Continuing French or Starting Chinese

jrw0531

Member
Joined
Oct 6, 2021
Messages
91
Hi! I recently accepted an appointment to USNA '26.

I was looking at the course validations and thought about what language to take.

I've been in French for 6 years (but I haven't been in the class for two because I took the highest level my sophomore year in HS). My AP Exam score validates me out of a few years of French. I have a lot more experience in this language and still feel pretty comfortable. My family also speaks French so it would be nice to keep up this language.

However, I also am thinking about taking Chinese. I'm an AAPI myself, so I feel this could be important as a Naval Officer, and my grandpa said it could "serve the needs of the Navy." I think taking this language could be important in my career and is a valuable skill in the world. I would be starting this language from scratch though, I never attended Chinese school or learned it before. I'm not sure if I would be able to be proficient in the language in four years. I would also be taking Chinese as a college class, and I'm not sure how challenging that would be. Has anyone on this forum at USNA taken Chinese?

Should I continue taking French where I left off or start over in Chinese? Does anyone have any insight? Thanks!
 
Joined
Nov 25, 2018
Messages
99
I'm not at Navy, but I was very similar to you. I took up to AP French in high school and, but when I arrived at my SMC I decided to pick up a Chinese minor for the same reasons as your Grandfather said, to serve the needs of the Navy. Chinese is very time consuming, and it took a huge chunk of time out of my schedule. Looking back my grades probably would have been better in my other classes had I not minored in Chinese, but I believe I gained a very valuable skill. On the DoD's strategic language list, Chinese is an "Enduring Language" (payment category B), and if you test high enough on the DLPT you can earn upwards of $500 extra a month in pay.

As far as the class itself goes, my Chinese class usually had several pages of homework due every week from a workbook, as well as character sheets (writing characters over and over aand over again). There were frequent character quizzes and my professor in particular was very very strict on tones. My school also accelerates the Chinese program, so I had to take 2 semesters worth of Chinese for every semester. I can't speak on how Navy's Chinese program is, but I'm sure it is intense.

If anyone thinks they're up for the challenge, I would highly reccomend taking Chinese, you would just have to be very on top of your schedule and studying. It is very difficult, but in the end very rewarding.

(It's also fun to see expressions when a 老外 is profficient in Chinese ;))
 

usna1985

15-Year Member
Joined
Jun 9, 2006
Messages
6,764
There is taking Chinese as a language at USNA and majoring in Chinese. I believe that those interested in majoring in Chinese self-identify during PS and are given an aptitude test. If someone does well, his / her plebe year schedule is modified to allow taking Chinese right away.

The other option is taking it as a language. Language is a requirement for Group 3 majors and, at least in my day, it had to be at an advanced level. If you're a Group 1-2 major, you can do language as your humanities electives.

IOW, it may not be as much of a choice as a decision based on your major, time commitment, and the number of courses you validate.

However, if I've erred on the above, someone will correct me!
 

Old Navy BGO

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Jan 5, 2012
Messages
3,690
A couple thoughts --

What is your intended major ? Is a language required ?
What is your desired service selection ? For the vast majority of warfare communities, having a second language is not necessary or relevant. Sure, being fluent in another language may open up opportunities down the line, but Navy has a pretty good language program in Monterey.

Now my opinions (which I gave my daughters when they headed off to college ). This was 10+ years ago, and the Arabic/Chinese preference may have shifted to Chinese a bit:
1) Forgot French and Spanish. French used to be the language of diplomacy and useful in many areas of the globe, but the French influences has shrunk and is largely irrelevant. Spanish is very relevant, and spoken by many --but there are plenty of already bilingual people out there so jobs will be hard to get. (I was wrong on the Spanish part -- oldest daughter later got a job teaching at a bilingual school in DC, and is pretty fluent, but had enough in HS to get the job)
2) Take Arabic if you wanted to work for the Government, and Chinese if you wanted to get into business. I think this has shifted a little more to Chinese for both now. Just a heads up, Chinese is tough ! (Daughter took Chinese for a year, and don't think that stuck with her).
 

NavyHoops

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10-Year Member
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Jul 13, 2011
Messages
7,346
Unless you plan to Major in Chinese, then go with French and make life easier on yourself. Regardless of language proficiency, you will commission and go do something else for several years. Retaining that skill would be tough. When I was stationed in Oki, whenever the General went to Korea, his translator was my peer, a fellow Lt. he was a native Korean speaker, but more importantly he knew the culture and customs. He would disappear then come back a few days later to his full time job.
 

Just Dad

5-Year Member
Joined
Sep 14, 2015
Messages
433
Plebe year DD opted to shoot for a minor in Chinese. I speak a little Russian and suggested she avoid Chinese as a language study in favor of Russian (or anything else really). Back in 2016 She was in her "Newly minted Mid, adult, I don't need your input" phase..............And, she disclosed later that her "plebe mentality and a salty academic counselor kept her from asking to change her language choice".

In 23 years I have earned two unsolicited "Dad you were right" admissions from DD; her language choice of Chinese at USNA is one of them. DD did well at USNA, but in her 3c-2c-1c years she was always dragging a C- C+ B in Chinese along in her GPA. She had to invest a bunch of time to earn those Cs-n-Bs. Between the tonal aspects of Chinese and a number of students who had some prior exposer to the language in her classes Chinese was the toughest academic challenge of her time at the USNA.

