Which language is about to make a major impact on how business is done?
If you’ve been hiding under a rock and have just emerged, it’s Chinese!
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(Updated with Wuzhi Lu interview on January 22, 2009)
China Rising is the name of a documentary released within the last couple of years, indicating that China, in both trade and voice, is becoming a super power on the world stage, a power that will have the attention of the entire world thrust upon them as they host the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games. China, while an economic power, is also a linguistic power with millions of people around the world learning how to speak Mandarin and Cantonese in order to keep up with the fast paced growth being experienced overseas and in International trade.
Mandarin is quickly becoming the language of business and any businessperson who learns how to speak it is at an advantage to be certain. As the role of the Chinese language, spoken by billions, becomes more prominent cross the ocean and more Chinese citizens emigrate to North America, the need for Chinese language skills and Chinese voice over will increase significantly. Here’s an interview with Wuzhi Lu, a native speaker of Mandarin.
VOX: Thanks for joining me here, Wuzhi. I was wondering, where were you born and is your language (dialect) in demand in places other than where you are from?
WUZHI LU: Hi Stephanie, it is nice to be here. I was born in Harbin, China, and I am a native speaker of Mandarin Chinese.Â Mandarin Chinese is the number one language in the world in terms of the number of people who are native speakers. Chinese is in high demand by companies worldwide who are eager to break into the China/Chinese market as well as market to immigrants and/or Chinese speakers born outside Asia. There are over 1.3 billion potential consumers in China alone. I regularly record projects for clients in six out of the seven continents, so I would say, yes, it is very much in demand.
VOX: What makes your dialect of Chinese unique? Can you speak in more than one dialect fluently?
WUZHI: For voiceovers, there are two main dialects of Chinese a typical client would need, Mandarin and Cantonese.Â By far, Mandarin is spoken by more people and is used to target China, Taiwan, Singapore, and some other parts of S.E. Asia as well as all overseas Mandarin markets. What makes my Mandarin unique is that I am “1A certified” which is the highest level of accent-free Mandarin possible. I am an award-winning National TV broadcaster and in order to be hired for National TV, an accent-free certification is required.
Accent-free Mandarin ensures that all words are pronounced properly and that all Mandarin speakers understand it. Accent-free Mandarin only comes from professional training. All National TV and radio stations in China, Taiwan, Singapore and other Mandarin speaking countries will only use certified accent-free Mandarin speakers. I am purely accent-free and do not speak any other dialects. Speaking in dialects/accents will affect the level of quality in accent-free Mandarin.
VOX: What is the North American market like for your language or dialect? Have you found much success with North American clients? What kind of jobs are you most hired for by North American companies?
WUZHI: Chinese is in great demand in North America and I have been fortunate to have a long and fruitful career with here and abroad. I have been hired for all types of projects from TV and radio commercials and corporate videos to phone systems, feature films, cartoon characters and much more. Two highlights of my voice career were recording in the world-renowned Carnegie Hall and also having my voice featured in a TV spot on one of the big screens in Times Square in NYC.
VOX: When you invoice a client who is not from your native land, what currency do you quote in?
WUZHI: The currencies I typically quote and invoice in are US dollars and Euros.Â It will depend on the client, project and if one is weak at the time of quoting.
VOX: Do you enjoy greater success marketing your voice online or offline to clients? What are the major differences where your efforts are concerned?
WUZHI: I have found great success in both online and offline marketing.Â I have the advantage of being based in both the U.S. and China. This means I can easily travel to major markets on the East Coast like Boston, NYC, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington DC and am willing to travel to not-so-close recording locations. In addition, I record in a broadcast quality studio in both countries for clients that do not require on-site recordings.
Major differences between the two marketing strategies are the cost of marketing, number of people the marketing can reach and the speed in which responses and bookings are received.
VOX: How would you describe your experience finding work online?
WUZHI: I have had good experience finding work online. It is easy to connect with clients from any country in the world. Voice recording and audio and video production is my full-time career now and bookings from online are one key to my success.
VOX: Do you have a North American agent? If so, how much work do you receive through their efforts?
WUZHI: A North American agent is one of my avenues of booking jobs, but word of mouth and repeat clients are by far my greatest blessings.
VOX: What is the difference between a native speaker of your language and someone who is a descendant of a native speaker living abroad?
WUZHI: As with most languages, a descendant of a native speaker living abroad often is not immersed in the language enough to become truly a native speaker. Also, once people leave their native country, the languages often change and morph into a dialect mixed with languages of the people in the new place. Like English, the language is always evolving and new words and phrases are added all the time. I split my time between the US and China, because I feel it is crucial to spend time immersed in China to keep up my high degree of accent-free Mandarin as well as keep up with the evolving language. This better serves my clients.
VOX: How important is it that a native speaker is hired for a job as opposed to someone who grew up in a bilingual home in North America speaking a mixture of English and your native language?
WUZHI: For many years, companies in North America and around the world have been in a race to grab the Chinese market, so Chinese is a highly sought after language.Â Often companies will hire untrained and accented native speakers and even non-native speakers, in hopes of distributing their company information.Â To the native Chinese, such a company is judged as unprofessional and lacking awareness and cultural sensitivity.
For Chinese native speakers from Asia it is easy to tell if a person was born overseas or has lived overseas for sometime with little or no visits back home. It is also easy to tell where someone is born by the ‘accent’ they speak. From what I am told this is similar in many languages.Â In addition to their ‘funny accent’ and ispronunciations or incorrect use of words, overseas Chinese often cannot keep up with the changing words and lingo that develops quite rapidly these days.
VOX: How do you market yourself to North Americans? What do you have to give them as a native speaker of your language that no one else can?
WUZHI: I feel the best way to market myself is to educate the clients. Recording with a fluent Chinese speaker is not enough. To give a company the best professional image possible, it is crucial to record with a trained accent-free Mandarin voice person. For voiceovers, you do not want a voice person’s ‘dialect or accent’ to get in the way of the message.
What I can also give to my clients is 17 years of experience in voiceovers, broadcasting and translation. Most recently, it was a great honor to provide services during the 2008 Olympic and Paralympic Games in Beijing. I also hold degrees in both broadcasting and journalism.