I was recently in China + Taiwan for a total of 3.5 months in an attempt to learn Mandarin Chinese. I got pretty far and was able to have basic to intermediate level conversations with Chinese people near the end. Obviously - you cannot learn everything in 3.5 months and I would not describe my level as 'fluent'. But still, I was surprised with how far I got. Watch the video and see for yourself.
The question that often comes to my mind is: should architects learn Chinese? Can there be a benefit to learning Chinese for architects who want to get projects in China?
The answer is YES! As you can see in the video below, I tried to show how modern China has become. China continues to advance and develop and it has some of the most interesting projects going on at the moment. As the country continues to grow, more and more opportunities to build and design amazing buildings will fall in the hands of architects from around the world. Mind you- currently, their best projects are being designed by architects outside of China. I do not see this trend stopping anytime soon.
So what could be the benefit of learning the language you ask? Well, Chinese people (like most Asians) rely heavily on referrals. They would rather go with a person they/their friends trusts as opposed to working with a stranger. This 'trust' is more important than skill since it guarantees the safety of the investment. They would rather go with a less capable, pricier architect who comes recommended by a friend than a stranger. I have seen this same thing happen with Chinese clients in Vancouver, Canada. One architect I worked for was getting unbelievable amounts of referrals from his past Chinese clients. All of his work was coming through referrals. This same trend can be seen in how Chinese people socialize. You meet friends of friends. You do not randomly talk to people and become friends. If you have ever been to China, you will know what I am saying is true.
So, learning Chinese might help you gain this 'trust' with potential Chinese clients. This trust will make you stand out in the crowd. The competition is intense and this could be a way of making a personal connection. Even if your Chinese is not very good, Chinese people are delighted that you have taken the time to learn their culture and their language. This itself is enough for them to trust you in thinking you know the 'Chinese way' and will better understand their expectations.
Now I am not suggesting that every architect who wants to work in China should learn Chinese. But, investing a little time along with traveling (basically what I did) will definitely help you. This is especially applicable to those young architects and students who want to travel. Going to China to learn a bit of Chinese and experience the Chinese culture will teach you a lot about the world and yourself. Traveling is amazing experience.
If you are short of money - just know that they are paying huge sums of money to English speaking people to teach English while they live in China. If you are thinking about traveling- this is a way to travel without breaking the bank.
Watch this video where I capture the architecture, culture and language learning experience I had in China (along with my friend). If you have any questions about learning Chinese, please drop a comment and I'll be happy to help.
PS- the video shows the 2nd tallest building in the world alongside a building under construction which will take over the title of the 2nd tallest (making the current one 3rd tallest skyscraper in the world). Read more here.
All photography, filming and editing is done by me (Vat Jaiswal).
I am from Canada but currently traveling in Valencia, Spain. I will be traveling to Brazil, Taiwan and South Korea for the entire upcoming year, exploring the architecture and urban planning of major cities in these countries. My blog will focus on comparing architecture in different parts of the world, accompanied by photographs and videos. I would also like to write about how culture influences architecture of these places. Archinect seems like a great place to start and share my ideas!