Circos Brand Karma

Official Blog of Circos

Postcard from China: I did it!

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I’ve still yet to leave Beijing but the last few days have been quite interesting.  I had to give my first all-Mandarin presentation this week, first in Shanghai, then in Beijing.  Though I’m somewhat fluent in Mandarin — I left Taiwan when I was 10 years old and grew up in the US, returning back to Asia only after my son was born 3 years ago — I was always more comfortable in a conversational setting.  I only had formal language education through 4th grade in primary school, so talking to me is probably sometimes like talking to a school kid!

I was asked by Travel Link Daily to talk about the trends in social media that I see and to share best practices on how to get greater ROI from social media investments to Communications Managers in the travel industry — including some our own clients.  Originally, the presentations were supposed to be in English, but when the organizer saw that I was Chinese he asked my staff if I could speak in Mandarin, and my staff member said yes.  And so the invitations went out “THIS SESSION WILL BE CONDUCTED IN MANDARIN!”  Several nervous rounds of laughters later… I came to face the reality of the situation the night before I left for China.

Thankfully, our newly formed Brand Karma Guide team, under the capable leadership of Kay, translated the transcript of my talk from English to Chinese, and also my slides from English to Traditional Chinese.  Then our team in Beijing took over the slides and translated them from Traditional to Simplified Chinese.  With over 1.5B Chinese people in the world, colloquialism can present huge challenges in our being able to understand each other even with the same fundamental language.

On the plane, in the car, in the hotel… I got familiar with my new talk.  Joseph, who is my General Manager of the Greater China region, and Mario, my co-Founder, were with me and were of tremendous help, although I think Joseph was half-way between being terrified and having a heart attack when he had to correct my intonation as I practiced.  Mandarin words have 5 inflections, so the right sound but wrong inflection means the difference, for example, between a horse and a mother.

But I think things went OK.  No one left during my presentation in either cities.  The Q&As session at the end was lively and highly interactive, much more so than when I give a presentation to Chinese people in English, so all in all I think it was a success.  And… I jumped over a big professional hurdle.

Thank you, team, for your support.  Thanks, Travel Link Daily, for the invitation.  And to everyone who has ever had to present in a non-native language — I salute you for your courage.

 

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Written by Morris

August 13, 2011 at 9:41 am

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