Chinese Banker Enjoys Speaking English to English Person - February 13th 2014

Yesterday I led the first day of course for a group of high ranking Chinese banking officials for my friends at Aspire Leadership. Day was going really well but, as I still have bronchitis I was quite glad of an extra afternoon break thanks to a fire alarm, just a drill of course. At least I thought it was a drill but when four fire engines arrived I began to worry - not for the Hilton Croydon but for my lovely new orange bag I had left inside the room… so shallow!

 

Something good did happen though (apart from the fact that the hotel was fine) while outside I got talking to one of delegates and he told me I was the first English person he had ever spoken English to and that he was very excited to do so. So today I suggested I accompany the group to lunch (Chinese restaurant) so he could practice more English. On our table for two (the rest of the group sat at one huge table) I asked Chen every possible question I could think of to engage him in conversation. I found out such a lot about his family and his daily life and work in China. Like me he had one son, unlike me his parents lived with him, like me he loved his work, unlike me he went home for two hours every day for lunch. During the afternoon I encouraged Chen to use his English (which was very good) and help the group’s translator, which he did. At the end of the day the group leader presented me with a gift, which was lovely, but seeing Chen enjoy using his English was the gift I will treasure most. 

With Chen, my English conversation partner.

With Chen, my English conversation partner.

My Chinese bankers with their certificates and sense of humour (well, certainly the guy standing behind me!) 

My Chinese bankers with their certificates and sense of humour (well, certainly the guy standing behind me!) 

Leadership Course for Chinese Government Delegation - November 17th 2013


I am running a leadership course for The Office of Scientific & Technological Industry of National Defence in Sichuan Province. The focus is on the differences in British and Chinese business leadership models and I also have to provide communication strategies to help enhance trade opportunities. The group has little English (and I have no Chinese) but the translator is brilliant and we are able to explore all topics are thoroughly. I discover that a side aim of everyone is to improve their English so I set them overnight tasks of saying hello to everyone they see in the hotel and making lots of small requests to the staff. Everyone does their homework diligently and tell me that they also stopped several people to ask for directions to the Chinese restaurant they were eating dinner at. I am delighted. We spend the last hour of day two with them practicing questions to ask in English at their upcoming visit to the National Science Institute. Having learnt that Chengdu is famous for both Giant Pandas and Shu Brocade I am glad at the end of the  course to be presented with an exquisitely embroidered panel of the latter, much easier to get home on the train.

 

Am pleased to tell BBC’s Head of Ethical Sourcing not one single text sent during the sessions. Thanks to my friends at Aspire Leadership for inviting me to lead the course for them. 

The delegates present me with a Shu Brocade panel from their home city of Chengdu

The delegates present me with a Shu Brocade panel from their home city of Chengdu

Learning Chinese at the Gherkin - November 4th 2013

Today I have a Chinese Lesson from David Halford, the BBC’s Head of Ethical Sourcing, at the top of the Gherkin. We only have 30 minutes so I know I’m not going to master the language but what I do hope to gain is vital etiquette tips ahead of my leadership course for a delegation from The Office of Scientific & Technological Industry of National Defence in Sichuan Province next week.

David tells me that the two-handed business card offering is key, as is studying both the front and back of the cards with interest. I can do that. I mustn’t mind that the delegates talk or text during the sessions, this is quite normal he tells me (my view is always that as the presenter I should be so very interesting and engaging that no-one even thinks of doing so – but I haven't presented to wholly Chinese audiences before so we’ll see.)