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Language, Imperialism and Culture<

With the economic boom of the so-called BRIC nations, interest in the language and culture of these countries is increasing in the West. Dr. Thorsten Pattberg of Peking University has recently written an article called Language Imperialism, Concepts and Civilization: China versus The West, where he analyses the ways that translation of certain key concepts misrepresents history and culture.

He distinguishes between linguistic and language imperialism. The first one entails that a dominant language replace another one, whereas the second means picking up foreign concepts and translating them with a term familiar to the target culture.

He gives the example of shengren and wenming, two Chinese words that most Americans and Europeans have never heard.

Shengren(聖人) is the ideal personality and the highest member in the family-based Chinese value tradition. The word is normally translated into English asphilosopher or saint.

In a recent lecture at Peking University, the renowned linguist Gu Zhengkun explained that wenming (文明) describes a high level of ethics and gentleness of a people, while its English translation, civilisation, is linked to the control over materials and technology.

Until the 20th century, the Europeans believed China was not a proper civilisationbecause it had no police force, while China accused Europe of being withoutwenming because it lacked filial piety, tolerance, human gentleness and so on.

Since the European languages have their own histories and traditions, Dr. Thorsten Pattberg thinks that they cannot sufficiently render Chinese concepts. The solution he proposes is to not translate the most important foreign concepts at all but to adopt them.

By | April 16th, 2012|Blog|0 Comments

New Job, Old-Fashioned Jealousy

The Economist has recently published an interesting article about the impact of beautiful women including photos in their CVs. Studies have shown that at work attractive women are more likely to get a promotion than plain ones. Most people will think that they are also favoured in job interviews, but research by two Israelis apparently suggests the opposite.

Bradley Ruffle at Ben-Gurion University and Ze’ev Shtudiner at Ariel University Centre looked at what happens when a beautiful woman includes her photo with her CV, as usually happens in Europe and Asia. The two lecturers sent fictional applications to over 2,500 real-life vacancies. For each job, they sent two CVs, one with a photo, one without. The result was that attractive females were less likely to be offered an interview if they included a photo. The researchers found that when applying to a company, beautiful women needed to send out 11 CVs before getting an interview, whereas plain women just needed seven.

What’s the reason for this trend? The researchers found out that it lies in old-fashioned jealousy among females. Most HR staff are women, so they tend to discriminate against pretty candidates. Mr. Ruffle thinks that the practice of including a photo in a CV should be discouraged, like in the Belgian public sector, where CVs do not even include the candidate’s name.

If you like this blogpost, you can also read Personal Names, Such Important Words!

By | April 15th, 2012|Blog|0 Comments

Will Zara Conquer China?

Zara, the main brand of Inditex, one of the world’s largest fashion retailers, is trying to expand globally according to The Economist.

What’s the secret of Zara’s success? The company market strategy is based on sourcing just over half of its products from Spain, Portugal and Morocco. This strategy means spending more money in the production phase but at the same time cutting the supply chain costs. In this way, Zara can see what customers are actually buying, produce it and then sell it straightaway, avoiding unwanted stock.

For now, Inditex’s market is mainly Europe, where it sold 70 percent of its products in 2011. However, Europe is suffering from stagnation, and Inditex needs new markets. Therefore, the chairman, Pablo Isla, is planning to invest in China.

Iria Campos, a Zara designer, says Chinese women tend to buy pastels, instead of the stronger colours Europeans prefer, because they flatter their pale skin. Generally speaking, however, European and Chinese’s tastes are surprisingly close. Nonetheless, Zara’s prices are higher than those of its Chinese competitors. So, if they want to expand into the Chinese market, they will need to successfully market the quality level of their clothing.

By | April 12th, 2012|Blog|0 Comments
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