Thursday, March 24, 2011

Chinese and Spanish in Philly

Back in high school, I did an internship down in Center City, Philadelphia. Every day I'd walk from Market East Station to my internship a few blocks away towards the waterfront. On one of my first days down there, I noticed that free, Spanish-language newspapers were available along the street on the way to the internship. Having had five years of Spanish under my belt at that point but having little access to Spanish-language materials (the internet in 1997 wasn't quite what it is today), I'd always grab those papers and try to read them during my commutes, marking them up with my notes. I was down in Philly earlier this week, saw the same newspapers, and had to restrain myself from picking one up, if only because I can get much more (and likely exactly the same) content online.

The other interesting thing related to language learning about my excursion to Center City earlier this week was the foreign languages I heard: Mandarin, Spanish, and some other Chinese language (not sure which it was; I could pick out some words and phrases, but it clearly wasn't Mandarin). Mandarin was the one I heard the most, which might have just been a function of where I was; I was basically walking parallel to Chinatown a block or two to the south on Market Street. And Spanish was hardly in short order.

So although no one really thinks of Philly as a great place to go learn Mandarin or Spanish, it is (and long has been) easy to get exposure to both languages there (and to others as well, I'm sure). Just a few of the many of the ways you can increase your exposure to a target language without needing to go abroad.


  1. Oh yeah, most major cities have lots of native speakers of usually a dozen or so of the most popular languages, sometimes more, and sometimes even some more obscure ones (Vancouver has an abnormally large Filipino population and consequently you'll hear a ton of Tagalog spoken there), and of course the best way to learn a language is to speak with native speakers and surround yourself with the culture, so if you live in a large city you've really got no excuse for not learning a language that you want to, especially if it's a major one like Spanish, French, Mandarin, etc. that would be easy to find lots of native speakers of.


  2. This reminds me of growing up in Orange County, California. When I was in high school, I heard a lot of Spanish, of course, but also a fair amount of Vietnamese, Cambodian, even Romanian. This was just in my high school. There were also large communities of Korean and Chinese. Now when I go back to visit, I see a lot of businesses with signs in Arabic.

    By the way, I just found your blog. I'm looking forward to reading your older posts. Thanks!

  3. Sorry to be so off topic, but do you have a release date for your book? I've been lurking on your blog for about a month. It's a really great blog!

  4. I need to learn a second language to get my masters in international business any recommendations. Ideally manderin would be the best, but I decided on spanish. So what is the easiest way to speak and read and write in spanish?
    Learn spanish grammar/vocab and be around people that speak it 24/7.

  5. Thank you for the tip in learning spanish. I agree as far as going to a place to learn. Like here in Denver, we have a strong Russian community. Learning online can get you there, buit not as good or fast as BEING surrounded in the language / culture. Here is our site, you can see we know what we are talking about! = ) See the Russian Language

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  7.  Well, I guess Philly is nice place to learn the Spanish language. To learn various languages will be an advantage for you, because you don't need to study for them abroad if you already know how to. 

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