Fall Issue 2022
An Interview with American Chinese Language and Culture Professor Richard Sears
by Rachid Filali
Filali: First of all, I've read about your life. It's really a wonderful story and can be transformed into a successful film by Professor Richard Sears. Why all this great sacrifice, it was a high price ( you lost your wife) in order to become a specialist in the Chinese language. Professor, a lot of people believe that Oriental languages are much harder than European languages such as English, French, and German. It is not the wrong idea, because the Chinese language, for example, is easier than English. What do you think?
Professor Sears: For a baby speaking all languages is in theory about the same difficulty. But reading and writing Chinese requires learning about 5000 characters and about 60,000 character combinations. Chinese is harder to read and write than other languages.
Filali: You say that the Japanese language is different from the Chinese, and the Japanese language resembles the Turkish language. Can you clarify that for us?
Professor Sears: The structure of Japanese grammar is quite different from Chinese. Many people think it resembles more Turkish than Chinese. But they borrowed Chinese characters and Chinese vocabulary, so they use a lot of Chinese characters. But they still need two alphabets to write the words that are not derived from Chinese.
Filali: Has the Chinese language borrowed words from other languages, and what are these languages?
Professor Sears: The Chinese have borrowed words from other languages.
Filali: Professor Richard Sears, why do you think the Chinese did not invent an alphabet easy to write like most languages, and why do they prefer these difficult and complex symbols?
Professor Sears: Chinese have a larger reverence for their elders and especially the “Ancestors." In fact, some people say they have ancestor worship. I suspect it is this strong reverence for the ancestors that has kept the written language alive for so long.
Filali: Professor Is it true that there is a language suitable only for science, and a language suitable only for Literature?
Professor Sears: No. You can write literature or talk about science in any language. As long as the other person understands the language and appreciates what you are trying to say.
Filali: What is the secret of this great love especially the Chinese language, without other languages, Why did you not learn the Arabic language, for example?
Professor Sears: One day I wanted to learn a foreign language and I wanted to choose the most different language from English. Since Chinese was not alphabetic, I chose Chinese because it seemed the most difficult. Also, it is the largest language in the world.
Filali: Professor, is it true that the Chinese language will become the first international language after a few years, especially after the great progress made by China in terms of economic growth?
Professor Sears: I don’t think so. English is the only language that is commonly spoken all over the world. I don’t think that will change. Try to speak Chinese in Brazil, or Arabic in China. English is the only common language.
Rachid Filali was born in Algeria in 1964 and has been a journalist since 1985. Filali is a researcher in linguistics and is fluent in a number of languages: English, Arabic, French, German, Chinese, and Japanese. He expressed his view about the universe and life in his first collection of poetry published in 2007. The second book was published in 2014. In addition to these, he has published two books on world literature. He is also scientifically published in his study book about bees. Currently, he is collaborating with a number of Arab and foreign magazines and works as a corrector and revisor for the newspaper Elkhabar-Elriadi. He is an Editor for KNOT Magazine.
Richard Sears is an American born in 1950, and is the founder of “Chinese Etymology”. He spent 20 years collecting characters including oracle bone inscriptions, inscriptions on bronze objects, small seal scripts, and so on to put online, users can check these characters by inputting Chinese characters, making Chinese surfers deeply touched. Therefore, they called him “Uncle Hanzi”."
More information about Professor Richard Sears: