Archive for the 'Global Culture' Category

Nov 29 2006

Global Handshake

Sooner or later, it happens to everyone running a business. You notice that more and more of your meetings are with people with unpronounceable last names or in cities far removed from North America or Western Europe. You find yourself eating sushi with a big customer in Osaka or jetting off to meet with a Nanjing-based cog in your global supply chain. Your passport fills up with stamps, your airline miles increase, and your spouse forgets how you take your coffee. Welcome to the age of global business.

When it comes to doing business globally, most people immediately assume that language will be the first issue they face. It will not. Assume that the person on the other side of the table can speak English well. If not, he will have an interpreter who probably speaks the language better than you do.

But do be prepared to deal with some very different ideas about how things should work. Cultural differences will be your most enduring challenge in doing business internationally.

Language can be learned to the level of fluency, but few people can leave their culture behind. Sociologists in the 1930s hypothesized the notion of “habitus,” a set of rules for viewing and interacting with the world around us that we learn as we grow up within a society. These schemas drive our language, beliefs, dispositions, habits, styles, and even ideas. Taken as a whole and shared by everyone in a social or national group, they become general-purpose cultural models. They help individuals learn and live their culture.


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Nov 28 2006

Al-Jazeera English and Press Interpreter

Today, I added links to the Al-Jazeera English – Front Page and Press Interpreter | The foreign language news in English to the Linguistic Solutions – Global Culture page, under “Read a Foreign Newspaper – Expand Your Point of View,” one of 7 Strategies for Expanding Your Cultural Awareness and Sensitivity.

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Nov 26 2006

Al Jazeera English Goes Live

Al Jazeera English, the new international news channel from the Qatar-based television network, has begun broadcasting from its main studios in Doha.

The opening broadcast, which was expected to be available in 80 million households around the world, took place at 3pm Doha time (12:00 GMT) and featured a clip introducing the channel.

Aiming to be the channel of reference for Middle East events, Al Jazeera also has broadcast centres Kuala Lumpur, London and Washington.


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May 29 2006

Found in Translation: King’s ‘Dream’ Plays in Beijing

For months now, Caitrin McKiernan has gone from place to place in this city to ask Chinese people an unlikely question: What does the life of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. mean to you?

The questions don’t end there, either. In most of these gatherings, she gets far more specific, burrowing into the history and tactics of the American civil rights movement.

“Who knows what the Birmingham bus boycott was?” she asked a group of university students in May. “What is a sit-in?” “What’s the meaning of separate but equal?” At the level of language, every one of those terms presents a formidable challenge, even to a woman who has spent years in this country and speaks fluent Chinese.

But language is not the half of it. How can one translate Dr. King’s actions into the realm of ideas for an audience in a city notably hostile to protests? How does one convey to Chinese people the meaning of the life of a man who died fighting for civil rights nearly 40 years ago?

The answers may have begun to emerge since the production at the National Theater on Sunday of the play “Passages of Martin Luther King Jr.” by the noted King scholar Clayborne Carson and based on the life and words of the American civil rights leader. Ms. McKiernan, who studied under Mr. Carson at Stanford and is the play’s producer, was prepared for any kind of audience response, from deeply moved to completely stumped and anything in between.

But the responses of Ms. McKiernan’s discussion groups and the reactions of her cast suggested that Dr. King’s message would hit home here, that Chinese viewers would see parallels to divisions in their own society. That prospect poses a thorny problem for the government, which, on one hand, has endorsed Dr. King’s work as a blow for the class struggle and against American imperialism, but on the other insists that racism and discrimination are purely problems of decadent Western societies.

During one recent discussion at a Beijing university, after viewing excerpts from the PBS documentary “Eyes on the Prize,” students explored their feelings on the discrimination they discern between migrant workers and more affluent residents of the country’s eastern cities. Others spoke about the inferior position of women in their society or of being treated badly during visits overseas or the predominance of American power in the world.

Ms. McKiernan has avoided lecturing her audiences, or even steering the discussions. “I don’t want this to be about what happened in the U.S. in some past year,” she said. “I want this to be about what discrimination is, and how it relates to your life.”

