Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays?

My work just hosted an amazing holiday party in the Wall Centre at the Sheraton Hotel. There was delicious food (I had pecan crusted salmon), an open bar and quality music by a local DJ company. The music was so good that we ended up dancing into the wee hours of the morning, heels off!

Other Holidays

I really enjoy the holidays and the time leading up to Christmas. But as I was having my dinner and looking around the room I realized that more than half of our company is made up of people who perhaps have no reason to celebrate Christmas. Does that mean we shouldn’t be celebrating it and getting time off of work? Having grown up celebrating this holiday, it’s hard to image winter without it. Maybe, however, we should be celebrating things like Chinese New Year or Dewali more officially in the workplace as well. What about Easter and such?

I personally think we should celebrate all holidays. A few years ago when I was still in university, I lived in shared home with a family from Taiwan. When Chinese New Year rolled around, my landlady gave me a beautiful moon cake to enjoy. I didn’t know what moon cakes are at that time so I looked it up. A moon cake is a special rich pastry made for Chinese New Year. It is meant to be shared with family and other people close to you, which is why I was so touched that my landlady gave me one. The full egg yolk inside the cake is supposed to represent the full moon.

Cultural Sensitivity

There is a case, however, to be made about being overly culturally sensitive. Canada has a long tradition of celebrating Christmas and Easter due to the majority of it’s population being of European origin. This doesn’t mean that we can’t change things up and adapt to other cultures being part of our community. We need a good balance and a respect for those that come here to better their lives. That’s why learning a foreign language can be so impactful in connecting with newcomers, it can make them feel welcomed and wanted.

The world is becoming more and more globalized, the information we get is quick to reach us and we can communicate with anyone we like. We still don’t have the ability to instantly translate language. Here I am thinking of the Babel fish from the Hitchhikes Guide to the Galaxy. Who knows, maybe one day it’ll happen? But until then, I recommend signing up for a language course!

The Difficulties of Learning a Foreign Language

Learning something anew is often a daunting task. Sometimes it might even seem impossible.

Recently I began climbing again. Climbing is one of the most interesting sports because it combines physical activity, strength, stamina, perseverance and problem solving. Every time I climb I challenge myself, sometimes I even feel a bit anxious before I go to the gym.

I want to send (ascend) all of my climbs, I don’t want to embarrass myself in front of my friends and perhaps I want to egotistically “look good” while doing it. Reality, however is far from that. I fall, sometimes I fail to send any climbs other than my practice ones, other times I hurt myself while trying and I often feel like I’m not making any progress. But those things certainly don’t stop me from going again and again. I try harder, I build a little bit of more muscle and problem solve a little bit better every next time. Check out my About page to learn more about me. 🙂

Bouldering over the sea.

 

When you begin learning a foreign language you need to practice your “muscle.”. In fact, when learning new things, our brains make new connections called synapses to cement those memories. But going from short-term memory to long-term memory require action on your part. And practice time and time money. You have no alternative to this, as the claim is that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become good at something. What does 10,000 hours equal to? That’s one whole year of full-time work. That means that even though you might be taking a language course which is once a week for two hours, you’d need to practice a lot more to master that language.

Encouragement

There is some consolation to all of this hard work if you are set on the path to learning. Once a new language is cemented in the brain, it is much easier to learn another after that. That’s because your brain has already made more connections is and has more practice at memorization. Think of this: a person who is bilingual has to remember at least 80,000 words! Your memory is already jogged by the time you get to the third.

Don’t give up, practice that muscle and the pay-off will come soon enough!

Language Schools in Vancouver

Vancouver is Canada’s “gateway to the East.” Whenever I need to fly out to Asia, usually with AirCanada, all flights leave from Vancouver. Additionally, Vancouver has a very large Asian population and is usually cited as one of the cities outside of Asia that has the largest Chinese community. This means that Vancouver, and by extension the whole province of British Columbia does a lot of business with Asian companies. For example Vancouver’s Bentall Centre was purchased in 2016 by China’s Anbang Group for $1.3 billion dollars (pictured below.)

Bentall Centre, Vancouver on a summer day.

Many Chinese investors have learned English in order to do business in North America, the reverse however is not true, though many Canadian companies outsource their manufacturing in China. A friend of mine travels often to Guangdong province in order to arrange the manufacturing of security cameras for his company. Conversation, however, is difficult and he always needs to be accompanied by an English speaker. Unlike the neighbouring Hong Kong, Guangdong is not as friendly to foreign travellers (things are changing fast though, I am sure.)

What language learning services are available in Vancouver in order to learn Chinese? In this post I will review a few of the most popular Chinese language schools in Vancouver and what they offer with respect to services.

