Language & HRD: Keynote at Taipei AHRD conference

Reports on my week-long visit to Taiwan in 2013, the closest I ever came to being a VIP

In November 2013, a long time before I started my blog, I spent a week in Taipei at the invitation of Chun Shin Limited - ETS TOEIC Country Master Distributor to share my research on language in international business. It was my last international trip from Australia and the closest I ever came to feeling like a VIP: business class flights, a hotel room bigger than most Taiwanese apartments, and lots of wonderful meetings, lunches and dinners. Of all my international trips I have the most enduring memories of this once, so I decided to write up my visit restrospectively.

During my visit I had official meetings - often over lunch or dinner - with at least 15 different people; in this post I cannot possibly discuss them all. I will start, however, by mentioning the two most important people. Above left is my official host, Joe Ning, a fountain of wisdom and health advice. Above right is the wonderful personal guide Chun Shin Ltd had arranged for me: Philia Lin. The picture above shows Joe and Philia at our first dinner together, proudly showing their presents. I had brought aboriginal-themed presents for everyone I was meeting at our favourite shop at Victoria Market Koorie Connections.

Keynote speech

The key event of my visit was a keynote speech on my language research at the 12th International Conference of the Asia Chapter of the Academy of Human Resource Development. The slides for the speech on "The language barrier, solutions & its impact on HR policies" can be downloaded here. They also formed the basis for my inaugural lecture at Middlesex University. A write-up of the conference in Mandarin can be found here.

An interesting link with the present is that one of the members of the audience Anna Jui-chuan HSU was inspired by my keynote speech to do a PhD in the area of Language in International Business. She came to meet me at the 2019 AIB Panel Untwisting tongues: Language research in International Management and participated in the CYGNA dinner at the 2019 EIBA conference EIBA Leeds: IB in a Confused World Order.

Interview for English Career Magazine

I was also interviewed English Career Magazine. This magazine had previously printed Mandarin translations of the three articles below. They had also created a special conference edition of English Career Magazine which featured these three articles with a personal introduction by myself. A very thoughtful guesture! Although I don't have electronic versions of articles and the conference collection, I do treasure the hard copies. 

  • Feely, A.J.; Harzing, A.W. (2003) Language management in multinational companies, Cross-cultural management: an international journal, vol. 10, no. 2, pp. 37-52. Most cited article (in Crossref) in CCMIJ since its inception. Available online... - Publisher's version - Related blog post
  • Harzing, A.W.; Köster, K.; Magner, U. (2011) Babel in Business: The language barrier and its solutions in the HQ-subsidiary relationship, Journal of World Business, vol. 46, no. 3, pp. 279-287. Available online... - Publisher's version - Related blog post
  • Harzing, A.W.; Pudelko, M. (2013) Language competencies, policies and practices in multinational corporations: A comprehensive review and comparison of Anglophone, Asian, Continental European and Nordic MNCs, Journal of World Business, vol. 48, no. 1, pp. 87-97. Available online... - Publisher's version - Related blog post

The interview was conducted by Professor Chao-ming Chen, President of the Global Education Association (see below). A write-up of the interview in Mandarin can be found here.

Press conference and a guest lecture

The program also featured a press conference with Professors Chao-ming Chen and David Graddol, yours truly, and Benjamin Wang from Chun Shin Limited. My slides for the press conference can be downloaded here. A write-up of the press conference in Mandarin can be found here.

Finally, I gave a guest lecture at National Taiwan University of Science and Technology and participated in a symposium that also featured Professors Chao-ming Chen, David Graddol and Maosung Lin (see picture below). My slides for the guest lecture on Foreign language use, individual and company-level perspectives can be downloaded here. A write-up of the event in Mandarin can be found here.

Attitudes to business concepts in Taiwan

During a break in my guest lecture, I took the opportunity to conduct a – very small-scale – replication of my article on the effect of language on competition vs. cooperation (for full details see: Compete or cooperate: does it depend on the language?). I randomly distributed a questionnaire to Taiwanese English language teachers in two languages (English, Mandarin). It included 10 concepts related to business for which respondents were asked to indicate whether they saw the concept as more negative (1) or positive (10). There were 54 responses, 20 in English and 34 in Taiwanese.

The sample size (esp. for the English language questionnaire) was too small for meaningful conclusions and the administration too messy. However, the results described in Compete or cooperate: does it depend on the language? might be useful as background for future studies in terms of the concepts that are most likely to show a language effect. They also appear to provide further support for the cultural accommodation effect in that - as in the original study in the Netherlands - the use of English was associated with a more positive view on competition.


Of course one cannot visit Taiwan without an exchange of gifts. I had brought aboriginal-themed presents for everyone I was meeting at our favourite shop at Victoria Market Koorie Connections. On Saturday morning, just before flying back, I received lots of presents myself, including a stamp with my Chinese name (below left), which apparently means: "Laughing is gold, Peaceful woman look like rose flower." My host Joe also told me I was a kind of Buddha, because Buddhas make people aware and I made people aware of the language barrier. Isn't that sweet!

The Taiwan-shaped clips (above right) were by Jessica Yang, a lovely young editor from English Career Magazine that featured four articles about the conference and my work (see above). Vincent Lu, originally Joe's assistant, but at the time leading a separate venture within Chun Shin Ltd, gave me the glass hanger (below left).

The Taipei 101 postcard (above right) was just one of the many presents from Philia to remember our visits to Taipei 101, the aboriginal museum and the National Palace museum. But of course the biggest present was her company during my week in Taipei. We visited not just the musea, but also the Eslite bookshop, where they had a bigger selection of English-language books than anywhere in Melbourne. With loads of little shops, cafes and restaurants in between the different bookstore departments, it apparently is a favourite place to take a date to find out what kind of things they like. She also took me to a traditional massage shop, lots of restaurants, and to the cinema to watch the beautiful and sad film Beyond Beauty: Taiwan from above - about the effect of human activities and urbanization on Taiwan's habitat. My visit would have been a lot less memorable without her expert guidance! 


Although I enjoyed all aspects of my visit, the best thing about Taipei was the food. Of course I had expected great Chinese, Korean and Japanese food, but I didn't expect to get excellent French, German and Italian food as well. Saturday, the first evening of my visit, I went for dinner in an Italian restaurant with Philia - my guide and translator - and Joe - my official host - (see lead picture of this post). It was owned by a Taiwanese chef with an Indian wife who had picked up his Italian cooking skills whilst living in Vienna. Hence the name of the restaurant Sowieso.

Monday evening I went for another novel culinary experience: dinner in a German Restaurant (Oma Ursal) with Vincent, Vienna (above left) and Philia. I had salmon with rösti pancakes (above right) and the best dark brown bread I have had for years.

On Tuesday Philia took me sight-seeing. As all my presents to my hosts had an aboriginal theme, she very kindly offered to take me to their aboriginal museum. Afterwards we had lunch in Silk's Palace (see below), where we had a lovely selection of dim sums and soup. All refreshed it was on to the famous National Palace Museum, which was impressive, but completely overwhelming.   There were at least four more official lunches and dinners, but I don't have nice pictures of these. Even the conference food was amazing, however. Not only did it tast good, it also looked great. The deserts in particular looked like miniature works of art.

Joe, Vincent, Philia and myself had a farewell lunch at the steak-house in the Regent hotel. I had lots of organic veggies, a great beef burger (bottom left), a stunning selection of desserts (bottom right) and some great cheeses too. Taiwan's reputation for excellent food is well-deserved!

Related blogposts