Second international conference on business Chinese teaching opens in Copenhagen

08:59, May 06, 2011      

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Chinese language teachers and businesses education professionals met for the 2011 International Conference on Business Chinese Teaching, in Copenhagen, on Thursday.

Some 100 delegates representing universities and institutes from 20 countries are participating in the event, organized by the Copenhagen Business Confucius Institute (CBCI) at Denmark's Copenhagen Business School.

The conference, now in its second year, aims to improve Chinese teaching in a business context by debating pedagogical and cultural practices that can help firms do business in China.

"In ordinary Chinese one learns to say 'How much?', but in business Chinese, one must learn to say, 'Please charge less!'," joked Heidi Wang, a native Chinese and member of the Copenhagen City Council, as she officially opened the conference.

"Business Chinese is a combination of cultural understanding and Chinese language," she told Xinhua, "because it is not just about knowing the exact words, but also about understanding the logic of Chinese business."

CBCI, which is administered in cooperation with Renmin University, has taught ordinary Chinese courses for nearly three years, and recently began offering business Chinese, mostly to corporate clients.

A boom in Chinese language teaching is expected as Danish businesses find great opportunities in the country's vast markets, and as young Danes become aware of China's global economic strength.

Nick Byrne, head of Academic and Professional Development at the London School of Economics which organized last year's conference, said business Chinese gives Western companies "accessibility" in China.

This, in turn, sends the message "this is a company we can do business with," he said. Codes of politeness and etiquette, which are relevant to Chinese society, and which may not necessarily be taught in a regular Chinese course, can be found in a business Chinese course, Byrne observed.

"Business is not just about sitting around a table and making deals," he told Xinhua.

"You also need the language at the official dinner, the corridor conversation, while having coffee: that is where you can make a difference," he added.

Conference keynote speaker, Dr. Theresa Jen, who is Professor of Chinese at University of Pennsylvania said, "It is very important to have cross-cultural concepts. If you do not go to the country and immerse yourself in the culture, it is difficult to understand it."

"I would encourage people to go to China even if they do not speak the language, and make friends with native Chinese speakers through social interactions," she told Xinhua, when asked how foreigners can better understand China's business mindset.

"Then you will learn many interesting facts about doing business in China." Conference participants were certain that learning about Chinese business was having a positive impact on local business environments.

"There is a lot of business between Zambian firms, especially banks, and China," said Norman Kamanga from the Confucius Institute at the University of Zambia, which offers regular language classes as well as bespoke Chinese training courses to companies.

"If we are able to create awareness amongst Zambians, if we understand China's language and culture, it will be easy to deal with Chinese companies in China," he observed.

Norman Scarborough, Associate Professor of Entrepreneurship at Presbyterian College, USA, says cultural differences can be a " hurdle" and that "many of the business practices we would engage in the U.S. may be taboo in another culture." He feels business Chinese helps small American businesses " think globally", and learn to adjust to cultural differences.

"It is an enormous help," remarked Tatiana Dzhakhanova, Linguistics Professor at Kalmyk State University, Russia, commenting on business Chinese training.

"Cooperation between Russia and China is very large, and most of our students come to university to study Chinese and later do business with China," she said.

The 2011 conference ends Friday, with next year's edition scheduled to take place in the USA.

Source: Xinhua
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