Interviewed by: Anthony Parisi
For this quarter’s program spotlight, ALESN has selected Tina Chan to be featured as both ALESN’s student and volunteer.
Tony: Tell me about yourself in general.
Tina: I’m a Hong Kong born native, who immigrated with my family when I was literally an infant and later naturalized as U.S.citizen, first living in Chinatown Manhattan and later settled in Queens. Despite being raised with a heavy American influence overlapping my Chinese culture; sadly I did not attend any schooling to fluently learn Cantonese and/or Mandarin.
I am ALESN’s newsletter contributor and recently volunteered to prominently promote the program’s presence on various mediums (i.e. Yelp, Rate It All, LinkedIn, SuperPages, flyers, etc.). I am honored, yet surprised to be nominated as the spotlight feature.
Tony: How long have you been with the program?
Tina: Since January 2009 with the original program, A Tribute to the Cantonese.
Tony: What classes or workshops have you been taking?
Tina: Currently with my work schedule, I am only able to attend Saturday classes–specifically Beginner’s Mandarin, Intermediate Mandarin, and Intermediate Cantonese. The workshops I’ve attended were recently the five consecutive Saturday Cantonese, two Calligraphies, Origami, Mahjong, and Chinese Chess.
Tony: How has your experience been with the program so far?
Tina: One Chinese character/word: 好 hou2 hou2/ hǎo! The volunteers are proactive ensuring the continual success effortlessly working and collaborating as a team with immense motivational spirit. With ALESN I am able to learn, without embarrassment, Cantonese and Mandarin amid my struggles.
Tony: What is your favorite aspect of the program?
Tina: Intermediate Cantonese class on Saturdays, as it is my native language, despite Mandarin having a greater worldwide presence, being the official language in Mainland China, which enhances my vocabulary and strengthens my oral skills. In addition, the workshops are entertaining and informative to increase the exposure of cultural traditions for continuation of what our parents overlooked to pass on. Personally, it is comforting that a Toisan workshop was conducted by Donna Yee, as I hear it spoken less nowadays–yet long live Cantonese!
Tony: What have been some the successes and challenges with you in learning language?
Tina: My current struggle is obviously Mandarin with the correct pronunciation of the tones, finals, and consonants, as being raised Cantonese there are no pronunciation emphasis on the tongue, teeth or puckering the mouth. Of course, reading and writing is another struggle but like most students I try not to entirely rely on Pinyin Romanization. My successes are briefly conversing in Mandarin to my extended family upon my recent travel to Hong Kong, and also to my parents, amid being constantly, yet understandably corrected. Another success achieved from the knowledge gained from your previous semester’s “Yum Cha Part II, Chinese Menu reading and writing” was upon a dinner payment for a party of twelve, I was able to identify one character to a entree dish ensuring the accuracy of the bill.
Tony: What types of classes, workshops or social events would you like to see ALESN offer?
Tina: Hopefully more Chinese Calligraphy, reading and writing characters and radicals, sufficient to decipher a restaurant menu. I would like to, if possible, have a Beginner’s Japanese workshop; a field trip to the Museum of China; co-host/sponsor an event with China Institute; a movie outing in either Cantonese and/or Mandarin. I also would like, if possible, a workshop of Chinese open-mic poetry reading, where students who are confident with their oral skills recite works by renowned poets: Li Bai 李白; Bai Juyi 白居易; Du Fu 杜甫; Wang Wei 王維; Su Shi 蘇 軾; Li Yu 李 煜; Du Mu 杜 牧; Li Shangyin 李 商 隱, et al.
Tony: What other suggestions do you have to improve our program?
Tina: Perhaps possibly more fluent native instructors teaching at various levels of speed (e.g. Advanced Cantonese), and ALESN’s web site accessible to class notes, class hand-outs centralized where all instructors can store PDF and/or MS Word documents as oppose to multiple sites currently.