Key Language School

In my opinion, the best thing this place has going for itself is it’s location. Next BCIT, a large post-secondary learning institution, Key Language School has access to a large pool of potential students. It offers only Mandarin classes but it has a variety of options for children and adults. For example, there are adult Business language classes, one-on-one tutoring and online courses available. Intensive classes cater to a tight timeframe. If you are a busy person who works downtown and would like to do classes after work, this is the place for you.

As a bonus, this place has excellent reviews in Google. All of the instructors are native Mandarin speakers and the curriculum developers are teachers with North American designations. Therefore, you get the ability to learn Mandarin in a curriculum, which you are likely comfortable with.

Langara Collage

Although a little out of the way, Langara Collage offers an excellent opportunity to learn for those of you that are more comfortable with taking lessons from a recognized institution. Langara offers many courses and is responsible for the post-secondary and continuing education of many in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia. Their classes follow the school year with courses beginning in January, April, July, and September. As it it is a “regular” school institution, classes sizes are likely bigger than in a private language school, which may be a drawback if you think you need some extra help and/or practice. Courses are in the range of $2oo CA for adults.

Vancouver Mandarin School

This is another private school, located in the Shaughnessy neighbourhood of Vancouver. At a first glance, this school caters mainly to immigrant parents who would like their young children born or raised in Canada to have the opportunity of speaking and writing Mandarin. It has excellent reviews online but it’s website looks unprofessional and rather outdated. This however, should not deter you to contact them because the teachers are highly qualified, possessing degrees in Chinese literature and education and a graduate degree from the University of Austin, Texas.

 

These are just some of the options available for those wishing to learn Chinese in Vancouver. Other schools can perhaps offer different programs, which can better suit your lifestyle or business needs. In order to find out which is best for you start with a simple online listing and work your way through the options. Find out prices, class size and perhaps most importantly find people who have gone through the programs themselves and are willing to testify.

Chinese Language – What is it?

When people speak colloquially about the Chinese language, they are usually referring to Mandarin – whether they know it or not. Mandarin is the most commonly spoken version of Chinese (the other being Cantonese).

I won’t bore you with grammar or other such things but I will mention 10 cool facts about Chinese that I summerized from BBC Languages:

1. One in five people on the planet speak it! This makes learning this language highly useful if you’d like to do business around the world or in the People’s Republic of China.

2. As Chinese cultured has expanded past the boarders of Asia, we have already adopted some words. For example Ch’i: meaning one’s energy or spirit and Chop Chop (Cantonese): meaning to hurry up.

3. Reading and writing in Chinese can be challenging since, unlike western languages, it uses tones to differentiate between two words that would otherwise seem the same. So how do you tell if one means soup or sugar? Well, “tang” with a high tone means soup and “tang” with a rising tone means sugar. When reading, this can be even more difficult since the two words would be written with the same characters; you would have to differentiate using contextual clues in the writing.

4. There are many Chinese tongue twisters, which in my opinion are super hard!

(Xue Bai, YouTube)

5. As you might imagine, due to so many words sounding the same, puns are a popular form of entertainment in the Chinese language. A popular example is a New Year’s greeting that sounds like an abundance of fish.

6. The traditional Japanese characters are borrowed from Chinese, therefore learning how to write Chinese characters will help you with reading and writing Japanese.

7. Getting the intonations wrong could get you in a lot of trouble! But don’t worry, there are few foreigners trying to learn Chinese, therefore you’ll likely receive lots of help along with a few laughs.

Ex: wǒ xiǎng wèn nǐ [I would like to ask you.] versus wǒ xiǎng wěn nǐ [I would like to kiss you.] 😉

8. There are many Chinese proverbs and some have counterparts in the Western tradition. For learning a language, I personally like this one:

wàn shì kāi tóu nán [All things are difficult before they are easy.]

9. Have you ever tried to read Shakespeare in an unabridged version? It’s pretty hard to understand Elizabethan English! Unlike Western languages Chinese has changed little since the time of Confucius, an important philosopher who wrote one thousand years before the common era. Learn to read Chinese and you could be reading his works in the original Chinese version.

10. An easy way to be polite in Chinese is to use people’s titles. In English we might say Professor Hobbs, but in Chinese this title would come after the persons last name i.e. Hobbs, Professor. The same is true with personal names, last name goes first and a given name is written and pronounced after it.

 

There you go! Ten interesting facts about the Chinese language.

The Start of Global Chinese Edu

Global Chinese Edu if finally up and running! There’s nothing more energizing than learning new things, so stay tuned to learn more about where you can learn about Chinese culture abroad.