Mr. Chen was my first Mandarin Chinese teacher. He arrived to teach in the 1990s at St. Paul’s School, a New England boarding school. As a non-native speaker of Chinese, I sat in Mr. Chen’s class behind a desk and studied Chinese. At that time, I was confused and considered dropping the course. But Mr. Chen took me aside and said through hard work and discipline, I could learn the language. This talk inspired me to continue studying.
In college, Chinese became more challenging. I had to take dictations, tests, and quizzes. I had to work with other students on skits and dialogues. In the evenings, I listened over and over again to Chinese language audio tapes, and made flash cards for the hundreds of characters we studied. Again, I considered quitting. However, Ms. Liu, my college Chinese teacher encouraged me to go to China. I took her advice and decided to take a year-off to live in Beijing.
When I arrived that first time in Beijing, I even had trouble getting to my hotel. But after one summer in China, I was speaking Chinese at a high level of proficiency. I thought in Chinese throughout the day, and even had dreams where I spoke Chinese in the dream.
After returning to the U.S. in 2006, I applied to the Chinese Flagship Program at The Ohio State University and won a scholarship from the Department of Defense. The program was a great fit, as I sought greater Chinese language proficiency. During the first year of the Flagship Program, I worked with a mentor, developing expertise in the domain of Chinese media from its earliest beginnings during the Communist revolution, through the Maoist period, and finally to its current state. We also devoted time to reading Chinese short stories, such as Lu Xun’s “The True Story of Ah Q” and “A Madman’s Diary." Reading these classics, along with reading about China’s media gave me better appreciation for the Chinese language, as well as China’s history and culture.
After the Flagship program, I learned that my true passion for the language and culture would be best expressed through teaching and tutoring. I have spent years studying and learning Chinese and have reached fluency. I view teaching and tutoring as a way to give back what I have learned. Whether it is a particular grammar construction or the use of a particular verb, the moment when it clicks in a student’s head and they understand what you are saying is a special moment for any teacher.
This past year, I enrolled in a Master of Arts teaching program at Brandeis University. The program is unique in that it specializes in teaching Chinese. There are very few schools in the U.S. which train students to become Chinese teachers. This spring I taught two Chinese classes at Boston Latin School. This experience at Boston Latin School was invaluable, as I received hands-on experience in Chinese teaching and tutoring.
As a non-native fluent speaker of Chinese, I have many advantages for the language. I can better explain grammar points having had the experience of learning the language in a classroom as they are. I also can serve as an example to other non-native speakers who are learning Chinese and share an understanding of the process. Students will be able to look up to me as an example of someone who has excelled at a difficult language, and I hope to inspire them to continue to study Chinese.
My teaching philosophy is that all students are capable of learning Chinese. I tutor with this thought in mind. In this sense, I can be a strict tutor. I will not let my students off easy. I will push them to answer questions correctly. For example, if a student responds to a question with a one word answer, then I will challenge him to respond with a full sentence. At the same time, if I see a student struggling, I will help them. I seek to empower each student to reach fluency through discipline, hard work, and opportunity.
Just like Mr. Chen, my high school Mandarin teacher, and all the other teachers who inspired me, I hope my teaching and experience can inspire more young Americans to become successful Chinese language learners.
Wesleyan University - BA, Chinese
Ohio State University - MA, Chinese