Learn the basics of Chinese characters en route on your next long-distance flight
By Aaron Posehn
If you’re someone who’s been to China on a business trip or tour, or even if you’re someone who has been to your local Chinatown, you surely have had your senses bombarded with signs and papers and menus all written in Chinese characters.
It can get confusing, not to mention tiring (at least that’s how I used to feel). You feel like you’re in a strange new world that needs navigation, and there’s is no way for it to be done. Sure, you could get a guide or a friend to help you out (as you probably did), but this still doesn’t leave you with any feeling of control. You’re left at the mercy of those around you, and while they likely aren’t out to do you wrong, wouldn’t it be nice if you even sort of knew what you were seeing?
I recently wrote an eBook to help people remedy just this problem – the problem of being in a new place and not knowing which way is up! “chinEASE” shows the reader how to navigate through Chinese characters, starting you with the most simple and taking you right on through reading menus and business cards.
These last two activities are especially important for those doing business in China. The number of dinners, big or small, that you have already been to in China is probably startling. Perhaps they had a set menu, but you’ll surely also find yourself in smaller restaurants around town in between. Most wait staff don’t speak English, and while you could point at the pictures, wouldn’t it be nice to actually know what those pictures are made up of before you take a bite?
Or perhaps you’re going to larger banquets, which can also happen often depending on who is courting you. The exchange of business cards is inevitable, and you’ll likely receive a small book’s worth of them by the time your trip is over.
Knowing how to understand what’s written on a client’s business card would be an invaluable skill. What’s their family name? What’s the company they work for? What’s their position in said company? How seriously should you take them for a useful contact? (i.e., what can they actually do for you?)
Case in point: A few months ago, my boss took a five-week trip to China. She had no knowledge of Chinese, so I thought that I would give her this 141-page eBook on how to understand Chinese characters.
Upon returning, she said she had read it on the plane over there and was extraordinarily grateful she didn’t have to spend weeks and weeks being escorted everywhere like a small child. She said her trip was much easier as she could now get some sense of what she was seeing around her.
It’s this type of increased communication and understanding that I’ve tried to present in this book. Chinese characters are not a thing to learn in one day, but this book shows you how to get a solid grasp on them in little more than an afternoon. And for someone with a busy schedule like most of you out there, it’s sure to provide you with a leg up the next time you travel to China.
Aaron Posehn graduated of the University of British Columbia majoring in Asian Area Studies
and specializing in China, Taiwan, and India. He is currently finishing work on “chinEASE,” an eBook that teaches beginners how to easily learn Chinese characters.