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Trade with China would benefit from U.S. Businessmen learning Chinese

THE NEED OF KNOWLEDGE of the Chinese language in order to do business in China is said to be overlooked by some American firms, and this fact is much regretted by an American weekly of Shanghai.

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Three or four years ago American business men in that city, we are told, showed a keen interest in the study of the Chinese language, and a large number of young men from various American firms enrolled in the Chinese courses offered in the British Chamber of Commerce language school. But, says The China Weekly Review, American firms in Shanghai have apparently ceased to care to study the Chinese language, and while there are a number of American young men studying the language privately, it thinks the fact unfortunate that more are not taking the advantage for better and more efficient study offered by the school maintained by the British Chamber of Commerce which was opened to American students in 1918. We read then:

"It is not necessary here to dwell upon the importance of a knowledge of the Chinese language on the part of those who expect to do business in China. The man who possesses a knowledge of the language of China is so far ahead of the man who does not possess that knowledge that there is no comparison of their abilities to get along and make progress in business in China. The excellent progress which American business has made in China in recent years should cause Americans interested in business to take a deeper interest in the study of the language rather than a lessening of interest which apparently has been the case. The man who can meet the Chinese business men and discuss with them their problems in their own language has an untold advantage over the man who must depend upon interpreters. Interpreters have a well-known way of giving twists and turns to conversations that are calculated to give pleasure on both sides, but which often beclouds the subject under discussion, and gives an entirely different impression from that intended."

The fact that the missionaries and the foreign governmental agencies in China have always insisted upon a knowledge of the Chinese language, says this weekly, should be sufficient for the most doubting business man. What is more, under modern methods of instruction the Chinese language is no longer the impossible task it once was considered to bo, and we are told that:

"It is now possible for the student who will devote a reasonable time to the matter to acquire a working knowledge of the spoken language in the space of a year or so, and at the same time acquire a sufficient under-standing of the Chinese characters to check up such matters as contracts, legal documents, and so on. It would seem that this matter of encouraging a study of the Chinese language on the part of young Americans coming out to China for business and professional careers might well be a matter of consideration on the part of the American Chambers of Commerce and similar organizations interested in the welfare of American business in the Chinese Republic."

We are told further that the British Chamber of Commerce Chinese Language School is excellent "from the stand-point of methods used." Classes are arranged for students employed during the day in office-work, and the system of the school is far superior to the "old hit-or-miss methods of a private teacher."

Source: The Literary Digest for January 5, 1924