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    Capturing Chinese — lenga frenca

    Importance of Chinese in China

    I'm not sure if there are many people reading this post who think that they can go to China for business before being able to speak Chinese.  However, this week I've run across quite a few people who insist that everyone will speak English when engaging in business.  They said if you are Chinese and doing business with Americans, French, Mexicans, or whoever, that the lanuage you would do business in would be English.  Since English is the global lengua franca, they insisted learning other languages was over emphasized. As you might have guessed, I do not agree with this opinion.  While there are certainly successful businessmen and women who do business in China without speaking Chinese.  Instead they rely on translators or speak in English.  I believe these businessmen and women to be the exception rather than the rule.  No matter if you are American, French, or Mexican, if you want to be successful in China, you must speak the language.  A basic understanding will get you quite far in China, but speaking proper fluent Chinese with a knowledge of the history and their important authors will put you far and ahead. I'm currently living in Japan and started a new engineering job here with a large Japanese firm.  While most of the people speak English and all the people I work with currently speak English, every day I get subtle and not so subtle hints that I need to improve my Japanese.  I'm getting the impression that no matter how good I do my job (and I think I do a good job), I must be able to speak the language.  While knowing Chinese in addition to English certainly helped me get the chance to work there, only by learning Japanese will I  be truly successful here. I believe China is similar.  People in China will be interested in you even if you speak no Chinese and they will be very accommodating.  I argue though that only with fluent Chinese ability can you engage in successful business there.  People with experience please feel free to leave a comment and let me know what you think.