Lily R. Wu

Interviewed by: Tina Chan

1. Tell me about yourself.

I’m a second-generation Chinese American who loves words and language arts. Most of my career I’ve been a writer, copyeditor, speaker and team planner for adult diversity education. I was also a communicator for immigrant and refugee work in my church nationally. These days I’ve been working in Asian leadership development and English language editing for Asian international book projects.

2. What are your current roles in the program?

I am an avid student at the Saturday Cantonese and Mandarin classes.

During the week, I pitch in as an Advisory Board member, mostly in the areas of planning and communication. Lots of emails flying back and forth at all hours of day and night!

3. How has your experience been with the program so far?

I am thrilled to be part of ALESN. The dedication of the co-founders and instructors is phenomenal and inspiring. I can’t imagine how many hours our instructors spend on lesson plans and handout sheets for us. Workshop volunteers have also impressed me with their commitment and professionalism.

4. What is your favorite aspect about the program?

There’s so much to like I can’t choose just one! I really enjoy: (1) practical conversational exercises we do that are immediately useful; (2) learning both the Chinese characters and romanized forms; and (3) the great people I’ve met here.

I also have a personal goal for improving my language skills. Knowing more Chinese boosts the process when I encourage or tutor Chinese speakers I meet who want to improve their English language skills. Being with ALESN helps me with that too (even though it’s not part of the current programming).

5. What classes or workshops have you been taking?

I’ve been taking Intermediate Cantonese and Beginner/ Intermediate Mandarin. I tried out balloon-making and calligraphy. Next month I may surprise myself and try Tony’s martial arts workshop!

6. What have been some the successes and challenges with you in learning language?

While growing up, I used to be embarrassed at my very limited Cantonese abilities. As a child, I learned elementary reading, writing, folk tales and history at Chinese school for a couple of years. But I couldn’t order food in a restaurant, nor have a conversation with native Chinese speakers. What I really needed was a school for “CSL” or “Chinese as a Second Language” for adult English speakers — but it didn’t exist as far as I knew. ALESN was like a dream come true.

Now I am much more willing and able to read and speak Cantonese and Mandarin at work or in my community. This is helping me build relationships with Chinese speakers better and faster. In a very real sense, ALESN is “bringing me back” to my community, because I have a way to learn, belong, and contribute in ways I never imagined.

7. What suggestions do you have for our program?

We’re still relatively new. Let’s figure out as we go along, how to keep our program top-notch!

8. Would you have any other thoughts or ideas to share with ALESN participants?

Just that I fully appreciate the authentic, friendly and encouraging environment that ALESN offers. Thank you, Kam, Tony, ALESN Advisors Diana and Arlene, and all our instructors and workshop leaders for what you do to make this happen. We’re making history here, folks, in New York City’s Chinatown! I’m so glad that all of us can work together through ALESN to share, celebrate and preserve our Chinese culture – and have fun while doing that too!

9. Lastly, on behalf of ALE&SN, I thank you for your time for this interview. 唔該 m4 goi1