Synchronicity, Personal Growth and Chinese Characters by Denis Niedringhaus

What can we know?

Whenever I mention to someone that I have been studying Mandarin for over 15 years, I invariably have to field one or two unanswerable questions:

  • How many Chinese characters do you “know”?


What do they mean by “know”?   Intimate knowledge or familiarity? Should I immediately confess that I’ve flirted with thousands? I then explain that there are many different levels of knowing ranging from: a) Simple recognition of a character within a context to; b) the ability to pronounce said character and c) the ability to write it from memory.

Still, I have to wonder what people expect in the way of an answer. Is some number supposed to display itself (odometer-like) on my forehead? Could that number fluctuate? Would it change before or after breakfast?

The other (ever so slightly annoying) question is:

  • Are you fluent yet?

Maybe the person questioning me is a runner and imagines some kind of finish line at the end of a long and arduous voyage. If the lead cyclist in the Tour de France gets to wear a yellow jersey, then am I supposed to own a jacket which advertises my “Fluent Chinese Speaker!” status?

Now I don’t meant to berate the value of certificates and diplomas which attest to one’s foreign language competency, because these achievements should unabashedly be brought to the attention of prospective employers or clients. There is, nevertheless, something to be said for learning a language for its own sake.   As a coach and a student of life, I am more interested in the process/journey more than the result/destination.

The metaphor of a traveler is particularly apt with regard to a language whose characters (be they simple pictograms or ideograms) have a story to tell. On this inward journey, I am often challenged, sometimes intrigued, by the linguistic landscape.

How and why we remember something is a source of fascination for me.   Certain Chinese characters, despite their complexity, slip almost effortlessly into my active vocabulary whereas “simpler” characters never seem to stick on the Teflon surface of my brain.   Other supposedly “friendly” character haunt and taunt me….popping up in unexpected contexts. How is it that out of thousands of different possible characters, 1 or 2 of them continually dance on the brim of my consciousness? (Please refer to my LinkedIn article or my blog on the character xiu).

Carl Gustav Jung identified this phenomenon as synchronicity….and there is a bit of that present with the study of the Chinese language. In other words, a character which repeatedly grazes our awareness does so for a reason.   The journey of language learning simultaneously encourages to interact with the outside word and engage in an inner dialogue! So why would I want to end my journey by reaching my destination?

Author Profile –

Denis NiedringhausDenis Niedringhaus is an Expatriate Coaching working in Paris around his passion – Chinese culture, business and language.



Brexit Exit – It is easy to be a Critic. Less easy to stay and LEAD by Matthew Hill

Laughing through the tears…

(Reader Warning – This is a opinion piece that takes a helicopter ride over a complex subject and contains ironic humour. People with Breximitosis should stop reading  and rush to their nearest chemist for ointment, now.)

Looking back on the dramas of the last 3 years in this Dis-United Kingdom, there are some things that have now become clearer and other things that we may never know.

Five + Issues – It seems that there were multiple “Don’t Wants” being voted AGAINST  in 2016, leading to ONE big and problematic result on 24th June. The issue NOT headlining in any informed or effective way was the benefit of British reform in Britain and EU reform in Europe, whilst, continuing our First Class and Beneficial trade agreement with the EU – Remember, this First Class Ticket was, is and will always be, much better than downgrading  to a delayed second class or third class non-preferential deal, and then, going out, cap in hand to beg China, India and the US for scraps from their table.

When we divorce the EU on 29th March, we will go to the back of the queue and start again from zero. This could take 5 or 10 years to complete.


Perhaps it was one of the quieter issues that was to prove the most profound – the voiceless hard working good people of regional England and Wales protesting at the referendum box against the powerful and monied London elite and their pursuit of personal and corporate gain, whilst continuing to marginalise the existence of the regional population. Enough is enough came the message from the forgotten and economically excluded.

London, UK. Houses of Parliament in Westminster

New luxury flats in the centre of London

The disenfranchised voted and hoped to be heard. Tragically their genuine and severe needs will now be ignored. Austerity was not an EU initiative – Deep British problems are not being dealt with as we invest hours stirring up xenophobia about EU workers – Good hearted people for the most part, diligently working in shops, picking lettuces or painting walls. It was a Conservative Government policy to strip local councils of 60% of their funding to refill empty coffers after key banks were bailed out following the 2008 Sub-Prime trading scam in London and the US.

