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Language Barriers

- Updated June 28, 2010

Among the various sourcing peculiarities and problems specific to China is regionalism, says Pieter Tsiknas, director of SearchBank’s Beijing office.

Although all Chinese nationals officially speak Mandarin, in practice, the local dialects can be mutually unintelligible. Shanghainese, for example, is a completely different language from Mandarin, and employees from Shanghai may speak Mandarin with an accent. Similar regional linguistic differences exist in other parts of China as well.

These language differences can represent more than just communication challenges; they can signal cultural antagonisms. “Sometimes the whole staff [from another region] will say they don’t want to work for a Shanghai person,” Tsiknas says. “You’re not just matching skill sets; you’re also matching personality.”

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