Every Thursday for two months, Chen Yang would take a two-hour break from work. But, according to a report in China Daily USA, it wasn’t for lunch, but to teach a Chinese language course to about 30 fellow American colleagues at Cummins Inc., an engine maker located in Columbus, Ind.
“In the beginning, they could only say ni hao (“how are you” in Mandarin). But now they are able to look at the pinyin and pronounce each word perfectly. That was really rewarding,” says Chen, who works as a global emissions compliance analyst at Cummins.
Native-speaking employees, such as Chen, volunteer their services to the Cummins Chinese Affinity Group (CCAG) to teach a series of Chinese language classes, which take place over a six-week period twice a year. The organization, which has about 300 active members, aims to promote and cultivate interest in the Chinese culture at Cummins. A total of 80 non-Chinese employees signed up for the language classes this year.
The course teaches more than pronunciation. It aims to instill an appreciation for Chinese food and tea, and to show participants how to greet a Chinese person when you meet him or her for the first time.
For a long time, Cummins has infused a strong Chinese presence in Columbus. The company, in conjunction with the Columbus Chinese Association, hosts an annual Chinese New Year party for its employees as well as Columbus residents. The mayor of Columbus, Fred Armstrong, attends the event every year.
The Fortune 500 company employs 16,000 people in the United States, most of them in Columbus. Its large presence in China – 9,000 employees – shows its devotion to its business overseas.
China is, after all, Cummins’ second-largest market after the US, representing 15% to 20% of the company’s business. The company’s revenue in China is expected to be 3.8 billion yuan ($596.8 million) this year and is expected to grow rapidly year-on-year.
“China is becoming a more and more important part of our business. Every week, we have our Chinese customers visiting us in Columbus. Last week, we had a visit from Beiqi Foton Motor, Dongfeng Motor and LiuGong Machinery were here, too,” says Edmund Yu, who is the director of international marketing and also head of CCAG at Cummins.
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