Chinese Essentials: Starter Kit for Traveling Professionals
As China asserts itself as an increasingly major contender in the global economy, Chinese cities have become more and more common as a destination for conferences and business trips. If you’re an English-speaking professional who really aims to impress on your next trip to China, this quick and easy list of Chinese songs, movies, and handy language guides will suit you perfectly. Not only will our Chinese starter kit boost your ability to read and speak Chinese, but it will ensure that you’ll make a lasting impression on your Chinese colleagues.
Movie 1: Farewell My Concubine (1993)
Farewell My Concubine is an internationally-acclaimed Chinese film that provides a detailed account of two orphans living in a Peking Opera troupe in the 1930s. The film follows their lives over the next sixty years, taking into account the numerous revolutions and social upheavals that occurred along the way. The movie is long: at almost three hours, it offers plenty of exposure to conversational Mandarin Chinese. Not only will everyone you meet in China recognize the movie, but many of your colleagues will have experienced first-hand the events that it depicts. But you’ll surely be the first English-speaking foreigner who’s heard of — let alone watched and understood — the famous Chinese drama. Full review of Farewell My Concubine
Movie 2: Lost in Thailand (2012)
A much more light-hearted film than Farewell My Concubine, Lost in Thailand is the perfect movie to discuss when getting drinks after work or at an informal meeting with your coworkers. In addition to being a hilarious comedy, it’s the highest-grossing Chinese movie to date, and thus your colleagues are sure to have seen it. For some bonus points, take note of some of the Chinese slang that’s used abundantly in the movie — you’ll be sure to elicit a few laughs from the locals! Full review of Lost in Thailand
Song 1: “The Bund” – Francis Yip (1980)
The Bund was a wildly popular television series in the 1980s, and its theme song remains well-known to this day. In fact, when locals hear the melody, they’re likely to burst into song (outside of the workplace, of course), so it’s a good idea to learn the lyrics so that you can join them. Due to its popularity, the song has been translated from its original Cantonese into Mandarin Chinese (as well as several other languages), so you can learn the appropriate version regardless of where you’re traveling. Full review of “The Bund”
Song 2: “Wedding Invitation Street” – Kay Tse On-kei (2008)
If you’re one of the many foreigners traveling to Hong Kong for business, “Wedding Invitation Street” is a must-hear song. A contemporary and famous tune in Hong Kong, the song deals with urban renewal plans at the expense of local heritage. Given that this kind of cultural and societal issue is currently ongoing in China, your colleagues will certainly have a lot to say about it. Try to understand the meaning of all the lyrics — not only will it give you great practice with your Chinese, but your coworkers will be thrilled by your ability to weigh in on the issues that the song presents. Full review of “Wedding Invitation Street”
Book: 250 Essential Chinese Characters for Everyday Use, Philip Yungkin Lee
Though most street signs and traffic signals are written in English as well as Mandarin, many Chinese magazines and newspapers use only Chinese characters, so it’s crucial to learn some of the most important ones before embarking on your trip to China. 250 Essential Chinese Characters give you a crash-course in the most common characters, with clear explanations for each. Study the list well — you’re bound to win over your coworkers when you explain to them that the word “business card” is really a combination of the characters for “name” and “piece”. More information about 250 Essential Chinese Characters for Everyday Use
If you’re traveling to China for business, going the extra mile to learn some Chinese will set you apart from the rest, and will help you make valuable and long-lasting connections on your business trip. And with the interesting books, movies, and songs in this starter kit, learning Chinese can be enjoyable, too. For more practice with your Chinese, see the rest of our song, movie, and course book reviews. And if you’re really serious about learning Chinese, or if you travel to China frequently for business, consider taking classes from a qualified native speaker — it’s the fastest way to quickly improve your language skills. Consult our business-oriented course and package options here.