The talks have usually begun with an explanation of how Dr. King’s life came to mean so much to her, a Californian who first came to this city at 16 as an exchange student and had to struggle to overcome cultural differences with her host family. Then she studied Dr. King in college, and she has had him on her mind ever since.

“I realized that King was this great bridge between the United States and China,” Ms. McKiernan said. “China is an emerging superpower, and the U.S. is the superpower, and King is someone that both sides believe in, and can be the starting point for a dialogue about how we wish the world to be.”

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May 29 2006

Help is a Call Away, Ctizens Taught

Newcomers to Canada don’t always know how to reach emergency services or what to expect when police, fire or ambulance personnel show up at their door.

Some come from countries where the police are perceived as corrupt or oppressive.

That’s why Halton police have initiated a unique diversity program called Emergency Services Information to New Canadians (ESINC). The goals include building positive relations and increasing trust of all emergency services.

Police officers, firefighters and paramedics go to English-as-a-second-language (ESL) classes and give presentations about who they are, how they operate, how to use the 911 service, and what to expect. They also distribute a package of material on crime, fire and accident prevention.

The program involves a partnership with Halton Emergency Medical Services (EMS), the fire departments of all four municipalities in the region, the Halton Multicultural Council, and the federally-funded Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada (LINC) program.

ESINC will be officially announced tomorrow but has been operating since the beginning of the year.


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Feb 22 2006

Half White-collars Keep Blogs, Privacy Top Theme

Blogging has increasingly become more popular in China, with 52% of white-collar workers now keeping weblogs (blogs) according to CBP Career Consultants Co., Ltd., a leading career consulting firm in China.

Pictures from the Web log of a woman from Shanghai who goes by the pseudonym Mu Mu.
Unlike western bloggers who often focus on news and politics, the Chinese white collar bloggers see complaining alongside office and personal gossip as their priorities, according to the survey.

According to the findings of a blogging survey conducted by CBP among white-collar workers in China’s four largest cities – Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen – 52% responded they already had a blog, while another 28% said they plan to begin a blog in the near future.

“Weblogs have become the fourth online channel for Chinese people to communicate with each other, following email, bulletin board systems (BBS) and instant messaging tools such as QQ and MSN Messenger,” Bian Bingbin, President and Chief Career Consultant with CBP Career Consultants, told Interfax Monday. “Blogging is now a lifestyle habit for more and more Chinese white-collar workers, with a majority updating their blogs once every three days on average,” he said.

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Feb 17 2006

Int’l Day of Mother Languages to debut in China

An International Day for the Celebration of Mother Languages, which falls on Feb. 21 every year, will make its debut in China.

The United Nations Education, Science and Culture Organization (UNESCO)introduced the day in 1999, aiming to promote people’s awareness of their mother tongue, which, as an communication tool, represents a specific nationality or ethnic group and embodies a unique culture.

According to Sun Lei, a senior official with the Beiijng office of UNESCO, people all over the world are using 6,000 to 10,000 languages as their mother tongue. However, half of these languages are dying or in danger of decline, due to accelerating globalization.

“The international community now has the hard task of safeguarding these languages and maintaining the world’s cultural diversity, which is believed to help promote peace and stability,” Sun said at a press conference here on Friday.

Zong Gang, a senior official with the chief sponsor, the China Education Association for International Exchange (CEAIE), said that China, faced with challenges and opportunities brought about by globalization, has fully recognized the importance of maintaining cultural diversity for the world’s peace and development. To promote development of the nation’s diversified culture can help build up a harmonious Chinese society.

As a result, he said, the Chinese government responded immediately to the UNESCO’s proposals on the celebration of the International Day of Mother Languages.

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Feb 17 2006

R&D: Globalization & Flat World

In fifteen years of offshoring, India has been aggressively expanding its higher-value services (proof points exist in business application innovations, product development, and BPO) and has developed a stable of world-class IT services vendors that can save foreign companies the trouble of setting up their own offshore centers. A large supply of qualified talent exist in areas outside IT, such as R&D, finance and accounting, call centers, and back-office administration.

