Woman’s ‘map’ bridges China language gap - East Valley Tribune: Business

Woman’s ‘map’ bridges China language gap

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Posted: Sunday, December 23, 2007 8:16 pm | Updated: 7:56 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

A new, pocket-sized glossary created by a Tempe linguist is a “word road map” for business people overcoming language barriers in China.

“The glossary is a simple way to help Americans, especially business people, communicate with the Chinese,” said Mitzi Epstein, owner of Custom Language Training, 1 W. Elliot Road, Tempe.

Epstein, whose language center focuses on teaching basic communications between workers and employers, wrote the travel guide initially for her husband, Rick, who works for a chemical company.

“Rick needed something to help him with simple Chinese phrases like, ‘hello and goodbye,’ ‘taxi’ or ‘Where is the nearest hotel or restaurant?’”

However, Epstein, who has established language training programs for a variety of clients, including IBM, Kodak, Honeywell and Motorola, said a quick-glance glossary for American travelers to China was unavailable at area bookstores or on the Internet.

“All we could find were large sheets of paper containing Chinese words that folded out like a map,” Epstein said. “It was very clumsy and difficult to read.”

So, she wrote her own and called it, “The Mandarin Chinese Pocket Glossary for Business Travelers.”

“The Chinese economy is expected to grow by about 11 percent this year and next year,” said Epstein, quoting World Bank forecasts. “United States companies are locating there because the 1.3 billion people of China comprise a large customer base.

“But there is a huge communications gap that is often difficult to bridge.”

Her new glossary is about the size of a passport, contains 36 pages and is available for $12 on the center’s Web site at www.CustomLanguageTraining.com. Eventually, she hopes to sell it over the counter at retail stores, including travel agencies.

Basically, it contains words written in Hanzhi, or Chinese characters, as well as words in Pinyin, or Mandarin Chinese, the predominant dialect in China, with words written in the English alphabet. For example, the English word for “hello” is written in Hanzhi (Chinese characters) and in Pinyin (English letters). “Hello” reads “Nín hao” and is pronounced “nee-een hah-aow.”

An American traveler can either say the word in Mandarin or point to the Hanzhi characters to begin a simple dialogue.

Khor Lin Poh, a Chinese language instructor at Epstein training center, said the Chinese, unlike Americans, avoid using hand signals.

“Using a few Chinese phrases is a great way to make a good impression and show friendship and respect,” Khor said.

Until the 1950s, China primarily used characters but expanded to Pinyin as its global economy began to grow, Epstein explained.

Today, China is second only to the United States in oil consumption and is the world’s biggest producer and consumer of coal, according to British Broadcasting news service.

China recently reported a $161.8 billion trade surplus for the first eight months of 2007, according to the World Bank.

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