Irony – It was the poorest parts of the country that wished to distance themselves from the EU. Despite the fact that they were the greatest beneficiaries of EU largesse when it came to being awarded valuable Regional Development Grants. I was in Cornwall this week – They will lose £60,000,000 in support.

Fisheries – We heard a lot about “loss of control of our country” – The one concrete example was UK fishing grounds (should that be water?) The depleted fishing fleet of the UK will now, theoretically be able to fish more freely in the UK 12 mile zone without competition. And, what do good British fishermen hope to do with their catch? Export the majority of that fish to Spain! And that will be much more difficult on 30th March 2019. Or, this, our only small benefit, will be traded away by a UK Government Brexit negotiation to France and Spain for some other concession, because the Brexit trade deal will not be done on 29th March. Did I mention? We will have extracted ourselves from our First Class and beneficial terms and, then go back to the back of the queue and start negotiating for all or some of the rights we have won over the last 47 years, all over again. – Brexit is like a very expensive Groundhog Day.

Racism – The police are reporting a spike in verbal racial abuse, physical racially motivated attacks and, we see, a general increase in xenophobic rhetoric. This harks back to the extremes of the UKIP campaign and the ethnocentric chant of “Give us our country back” (from Whom and to Whom?) Scapegoating the Polish for coming over here and displacing us with their intelligence and positive work ethic, seems to have found resonant favour with the mob. These shouty but poor students of history, have dulled their senses to facts and our shameful British past (we are all immigrants. Britain robbed, stole, enslaved and killed in the name of empire AND the British Government (not the EU) gave right of abode to the 800 million people of empire in 1931. And, the right to work in the UK to 507 million people in the EU in 2004 – The UK chose to do this whilst other countries in the EU did not.) BTW – The sacrifice of Polish and Czech pilots during WWII is conveniently forgotten in the heat of the moment as fear fuelled emotions spill out. The first thing lost in a Populist war is truth.

The lies – the Leave campaign talked of a two year divorce, our £350 million a week contribution to the EU becoming available to fund NHS hospitals, the EU having taken our UK sovereignty, 60% of British laws coming from Europe, an immediate halt to all immigration, EU directives about bendy bananas, and, that the EU would beg us to continue trading on terms of our own choosing as they needed us SO MUCH. (David David Davies and his BMW trope.)

Unfortunately none of this was true.

And, the Remain / Stay In campaign was not above telling vast fibs in support of their cause. Their message though, was undermined more by internal conflict, an arrogant complacency based on the notion that not that many people were crazy enough to want to leave, and, that they would be OK to still win, even as they continued to fight internal political battles with each other instead of devoting enough time and their full concentration to produce an agenda leading and honest campaign for reforming Britain for Britain and fighting for EU reform within the EU. And, cock up time – They only chucked out old school messages using old school means whilst Leave’s evil marketing genius, Dominic Cummings, used the latest digital technology to get his cult Leave message across, deploying more than 1000,000,000 paid Facebook adds, targeting hidden voters and those in the swing zone.

Corby-Nation – The most complex sub-plot surrounded the leader of the opposition – (Quick reminder Jezza – The leader of the Opposition opposes Tory policy – Just saying).   Jeremy Corbyn suffered an assassination attempt before May’s 2017 General Election but was overwhelmingly saved by Union members and the young. Since then logical criticism of JC (He is a Brexiteer whilst also leading the Labour party) has been forgotten in favour of crazy, spiteful and personal attacks (He is the grandson of Joe Stalin / He is more antisemitic than the Tory party / He is a vegetarian / He is an old man / He is not part of the British elite etc. etc.)


Hello Jeremy, it’s me Tony.

PS – Honest Jeremy did, however, contribute to this disaster himself too. His Mr. Consistency brand did not allow him to give a clear boost to the Remain / Stay IN campaign and his lack of political leadership and poor planning abilities have been rather obvious in the last 2 years.

Onwards to the Negotiation table – In the early 1970’s we put away the history books and moved on from the past. The EEC, The European Economic Community was the thing. No more mention that Britain had been at war, at one time or another, with just about all of the major EU players. The only exception being Greece (and some say we did try to organised an internal coup there…) 1973 was time to trade and thus prevent further war in Europe (something forgotten by the hardline Brexiteers). The EU was set up so that peace could conquer hate.

