Bridging the link with China through language

By Sunny Liu

Chinese language and business specialist Kate Ritchie says she thinks language is the key to better engage with the CBD’s Chinese community.  

“Language unlocks culture. People overlook the importance all the time,” she said. “It’s all based on relationship. We can see here that the Chinese community is very developed. So it’s about opening up the conversation with the Chinese population here.”

Ms Ritchie started her Mandarin translation firm in the CBD, Chin Communications, with business partner Charles Qin 25 years ago, when the Australian-Chinese market was only in its infancy.

“Back then people thought we were a bit mad. They would say, ‘oh you are mad! Who’s interested in China?’”

Now, 25 years later, the reciprocating interest and communication between China and Australia validates Ms Ritchie and Mr Qin’s forward-thinking approach.

Ms Ritchie said the influx of Chinese migrants, tourists and students had turned the CBD into a much more vibrant place.

“The CBD has got the longest Chinatown in the world, Little Bourke St. And it’s an expanding area of Chinese influence.”

“Going back 25 years, there was hardly anyone in the city. So having that rich fabric of Chinese visitors and migrants has totally transformed the city,” she said.

Ms Ritchie recognises the mounting importance of China and its cultural and economic presence in Melbourne.

“The Chinese space is incredibly important. I think without China, our whole country would be in a recession, whether you talk economically or culturally. China is the number one target.”

“What we do in the Chinese space is helping out society and helping everybody be better off – be it culturally enriched or financially secure,” she said.

Ms Ritchie and Mr Qin have recently been awarded the Lord Mayor’s Commendation for 25 years of involvement in the CBD.

Chin Communications has also received a Melbourne Award for the contribution to multiculturalism.

Ms Ritchie said the CBD’s Chinese population and the associated economic and cultural diversity would continue to thrive and the Australian community needed to embrace the cultural shift.

“More people speak Mandarin rather than English in the CBD. If you want to reach out to the Chinese space, wherever you are, it needs to be done in Chinese. So the importance of language needs to be recognised,” she said.

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