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I was born and raised in Hong Kong, and I currently live in Pittsburgh, PA. I have a BA in Rhetorical Communication from University of Pittsburgh, and I will return to Pitt in August 2016 to pursue a Master of Health Administration (MHA). My day job is Patient Advocate for Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, but my evening job is teaching Cantonese. I have taught Cantonese since 2014.

Teaching Cantonese is very important to me because I love sharing my language and culture with others, and I feel very fulfilled from helping students learn a new language. I have two philosophies when teaching Cantonese: 1) practice makes perfect, 2) listen and watch. I believe Cantonese students become successful when they use these two philosophies to learn the tones, unique sounds, and complex phrases.

My interests are in public health and hospital administration. I am more than happy to share or give advice about working in the health field. Outside of work, I am the Children's Ministries leader at my church and a Red Cross disaster services volunteer. In terms of hobbies, I like to play the piano and read superhero comic books.

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MonaLisa’s Qualifications

Education & Certification

Undergraduate Degree: University of Pittsburgh-Pittsburgh Campus - Bachelors, Rhetorical Communication

Graduate Degree: University of Pittsburgh-Pittsburgh Campus - Current Grad Student, Master of Healthcare Administration


Public health and hospital administration

Tutoring Subjects



Q & A

What is your teaching philosophy?

Teaching Cantonese is not easy because Cantonese has six tones and unique sounds that doesn't exist in Romance languages. My two philosophies are "practice makes perfect" and "watch and listen." I expect my students to practice every single day, and during lessons I ask them to pay attention to how I speak and how my mouth moves. This will help my students become successful in learning Cantonese.

How can you help a student become an independent learner?

I encourage them to practice Cantonese with a friend or family member. I also recommend students to watch certain YouTube videos that can help them pronounce Cantonese phrases better. Finally, I do two quizzes per month and one exam every three months to make sure students are challenged and retaining the information learned.

How would you help a student stay motivated?

I remind students why they are learning Cantonese to improve their quality of life! Typically people seek to learn Cantonese because their spouse/partner speaks Cantonese, they are moving to Hong Kong, or they interact with Cantonese clients at their job. I constantly remind students that learning Cantonese will help them communicate with their loved ones and/or business partners more effectively and improve their relationships. Lastly, I encourage my students to practice Cantonese with a friend or family member so that others can be accountable with their learning.

If a student has difficulty learning a skill or concept, what would you do?

I have two philosophies - "practice makes perfect", and "watch and listen." If a student is having difficult learning a Cantonese phrase or remembering vocabulary, it's because they aren't practicing enough, they aren't watching or listening to me when I'm teaching the phrases, or both! This is where I offer repeated practice on the concept during tutoring, then I encourage the student to practice on just that phrase for the next few days.

What might you do in a typical first session with a student?

I ask two basic question to get to know about the student, 1) Why do you want to learn Cantonese? and 2) What would help you learn Cantonese? (pictures, videos, essays. etc.) The first lesson is about learning the six tones in Cantonese and most basic greetings, like hello and goodbye.

How would you help a student get excited/engaged with a subject that they are struggling in?

I think videos and movies do a great job engaging Cantonese students because they are almost always fun, and it's more interesting than learning with a book or paper handout. I like to encourage students to watch Cantonese movies and short videos so that they can get used to the language pace and vocabulary while being entertained. The more you listen to a language, the better you learn it!

How do you build a student's confidence in a subject?

More practice and more conversation. A student becomes more confident in speaking Cantonese the more he/she speaks it and gets used to the pace and sounds. You can only be confident in a language when you know what you are saying and you know that others understand what you are saying.

How do you evaluate a student's needs?

Regular quizzes and exams give me an idea of a student's progress in his/her learning.

How do you adapt your tutoring to the student's needs?

I ask students what would help them learn Cantonese better and incorporate their answer to our lessons. For instance, if a student likes to use flashcards, I would help the student create flashcards to learn Cantonese vocabulary. If the student likes watching movies, I would suggest a few Cantonese movies for the student to watch and learn.

What types of materials do you typically use during a tutoring session?

I use lesson plans, which outline all of the vocabulary, phrases, and exercises for each topic. I also suggest helpful videos to help students learn the tones and difficult vocabulary.

What techniques would you use to be sure that a student understands the material?

I would repeat the vocabulary and phrases at least three times and ask the students to copy me. Then I ask the student if he/she understands it before we move on. At the end of the tutoring session, I do a review of everything that we have learned that day and ask the student if there's anything I need to repeat before we end the tutoring session.

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