From a cultural perspective, those dusty history books look like being opened up again and used against us in a court of law, as the goodwill of 2016 morphs into irritation, anger, disgust and attack around the negotiation table, as we attempt, slowly, to sort out 27 new bilateral trading agreements with people who used to admire us and call us a friend.

Cultural Perspective – For interculturalists this mad moment provides an expensive and invaluable case study with rich content for the classroom – Brexit being an example of the dangers of Government lead patriotic rhetoric, the power of the media to spread negative country stereotypes and inflame broad and scary levels of xenophobia and an example of complexity keeping reason and clarity from the masses and, the reversal of 40 years of relatively reasonable diversity and inclusion practice in the workplace happening in a matter of months.

What’s happens next? –  The exit negotiations were triggered way too early when Theresa invoked Article 50 before there was a plan, before establishing cross party support, or, we were ready. This will have consequences – Investment in UK PLC will continue to be on hold, the pound will stay weaker until clarity emerges and, as always, speculative and dirty money will continue to pour into UK shares and UK property and be washed by the London FX markets. – Yes the UK is just as corrupt as Continental Europe.  The economy will move into mild recession as uncertainty rules and the economically deprived regions, that voted Leave, will begin to feel the immediate cold wind of economic downturn (except the few marginal Labour seats amongst former mining communities – They will receive a DUP type bribe to covet their vote for PMTM’s Brexit deal.) We will see a more violence Northern Ireland. And, Summer holidays will be 10% – 20% more expensive in 2019.

The End – Going Going Gone –  On behalf of the leavers – Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage, David Cameron (accidentally) and Jeremy Corbyn we will not be hearing a very British and special word any time soon – “Sorry” (They have not uttered this word themselves though, I like to think they are experiencing a few sleepless nights of burning shame and guilt.) History will not be kind to the Pale Stale Males listed above.

(Number of words in the original post – 1066 – that is a British history joke about an early EU initiative.)

The Author, Matthew Hill, is currently applying for Albanian Citizenship.

Vintage Koffer - Burg, Spreewald.

The Benefits of Being a Mature Student by Maria Creisson

An optimistic Piece 

There are many reasons people decide to return to education at a later time in life. Often none of these reasons seem sound to other people and they are seldom fully understood. Why would a person opt to become financially poor, or leave a perfectly good job and why don’t older people just leave education to the young who are believed will have much more of a future after education.

Mature Student Maria Criesson

Entrepreneur and Mature Student – Maria Creisson

For me, though I can’t claim financial wealth, I had a fairly good job by some people’s standards. But for the longest time I held the feeling that I was not living up to my potential. I remember experiencing the need to express my abilities but thinking I was boxed in and limited because I did not have the appropriate academic background. I knew I could do more!

“Improvement is impossible without change”. Jon Maxwell.

I have just completed my undergraduate degree in Human Resources Management BA Hons. (I found out today as I am writing this piece – I have achieved a 1st Class Honours degree.!) I couldn’t be happier and as I write I am scrambling to remember the fears the doubts, the character, the personality of the woman I was at the start of my degree. I am a different woman today. I don’t know how best to articulate the benefits of being a mature student because I have felt them to be more profound than words can describe.

I guess the first was that for me I was old enough to claim to have some life experience. This was so useful in being able to relate to some of the academic content and put it in perspective. This experience was something I could also use to help my younger student colleagues who had only ever been in the education system and were curious about life in the ‘real world’. This helped us “mature students” develop stronger bonds with younger people rather than work separately in our own silo. Being amongst them all I also found kindred spirits and developed lifelong friends. Finally after some years I can say I have started to discover my life’s calling and that as a mature student it was enough to understand the true implications and applications of the knowledge I was gaining to better myself and fulfil my potential.

“Commit yourself to lifelong learning. The most valuable asset you will ever have is your mind and what you put into it”. Brian Tracy

I went to university and discovered myself and what I’m capable of. Whilst we all know that life itself can be an education, University is but one place you can exist as a mature student. In these modern times we now know that education in its many forms is a lifelong journey. At university or within your career, wherever you are and whatever you are doing, at whatever stage in your life as long as you are open and keep learning you will experience the benefits of your efforts in work and in living with yourself.


About the Author Maria Creisson – “Maria is a recent graduate of Human Resources Management and has a passion for developing people.  Her interests include training, coaching, writing and speaking”.