Across every industry spectrum, there is potential for knowledge work to relocate to India. In orchestrating global innovation, we saw that names like HTC, Flextronics, Cellon, Quanta Computer, Premier Imaging, Wipro Technologies, and Compal Electronics, are fast emerging as hidden powers of the technology industry. They are the vanguard of the next step in outsourcing – of innovation itself. When Western corporations began selling their factories and farming out manufacturing in the ’80s and ’90s to boost efficiency and focus their energies, most insisted all the important research and development would remain in-house. With initiatives like the Chinese racing to ride the biotech wave coupled with a very high determination in China to leapfrog into hi-tech industries and dominate the global market for knowledge products, this is likely to change.

Contrary to popular belief, it is intellectual capital and university collaboration, not just lower costs, that primarily attract companies to locate R&D activities in locations away from their home country, so says the new study sponsored by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. The comprehensive study finds that emerging countries such as China and India will continue to be major beneficiaries of R&D expansion over the next three years as companies seek new market opportunities, access to top scientists and engineers, and collaborative research relationships with leading universities. Market growth potential, quality of R&D talent, collaboration with universities and IP protection are the key decision drivers. Surprisingly cost is never seen as a consideration in the decisions to locate these units.

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Jan 28 2006

Google Launches Censored Chinese Search Engine

Online search giant Google (GOOG) launched a China-based search engine Wednesday that will be self-censored to avoid posting results that antagonize China’s communist government.

Google.cn uses the Chinese Web suffix “.cn” and supplements the existing dot-com Chinese-language website available from servers in the USA.

“In order to operate from China, we have removed some content from the search results available on Google.cn, in response to local law, regulation or policy,” said a statement from Google’s senior policy counsel Andrew McLaughlin. “Removing search results is inconsistent with Google’s mission,” he conceded, but “providing no information … is more inconsistent with our mission.”

In an increasingly competitive market, Google’s move to a China-based website will aid its fight against foreign rivals such as Yahoo and homegrown firms like Baidu.com, China’s most popular search engine, in which Google owns a 2.6% stake.

By creating a unique address for China, Google hopes to make its search engine more widely available and easier to use in the world’s most populous country.

Because of government barriers set up to suppress information, Google’s China users previously have been blocked from using the search engine or encountered long delays in response time.

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Jun 28 2005

Muslim-US Diplomacy – One Teen at a Time

Sometimes diplomacy is as simple as a teenager’s smile. In the halls of Falmouth Academy on Massachusetts’ Cape Cod, the face of Iraq is Ruba – unveiled and unabashed as she gives out hugs and high-fives.

“I love answering questions,” she says as she nears the end of her year here as a high school junior. “Someone asked if I have a refrigerator. They always ask me why I’m so normal – that’s the best question ever!”

In the Monitor
Tuesday, 06/28/05
Supreme Court splits on Ten Commandments
Internet file-sharing takes a hit
In the south, a bid to loosen Baghdad’s grip
Endangered Species Act under fire from two directions
In Alaska, 68 miles of contentious asphalt

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Along with 10 boys from Iraq and some 400 other high-schoolers from predominantly Muslim countries, Ruba has been studying in the United States through a program the State Department launched in the 2002-03 school year, in response to the fissures of 9/11. It’s one of the modest steps by governments and educators to create a new tide of young ambassadors.

Many connections take the form of letters, e-mails, and joint projects online. As a token of friendship with counterparts in Afghanistan and Iraq, American classrooms have raised money and sent everything from school supplies to candy. But students old enough to travel find that meeting face to face is the quickest way to make stereotypes crumble.

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Jun 04 2005

The Culturally Customized Web Site

My copy of The Culturally Customized Web Site by Nitish Singh and Arun Pereira arrived yesterday from the publisher (Elsevier). The price offered by the publisher when following the link from Nitish Singh’s homepage ($23.96) was lower than the price on Amazon.com which was list ($29.95) and the publisher shipped it gratis. It comes endorsed by John Yunker, author of Beyond Borders: Web Globalization Strategies, who says it’s “a valuable tool for helping executives successfully localize their web site”.

By the way, I found out about this book thanks to Amazon.com’s personalized recommendations. Aside from buying books from Amazon.com, I’ve taken the time to click “I own it” under “RATE THIS ITEM” on the Amazon.com page describing each book I’ve purchased elsewhere. Doing this really put the “personalized” in my personalized recommendations.

