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”?

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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.)

Looking back on the dramas of the last 2 weeks in the Dis-United Kingdom there are some things that have now become clearer and other things that we may never know.

Two issues – It seems that there were a multiple of issues being decided on 23rd June 2016 and not just the notion of EU trade vs World trade.

Perhaps the quietest issue was to prove the most profound – the voiceless hard working people of regional England and Wales protesting successfully against the London elite and their pursuit of personal positions of power whilst continuing to marginalise the existence of the regional population.

London, UK. Houses of Parliament in Westminster

New luxury flats in the centre of London

The disenfranchised voted and were heard. And they will NOW be ignored as a tiny minority of the country (Tory MPs and party members vote for the next Prime Minister to lead the country at this, the beginning of a 40 year negotiation marathon to divorce from the EU (whilst keeping the cleverest child – Access to the Single Economic Market), forging new trade ties with the US, China, Russia, and returning to former lovers – Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.

Irony – It was the poorer parts of the country that wished to distance themselves from the EU. Despite the fact that they are the greatest beneficiaries of EU largesse when it comes to being awarded valuable Regional Development Grants.

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 be able to fish more freely and… export their fish to Spain (or will they?)

Racism – The police are reporting a spike in verbal racial abuse, physical racially motivated attacks and a general increase in xenophobic rhetoric. This harks back to the extremes of the 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 visceral abusers have dulled their senses to history (we are all immigrants. Britain robbed, stole, enslaved and killed in the name of empire AND the British Government 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 of the EU in 2004.) The sacrifice of Polish and Czech pilots during WWII is conveniently forgotten in the heat of the moment as emotions fear and stress take over.

The lies – the Leave campaign talked of a two year divorce, the £350 million a week fee to the EU now being available to fund hospitals and schools, EU having sovereignty, 60% of British laws coming from Europe, an immediate halt to immigration and that the EU would beg us to continue trading on terms of our choosing as they needed us SO MUCH.

Unfortunately none of this was true.

And the remain campaign was not above telling vast fibs in support of their cause. Their message though was undermined more by internal conflict, a complacency based on the notion that not enough people were crazy enough to want to leave and that they could continue to fight internal political battles with each other instead of devoting their time and full concentration to producing an agenda leading and honest campaign for reform from within the EU.

Corby-Nation – The most complex sub plot of the last decade surrounds the leader of the opposition – overwhelmingly elected Jeremy Corbyn suffered an assassination attempt, a coup from Tony Blairs’ faction both inside his own party and from powerful lobbying groups and Tony’s cronies populating many powerful places in the media and the outside world.

Killer

Hello Jeremy, it’s me Tony.

The Conspiracy is that – it would be better not to unite and attack the current political vacuum and provide some national alternative leadership but, instead, to destroy the Labour party thus providing a distraction from the Chilcot report on the even bigger disaster of the second Gulf War.

WMD – Widespread Ministerial Deception – The Chilcot report (after 7 years) says, in the longest and most British way possible, that the war was an all round cock up from start to finish. (Interculturalists please note the 2.6 million word report is the most low context document on earth and Sir John Chilcot’s speech the most high context one you will hear this year.)

PS – Honest Jeremy did, however, contribute to the disaster we all now face as his incorruptible stance did not allow him to give a clear boost to the remain campaign.

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 with the only exception being Greece.

From a cultural perspective, those dusty history books look like being opened up again and used against us in a court of law, during the elections in France and Germany and around the negotiation table as we sort out 27 new bilateral trading agreements.

Cultural Perspective – For interculturalists this mad moment provides an expensive and invaluable case study with rich content for your classrooms – The Brexit being an example of the dangers of Government lead patriotic rhetoric, the power of the media to spread negative country stereotypes, a case of complexity keeping reason and clarity from the masses and, the reversal of 40 years of Diversity and Inclusion practice in the workplace happening in a matter of weeks.

What’s next? – a second referendum will not happen. The exit negotiations will be delayed but will begin. The next wave of opportunists will take their places in Parliament as Prime Minister and head of the opposition. The pound will be weaker, speculative and dirty money pouring into the UK PLC will diminish (not a wholly negative thing), The economy will move into mild recession as investment and strategic corporate decisions are delayed and the regions that voted leave will begin to feel the immediate cold wind of economic downturn even before winter arrives.

PS – Scotland will leave the UK and the violence in Northern Ireland will increase.

PPS – Summer holidays will be 10% more expensive.

The End – Going Going Gone –  On behalf of the leavers – Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage, David Cameron and Jeremy Corbyn – “Sorry” (They have not uttered this word themselves but we know they feel burning shame and guilt at this time.)

(Number of words in this post – 1066 – that is a British history joke.)

 

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”.