Archive for the 'Cross-cultural Training' 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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Nov 16 2006

Iraqi Pressure Vault

From a geographic standpoint, Iraq is caught between a rock and a hard place. Its neighbors offer either pressure or non-support. Syria creates pressure by encouraging insurgent elements to freely enter western Iraq. From the east, Iran inflicts pressure on Iraq’s political institutions by funding Shiite militias. Friendly support from Iraq’s northern border has been limited by clashes between the Turkish forces and Kurdish nationalistic groups, which create a hostile environment for the two neighbors. Saudi Arabia, disappointed from what it views as a Shiite-dominated Iraq, offers no substantial help to solve Iraq’s southern issues.

The result is a ‘pressure vault’…

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Nov 16 2006

Learn Surah Al-Fatihah, Al Fatiha

Learn to recite Surah Al-Fatihah off by heart and learn the meaning.

Surah Al-Fatihah, “The Opening”, is the first chapter of the Holy Qur’an. It’s seven verses are a prayer for God’s guidance and stress the lordship and mercy of God. This chapter has a special role in traditional daily prayers, being recited at the start of each unit of prayer (rak’ah).

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Nov 16 2006

Understanding Arabs: A Westerner’s Guide

Most people, especially in the West, have a pre-conceived idea of what constitutes an Arab. These ideas usually fall into the 1970s western image of the urban Arab as excessively wealthy, or the more romantic desert Arab portrayed by Omar Sharif in Lawrence of Arabia. These images may be mixed with those of religious fanaticism, often rendering the visitor nervous or anxious about what he is to behold.

Often there is confusion between Muslims and Arabs. Simply, most Arabs are Muslim but not all Muslims are Arab. As examples, the Muslims of Malaysia, Indonesia and Iran are not Arab. Within the Middle East, there are some wide differences between nations but the fact they share a common language, albeit with dialectic differences, brings cohesiveness, as does the shared sense of identity as both Arabs and Muslims.
Basic Arab values are quite different to those of the Westerner. Whilst people in the West value independence, self-determination, subjectivity and privacy, in general the Arab thinks quite differently. Because of the fact that most Arabs are followers of Islam, there is a crossover between religious and cultural attitudes, appearing most clearly in the belief in fatalism. This comes from the belief that God has ultimate control and that we should accept his will. Hence the constant use of the phrase “Inshallah” (God-willing) throughout conversation.

The more traditional will believe that bad times and experiences are a gift from God who only sends these things to strong people for them to be tested. It is very rare to hear the phrase “It is not fair…”

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Nov 16 2006

Imperial History of the Middle East

Who has conquered the Middle East over the course of world events?

See 5,000 years of history in 90 seconds…

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Nov 13 2006

Translation, Interpretation, Foreign Langauge Instruction, and Cross-cultural Training Resources

The Linguistic Solutions – Resources page has links to translation, interpretation, foreign langauge instruction, and cross-cultural training resources.

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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. 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, 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, 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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