Over the past few years I’ve been picking up words here and there over the past few years like Hello, thank you, too much, full, fart, F-you, knife… a random assortment, but its fun and I think the factory crew gets a laugh out of me trying to learn… somehow it seems o help when I say I have 5 tooling changes to make…
I think it is great to make the effort, but as stated, most of the people we deal with have very good English skills, in addition to probably speaking a 3rd language as well. It amazes me.
sure, never hurts to make an effort, even just for the humility of it all. i’ve got covered most colors, counting to 10, hello/goodbye a few technical words and some dirty phrases for good measure.
that being said, i used to work with a technician who could pretty much converse in mandarin…and he was actually from India! Very impressive and got a lot of respect from the factories and was able to cut down on a lot of the “OK, no problem sir” BS.
In a previous lifetime I pursued two degrees in Asian Studies with a focus on Chinese history, culture, and Mandarin. I’m not using it quite yet in my capacity as business development person for a New Hampshire-based product development firm, but I tell people all the time that the future has black hair…whether it speaks Hindi or Mandarin. I don’t think it can hurt to be able to shuo Putonghua when the situation calls for it.
thanks for the reponses !
Personally I think there are a good number of reasons why a foreign language should be learnt. Other than the humility, learning someone’s language actually brings people closer. I also believe that the best way to learn a culture is to actually know the language while learning about how another race lives. It more effective also to read a native text than a translated one too.
A lot is made of this (usually by Europeans), and tends to portray Americans as stupid, lazy and arrogant (not saying this is true of your post). In reality, it has a lot to do with the fact that the US only borders one country that speaks a different language (two if you count Quebec). Few Americans (as a percentage) ever travel outside the country, because it’s too expensive, too far, and fairly difficult to get a passport. A lot of people here know basic Spanish, especially if they work in hospitality, construction, or farming. But if you learn French in high school (as I did), you get zero chance to ever use it in a practical setting, apart from a trip to France once a decade. I’ve never done business with anyone in France. In terms of effort and reward, learning French was a poor use of my time (and I spent 6 years on it). That knowledge has mostly atrophied away now. In the meantime, I’ve picked up an almost equivalent knowledge of Spanish without any effort at all, because Spanish speakers are a large percentage of the population where I live.
Compare this to say, Germany, where you can cross one border (quickly, easily and cheaply) and encounter Danish, Polish, Czech, Italian, French, Flemish and Dutch. A couple hours more on the train and you hit another 10+ languages. With open borders, you are very likely to encounter people who speak other languages, and likely to do business with them too. It shouldn’t be surprising that Europeans speak more languages. It’s emphasized in school because it’s useful when you get older. More proof is how few people in England learn another language. Most people know a bit of French (look, you can get there easily and cheaply), but that’s about it.
It also helps (or hurts) that so many people around the world speak English. It gives you little incentive to try to learn their language- I can bust my ass for 6 months trying to get a basic working knowledge of Icelandic, but when I go there and try to talk to someone who’s been learning English since the age of 5, guess which language is going to win. Now if you’re Icelandic, you really have no choice but to learn a few other languages, because your native language is only spoken by about 300,000 people.
I am trying to learn Mandarin, but I don’t see it as necessary so much as polite. I don’t expect to ever be able to carry out a detailed technical conversation in Chinese, although that would be extremely helpful. Most of the time the front office people we deal with speak English (sometimes well, sometimes not), but the people doing the actual work don’t speak English at all, so instructions have to be translated by someone who may not really understand the technical part.
Thanks this is the perfect way that you gave me an answer when I ask myself what is the need to learn any other language? Indeed speaking the local dialects can always lead us close to the natives of a particular place. So friends as I am in Asia too is Chinese going to be the second language apart from English that can be said to be fruitful for learning? Please confirm.
Do you really think like that? My friend told me it is not easy at all, but I really would like to try it someday. I just started to learn Spanish at international school Wrocław Nauka języków obcych | Szkoła językowa Berlitz and I can tell you that it is relatively easy for me, but I’m worried about Chinese.
Of course India and China are politically completely different countries and where you would be completely accepted in India speaking English, in China it will greatly be appreciated if you speak their language. In my experience English communication works OK with China nowadays but the culture is so different that to truly understand them you would also have to dive into their language. Most people I heard of going to China have learned Mandarin. It is quite a time investment but the learning curve with Chinese is quite steep I experienced. I am going to Japan in a few weeks, I am very curious how the relationship with English speaking foreigners is there.
I jump again in the discussion.
Of course more and more Chinese are/will be speaking Chinese and of course as they want to attract business they will be suing English.
However, that may be more relevant to the marketing, sales and perhaps manager teams. However, from my experience living and working in Taiwan and (less) China, there many times I have/want to discuss issues with the lower ranked engineer or tool operator that will in the end study / manufacture the product and MOST if not ALL of them DO NOT speak English. So, in this case speaking even some Chinese is good.
Also, and even more importantly, when you speak the language of your partner (cause they ARE partners) you create a “sentimental” bond and the Asian partner will feel more associated and respected by the “white” designer. And even if nobody will say that DOES play a huge role in interpersonal relations that none has mentioned here.
Family member has a factory here and tell me stories of “arrogant white” clients…