After my spring break trip to Sanya, I returned to work on Tuesday. Within an hour of arriving at the office, Mr. Zhang was at my cubicle. He said, “Matt we need your help again.” Once again, Mr. Zhang was making me feel like 007. This time he just explained the situation at my cubicle: The intellectual property team (IP team) at Hylands needed to prepare for an important meeting the next morning. The meeting was with a potential corporate client. The IP team needed to convince this firm to hire Hylands for a potentially high profile IP case. The catch was the meeting would be held in English. So, Mr. Zhang asked if I could meet with his IP team so that they could practice their English and bounce ideas off of me.
We entered the meeting room and sat at the beautiful, large table. Mr. Zhang then explained to the group what we were doing. He said, “We are preparing for tomorrow’s meeting. I have asked Matt to attend and evaluate our English. If you have questions, please ask him. From now on, we will speak only in English.”
Mr. Zhang then asked his team to begin explaining the facts of the case that they knew. Because they had not been hired yet, they had been given limited information. They spent about twenty minutes working out how to explain the case in English. I did my best to make sure that they’re explanations were very clear. The case dealt with managers of a corporation who had deceived the firm to pull profits away from a pending deal. I will spare you the details.
Once the team had finished explaining the case, they began to discuss strategy for their short meeting. I offered some suggestions, which were received very well. The team continued to ask questions about how to phrase certain ideas and concepts.
Mr. Zhang then said he had one final thing he would like me to do. He wanted me to summarize, in my own words, the case that they had explained to me.
He said, “We just explained that to you in English, however, we do not think first in English. We think in Chinese and translate in our heads. You are the only one who thinks in English first. So, if we hear a summary of this case from someone who is thinking in English first, we will have a much better understanding.”
I found this fascinating. I spent the next ten minutes explaining the case. When I was finished the team seemed extremely happy and thankful. I realized that it must have made a huge difference to hear it from a native speaker’s mouth. With that, we concluded the meeting.
These experiences with Mr. Zhang have been fantastic. I have felt increasingly more useful to the firm because of this. I do not speak Chinese well, so when I started work here I assumed my usefulness to the firm wasn’t great. It seems that just being a native English speaker has great value here. It’s almost like I am Hylands’ secret weapon. Well, maybe not quite, but it’s fun to think so.