Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Chinese Fakes Give Us A Chance to Learn Real English

Copies of Western brands are all over China. Of course, Western companies are upset to be competing with these fake products, also called "knockoffs" and sometimes referred to as "counterfeit." According to a new article in the Wall Street Journal ("Chinese Shoppers Lose Taste for Fakes" by Laurie Burkitt), Chinese consumers are starting to pass up these knockoffs and choose the real thing instead! Even if it means paying a lot more money. Let's read part of this newspaper article and then study some of the expressions in it. Words and expressions we'll study are highlighted in bold below:


Even as foreign companies and the White House pressure China to crack down on fake products, consumers like Liu Wenzhong are showing the nation's growing taste for the real thing.

At a North Face sports-apparel store in one of Beijing's most popular shopping districts, Mr. Liu recently bought a pair of snow boots and a fleece hoodie. At around 700 yuan, or roughly $110, each, they are nearly five times the price of counterfeit versions sold down the street.

"The difference of buying real and fake products is how you feel after," says Mr. Liu, a 36-year-old who runs his own fiber-optic-technology sales business and has a steady income of around 15,000 yuan a month. "I can wear a label I've paid for and feel proud."

While knockoff versions of real products still are widely available around China, Mr. Liu's comments indicate a change in shopper attitudes in a country where black-market purchases once were preferred by shoppers...

The shift has fueled the expansion plans of foreign companies in China. Such retailers as Nike Inc., Columbia Sportswear Co., cosmetics maker Shiseido Co. and North Face parent VF Corp. are opening stores in farther-flung Chinese cities. Many retailers are offering special in-store events and other enticements to get shoppers in their stores. And some have adopted measures, such as special packaging, to differentiate their products from fakes.

"Consumers in China are even more discerning than their counterparts in the Western world," says Aidan O'Meara, president of VF's Asia-Pacific division. "They don't want to be caught dead with a fake product."

Okay, now it's time to study some of the words and expressions from this article:

crack down on - to start enforcing rules more; to restrain. (Yes, we all know that these fake products filling the streets and stores in China are not legal, but in the past, there haven't been huge efforts to crack down on the fakes).

knockoff - a copy; a fake. Sometimes knockoffs are so good, you can't tell them apart from the real thing.

farther-flung - even farther than "far flung" - which means far from the center; in a remote or distant area. Far flung cities would be those not near one of the big capitals. "Farther" is the comparative form of the word "far". Far - farther- farthest.

enticements - things that attract people. In this case, store owners are offering enticements to get people to come into their store -- to lure them in and get them to start shopping.

(to) differentiate - oh, this is such a critical marketing term! This means to make your product or service different from those of your competitors.

don't want to be caught dead with - don't try to understand this idiom word for word! It has nothing to do with being alive or dead. It means something someone absolutely does NOT want. In this case, Chinese consumers do not want to be seen with a fake product (or at least one that others recognize as a fake).

Want to learn more Business English? Check out Speak Better Business English and Make More Money, a new book and CD to help you improve your Business English. There's an entire lesson in that chapter dedicated to knockoffs!

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