Being Business Proficient with The Chinese Language
There are four levels of Chinese language proficiency. There’s “basic” followed by “intermediate” than “business proficient” and finally, “fluent”.
For most people, such as tourists, a basic to intermediate knowledge of the Chinese language is enough to get them by. You don’t need to know how to speak Chinese like a local to understand basic phrases and be able to ask around. However, for people in business and those who want to pursue a lucrative career in China, learning business Chinese language is extremely important.
Why Business Chinese is Different
The way that the Chinese conduct business is very much unlike the West. In China, business is personal. Chinese don’t just see contracts as a mere transaction. To them, contracts are the beginning of a relationship that has to be maintained. Otherwise, you risk losing a lot.
As such, if you’re going to work out business deals in China or with Chinese businesspeople, you can’t just rely on dictionary apps. You need to be able to do more than understand basic and simple phrases. You need to be able to read the language properly and speak it. In doing so, you’re able to gain a better understanding of Chinese culture and how they conduct business.
Of course, you don’t need to be a fluent speaker either. Unless you plan on working as a translator or an interpreter, you don’t need to be classified as a “fluent” Chinese speaker, although it could help a lot.
How Do You Become Proficient in Business Chinese?
Just like learning any language, much of learning Mandarin falls on how much time you can dedicate for it on a daily basis. However, to become proficient in business Chinese, you also would have to double your efforts and focus more on your speaking skills. Your ability to speak Chinese is most crucial if you want to have a lot of guanxi – a Chinese term that means “networks or connections” – and be able to establish professional relationships.
Luckily, learning how to speak Chinese is easier compared to learning how to read and write. This isn’t to say that it’s easy, though. It’s just that, compared to memorising the 3,000 Chinese characters required to be able to read properly, understanding and learning tones take a lot less time. It’s also something that you can do all of them, either by listening to Chinese drama, music, news, or watching Chinese television, movies, and more.
It takes the average person at least a year to achieve spoken fluency in Chinese after hours of daily practice. Meanwhile, written fluency will take at least two years, if not longer.
The main focus in your first few months of learning Chinese is to absorb as many Chinese words into your vocabulary. Or, to put it simply, do a lot more listening. After immersing yourself in the language, you can start practising having conversations in Chinese. Eventually, you’ll get the knack for it and be able to get your point across while speaking Chinese as if you were talking in your native language.
When trying to learn Chinese in Singapore, it’s important to immerse yourself in the right environment and have a native speaker as a reference point. It’s also equally important to choose study materials that are relevant to modern-day China.