Originally Posted by FilmKing2000
That was a little nuance that Johnson put in because he wrote the part specifically for Gordon-Levitt (who's a huge Francophile in real life). It was definitely a bigger nod to the actor than the character, but I also thought it worked as a nice little touch to the character and the idea that even though he had some sense of hope and aspiration for his future, it was inevitable that his lifestyle would drift him farther down into drugs and murder. The idea that he had did in fact of dreams for something and even the fact that Older Joe told him to give up and "focus on Mandarin instead" definitely added sympathy to the character as well as more weight to the whole correlation between choices and fate that the film delves into. It's actually one of the reasons I thought the diner scene worked so well...the idea that if your older self told you to not do or consider something you felt so strongly about, would you take the risk anyways?
What risk? The risk of learning French instead of Mandarin? I don't see much conflict there, so there's little risk involved from where I'm standing. Old Joe even says he never regretted learning French, even though he never needed it from what we're shown. And it appears that he did learn Mandarin anyways. I don't see any risk, especially because Young Joe was learning this language (from what you say) because of a nod to the actor playing him.