Also, Don DePalma’s book, Business Without Borders: A Strategic Guide to Global Marketing is now available in paperback on Amazon.com for only $16.96 (list price for the paperback is $19.95, list for the now-out-of-print hardcover edition was $29.95).

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Apr 29 2005

French To Google: “Puh!”

Reaffirming its heralded position as guardian of global culture (cheese, wine, literature, extended vacations, and things that smell), the French and other EU nations have mustered up enough dander to protect the world against latest “risk of crushing American domination…” Google.

Late last year, the sinister forces of Google reached an agreement with five major libraries to digitize 15 million books and make them accessible online.

Sacre Bleu!

You can see how this might be a problem.

In response, Jean-Noël Jeanneney, head of the French National Library, called on President Jacques Chirac to “make the collections of the great libraries in France and Europe more widely and more rapidly accessible on the Internet.”

The creation of a European search engine would defend French and other languages by being published in their original tongues.

This last point has puzzled some as Google is published in over a 100 languages.


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Apr 29 2005

Globalized World Spins Past Laws of Geometry

Is the world of the 21st century flat, as Thomas L. Friedman argues in his new book that identifies globalization as the most important trend of our times?

His analysis and the challenges it raises will kick off an expansive public radio project, Think Globally, with an event to be broadcast in Minnesota at 7 tonight from the Fitzgerald Theater in St. Paul. The event, which is sold out, is scheduled for rebroadcast next month (May 16-22) as National Public Radio concentrates on the meaning of globalization in our lives.

OK, so your instinct is to wiggle around in your chair and station-surf for sports because thinking globally is too big for your brain. Resist your instinct.

The global really is local. It’s about how you, your kids, your work, your education fit into the fast-spinning web of interconnections accelerated in the last few years by technology. Expect documentaries, commentary, listener-participation, cultural segments and investigative reports. For a preview of coming attractions and for Web-only material, check out the radio collaboration’s site at thinkglobal2005.org.

What the public radio people have put together for tonight is a forum for us to consider how to meet the future quickly and smartly.

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Apr 29 2005

Nguyen Never Forgets the Long Journey to America

Packed in an overcrowded boat, her skin blistering under the searing heat of the mid-day sun, while her stomach betraying her courageous front alerts the other passengers to her desperate need for food and water, 11-year-old Jinny Nguyen clings to her uncle’s arm, locked in fear that their boat – their literal life preserver was sinking, along with their dream for a new life – for freedom on a distant shore.

Although her daring 1979 escape from Vietnam is now little more than a memory, Nguyen, a successful baker and owner of Port Arthur’s Golden Croissant restaurant, said she hopes that Vietnamese children growing up in America today can someday understand the plight that their families endured in order to attain freedom.

Understanding the importance of heritage, Nguyen and her husband Richard have dedicated much of their free time to instructing their children in the customs of their culture.

“I have great kids,” Nguyen said. “They all do great in school. They prefer to speak English of course because that is what they speak in school. But, at home we make them speak Vietnamese. I also bought videos of Vietnamese music for them.”

“They even listen to Vietnamese rap music,” Nguyen said with a hearty laugh. “It doesn’t matter how they learn, just so they learn.”

In addition to language instruction, Nguyen, a richly talented cook, prepares Vietnamese dishes not only in her home, but also in her restaurant.

“I believe you get to know people through their food,” Nguyen said. “We have great food and I love to share it.”

Although brought to America out of tragic events in her homeland, Nguyen said she sees the silver lining in her escape and hopes that today’s Vietnamese children will someday understand the price of freedom.

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Apr 29 2005

Government Takes Steps in Making Antigua-Barbuda a Multilingual Society

The Government of Antigua and Barbuda has moved closer towards implementing its educational policy of making the entire nation multilingual.

During his official visit to the Republic of Cuba, Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer requested assistance from the Cuban government in the provision of tutors in the area of Spanish, the second official language of the Caribbean.

The country’s leader also expressed the government’s interest in short courses in Spanish, including the possibility of teaching that language on radio and television.

The Cuban government expressed their acceptance to collaborate in the teaching of Spanish Language both for primary education and for professors. To this end, a Cuban expert will shortly visit Antigua and Barbuda to carry out preliminary diagnosis and establish a plan of action.

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