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Business and language: China’s challenge

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I recently retired as UK senior partner of BDO after 23 years as a partner with the firm. Last year, I took up a position as visiting professor at Xiamen University, China. My wife is Chinese and I decided to spend three months exploring business opportunities in the region and trying to learn some Mandarin.

I’m blogging about my experiences in China for Real Business – catch up on my journey so far (see “related articles” on the right-hand side). 

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Since I began learning Mandarin, I have been seeking a way to explain how its differences might impact business and culture. 

Wo Pu Chi of HK University of Science and Technology notes: “If you look at functional MRI to see how the brain functions and when you take a process of the functional MRI of a person thinking in Chinese, many more parts of the brain light up. 

“The Chinese language is more complicated in sound; it is graphical. It requires context. A Chinese word has no meaning by itself. Because it is also graphical, it is very good for descriptive purposes. 

“The English language is not nearly so rich but it is precise. Most aspects are very clear. These differences imply different approaches to business in the East and the West.” 

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