simplified. Most of the time you can guess your way through simplified words. However, if you learned simplified, you would have a lot of trouble trying to read traditional script.</p>

<p>Therefore, if your main goal is to be able to READ in Chinese, traditional would be a better choice for you. If your goal is to be able to WRITE very well, simplified might be easier. But I still recommend traditional, because it is so much more beautiful than simplified.</p>