Fuelling the dragon

Language Learning

Fuelling the dragon

Until the dawn of the millennium, our knowledge of China was limited to history textbooks, Bruce Lee movies and hakka noodles! After China joined the WTO in 2001 and after IT/ITES and manufacturing industries experienced a boom, interest in the happenings across the Great Wall peaked. India and China now share collaboration space in IT, trade and manufacturing.

Although Chinese is perceived to be a very difficult language to learn, scores of young people in India evince a keen interest in learning it. Mandarin, the language of Mainland China, is also the most widely spoken language in the world. As markets in Asia continue to remain bullish and people travel to China for business (almost all IT MNCs have offices in India and China) and pleasure, the language seems set to top the popularity charts.

Indian tourists who have travelled to China reveal that knowing a smattering of Mandarin can make a significant difference to one’s travel experience. Apart from those seeking to learn the language so that it helps them in their work, there are also hobbyists who are fascinated by the language and want to fulfill their dream of learning it.

Although Mandarin is perceived as a complex language, the average Indian is unlikely to face the challenges that the average American might when it comes to getting the phonetics and the pronunciation right.

For example,  a sentence like “why didn’t you come yesterday?” when translated to Chinese appears as “zuó tian ni wèi shén me bù lái?” And the same when translated to Kannada appears as “nenne neevu yaake baralilla?” and not “yesterday you why did not come?” if it were to be a direct translation word-to-word to English.

It is not mandatory for a beginner to learn the characters. The Romanised form of the language, which is called Pinyin, can be a good beginning. But if you want to be proficient in Mandarin, you would have to take the long and hard road of learning the characters.

India and China, the best examples of growing economies in the new world, need to leverage all aspects of their cross-cultural and cross-civilisation traits, including language which is the bridge for effective collaboration.

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