If you are really good with your French and you want some challenge, Russian is "fun"😬 language to learn. It's still widely spoken in Eastern Europe and Russia by people who are not proficient in English adding value to its study. Its case based structure will twist your head around enough if you want a challenge w/o sucking down your GPA.

One of the Mids from our state and city in DD's class took Arabic at USNA and I hear that it is influencing her USN career.

Or, you could just listen to Hoops and Old BGO. They've been there, I was just an observer
 

dav1y

USNA '26
Joined
Aug 5, 2019
Messages
354
Somewhat of a similar question, but would y'all recommend taking Chinese if I've already taken it for 10+ years? My parents and teachers do want me to continue Chinese, but I feel at this point, I am basically fluent in Chinese and am not sure how much I would improve if I continue taking it at USNA as opposed to starting a new language such as Japanese or Russian or even Arabic.
 

Just Dad

5-Year Member
Joined
Sep 14, 2015
Messages
433
Somewhat of a similar question, but would y'all recommend taking Chinese if I've already taken it for 10+ years? My parents and teachers do want me to continue Chinese, but I feel at this point, I am basically fluent in Chinese and am not sure how much I would improve if I continue taking it at USNA as opposed to starting a new language such as Japanese or Russian or even Arabic.
I have a very good, much younger, friend. The guy looks, sounds, and to some extent presents as a classic fratboy-gymrat. He was, at one time, a Gold's Gym Inc. Exec responsible for international franchising.

Anyway, we were talking about my DD and I mentioned her Chinese language study in the same sentence as Japanese. This guy stopped, got serious and said --

"Oh Dude, don't let her mix Chinese and Japanese! They mess each other up, lots of symbols and words that look or sound exactly the same but have totally different meanings! They mess each other up! It takes some time, effort, and experience using both languages to separate them enough in your head to use either one"

I remember it because I was shocked by the fact that this guy who looked and acted (most of the time) like a junior college power forward, and began his sentence with "Oh Dude" was fluent in Mandarin and Japanese, ( a book-/-cover moment for me).

Just a data point for you. I have no facility with either language, but I'd inquire along this line before, as a Chinese speaker, declaring for Japanese language study at the USNA.

Best of luck
 

nuensis

10-Year Member
Joined
May 23, 2011
Messages
883
I think taking this language could be important in my career and is a valuable skill in the world.
The language itself not so much; the military trains interpreters, who will almost always be preferred over people who just speak the language. But the classes cover more than just the language--they go into a bit of the culture as well. Consider taking HH215A over the other 3/C history options, and consider LREC and semester abroad. Planning for semester abroad starts as early as plebe year--shifting around the curriculum to support 6 months away from USNA can be complicated.

Experience in and knowledge of the Pacific/Far East is specifically valued from a career standpoint (and experience in the Middle East is waning in priority).

I would be starting this language from scratch though, I never attended Chinese school or learned it before. I'm not sure if I would be able to be proficient in the language in four years. I would also be taking Chinese as a college class, and I'm not sure how challenging that would be. Has anyone on this forum at USNA taken Chinese?
You don't need to have any experience with the language. The 100-level classes will start from zero.
You won't be fluent in four years, but you'll be able to gain some familiarity with the language and culture, which may be helpful later on.

On the DoD's strategic language list, Chinese is an "Enduring Language" (payment category B), and if you test high enough on the DLPT you can earn upwards of $500 extra a month in pay.
The bonuses are service-specific. The Navy does not pay FLPB for Chinese Mandarin; it is prevalent in force (i.e. there are enough trained personnel to forgo incentivizing non-trained personnel to maintain proficiency). This may change from year to year, but has not for a while.
 

dav1y

USNA '26
Joined
Aug 5, 2019
Messages
354
I have a very good, much younger, friend. The guy looks, sounds, and to some extent presents as a classic fratboy-gymrat. He was, at one time, a Gold's Gym Inc. Exec responsible for international franchising.

Anyway, we were talking about my DD and I mentioned her Chinese language study in the same sentence as Japanese. This guy stopped, got serious and said --

"Oh Dude, don't let her mix Chinese and Japanese! They mess each other up, lots of symbols and words that look or sound exactly the same but have totally different meanings! They mess each other up! It takes some time, effort, and experience using both languages to separate them enough in your head to use either one"

I remember it because I was shocked by the fact that this guy who looked and acted (most of the time) like a junior college power forward, and began his sentence with "Oh Dude" was fluent in Mandarin and Japanese, ( a book-/-cover moment for me).

Just a data point for you. I have no facility with either language, but I'd inquire along this line before, as a Chinese speaker, declaring for Japanese language study at the USNA.

Best of luck
Thank you for the input! I was considering Japanese just because I live here in Japan and it's definitely hard for me to get around and ask for things since I've never taken Japanese at all, and when I come back to visit I'd like to be able to speak at least a bit. I spent nearly a decade living in China as a kid so I think my knowledge of the language and culture is probably sufficient, although I will definitely inquire when I get to USNA.
 
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