China and New Zealand Work Together to Promote Mandarin Study

I found this article about a an ambitious program captained by the Confucius Institute at the University of Auckland to quintuple the number of students learning Mandarin in New Zealand.

From the article:

“Last year, the institute placed eight assistants in New Zealand schools to promote the language – this year, that number will be 18.

Under the New Zealand-China Free Trade Agreement, up to 150 Mandarin assistants can work in New Zealand at any one time.

“We are very encouraged by a near 40 per cent increase in Kiwis learning Mandarin last year and will be doing much more to generate interest in the language this year,” said institute director Nora Yao.

“I will expect a more significant growth, and even if we do not reach our target, I am confident we will get near there.”

This year, 18 schools will be hosting the Chinese language assistants, whose jobs will be to fuel interest in Mandarin among students and train local teachers to teach the language.”

First, kudos to the governments of China and New Zealand for undertaking this effort. It won’t succeed (a huge percentage of those who start studying Mandarin drop out before they learn more than a few phrases), but it is an admirable effort.

Question for the reporter: How do you train local teachers to teach Mandarin when they don’t speak it in the first place? Or, are there already certified teachers in place who are Mandarin speakers and readers?

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Filed under China, Greater Asia, Language, The Learning Chinese Craze

Learning Chinese on your iPod

Interesting link here for those who want to learn on the run (an excellent way to learn Chinese when you are busy)

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Chinese Drywall and Working with Chinese Suppliers

Stories like this one are popping up all over the media. People move into a lovely new tract home, bought at a good price, and a year or two later…toxic drywall starts poisoning the occupants and affecting the structure of the building.

I’m not a legal expert, so I’m not going to offer a legal opinion. What I will say is this: Somewhere along the supply chain, someone bought drywall that wasn’t made according to code. Whether the manufacture of toxic drywall on the Chinese side was a purposeful violation of standards for building materials, an unfortunate oversight, or just plain incompetence, somebody in the US, probably several people, sourced and approved the purchase of that drywall.

My guess is that these people had absolutely no idea what they were getting into. They may have hesitated at first and then caved to the pressure to provide materials at lower costs. They may have seen $$ signs in their eyes and gone for it with glee. Who knows what the motivation was? What they probably didn’t realize is that when you source overseas, you have got to be very, very careful about your QC process. You might order one shipment that looks perfect but, six months later, turns out to be defective. You might order a shipment that arrives in perfect order, but the next shipment might be bad. You may think you have the leverage you need to prevent you from getting cheated, only to find out that your definition of leverage is very different from your Chinese partner’s definition.

There are tremendous cost advantages to sourcing overseas, and there are many fine, ethical Chinese suppliers. But in the end, you’re buying something from a country that you probably don’t understand, and from people that you don’t understand. You CANNOT take it for granted that everything will be in order. You have got to put airtight QC/QA procedures in place for every shipment. If that means you have to send a consultant, or hire one in China, to inspect the factory, the materials used, and the finished product for every single shipment, then that’s what you do.

If you don’t do that, then you get to face a bunch of angry homeowners whose lives your poor purchasing practices have destroyed.

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Filed under Business, China, Sourcing in China

Learning Chinese Initiatives in Australia Flop

Check out this article on the results of a push to teach Asian languages in Australia. From the article:

“Most parents just don’t see the sense in learning Asian languages. What chance is there really that their daughter will need her schoolgirl Indonesian to do business deals? What cultural payoff is there in learning Korean that a child in this essentially European country couldn’t get twice over from learning French?”

Yep.

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Filed under Chinese Language Instruction, The Learning Chinese Craze

Time Magazine Article: A Mandarin School in Minneapolis

Fascinating article here about a Mandarin immersion school in Minneapolis. I believe that attending an immersion school like the Yinghua Academy for several years is one of the only ways a person can become truly fluent in Mandarin while still living in the United States.

From a cross-cultural perspective, check out the part of the article that discusses some of the cultural adaptation challenges the Chinese and Taiwanese teachers are facing. These folks are living in an entirely different world now. I’d love to go and talk with them for a few hours about what the Americans are thinking.

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Cross-Cultural Interactions Between Chinese and Michiganites

Great article here from a local paper detailing the cross-cultural interactions and differences between Chinese and local students in Michigan.

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Filed under Communication, Culture, Culture Shock

Cultural Awareness and Doing Business in China

An excellent article on cultural awareness and doing business in China recently appeared in the Miami Herald.

A very insightful read for those who are doing business with or planning to do business with Chinese people.

A some point I’ll open a Chinese language and culture acclimation boot camp for American and Canadian businesspeople who are heading to China for an assignment. Do you think it would be better to hold it in greater China, or in North America? There are advantages and downsides to both.

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Filed under Business, China, Culture