Notes: China-Britain Business Council
James Brodie is Manager & CBA Scotland of China-Britain Business Council. We asked him to share with us why he decided to study Chinese, how he has used his language skills in his career, and his top 5 tips for learning Chinese.
What languages did you study at school?
French, German and Latin for 1st and 2nd year. I only continued French to Standard Grade. I showed no interest in languages at that age – I didn’t see the point as I never went to a foreign-language speaking country until I was 16!
Why did you choose to take up Chinese?
I spent a gap year in Thailand teaching English as a volunteer with the charity Project Trust (based on Coll). This sparked an interest in languages, Buddhism and all things Asian. I chose to study Mandarin after a year studying Geography at university, which just didn’t quite hit the spot.
Have you lived in China?
Yes. 1 year in Nanjing while I was at university, and spent almost 6 years based in Beijing. But I’ve travelled extensively and also had a summer school session in Taiwan in 2003.
Have you worked in China? Doing what?
Yes. Firstly managing a contemporary Chinese art gallery, primarily in charge of their international programme (promoting Chinese art overseas and to foreign collectors), then as a freelance interpreter and translator (in the arts/education/NGOs/energy sectors) and most recently in charge of localisation and project facilitation for a British chemical engineering company who were setting up a permanent office in Beijing. As you can see – quite a variety of sectors!
How do you use your Chinese now?
Whenever we’re hosting inward Chinese delegations / coordinating events with local Chinese government representatives – at the Chinese Consulate/Embassy etc. – carrying out desk-based Chinese language research for member companies.
What are your top 5 tips for learning Chinese?
- Be prepared for a lot of repetition when starting out with Chinese characters, but don’t worry: they do make more sense the more you know of them!
- Carry a Chinese/English dictionary with you at all times – always good to identify unknown characters on the spot.
- Find a way to practise it right from the start – there is a wealth of Chinese international students in Scotland now – take advantage!
- If you like tweeting, once you’ve mastered the basics of Mandarin, get yourself a Weibo account and tap directly into the wonderful world of Chinese micro-blogging.
- As with any language learning, don’t be afraid to make mistakes – go forth and bumble – that’s how you’ll progress!!!
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