We sat down with one of our learners, An Zhi, and his mother, Qiong Chen, to talk about life after immigrating to Norway and how LingoAce helps connect An Zhi to his Chinese heritage.
"In Norway, people believe that the strong learn to help the weak. Also, we can all learn from each other as the community serves as an ecosystem of learning that develops the whole child. For An Zhi, LingoAce is a part of our ecosystem," shares Qiong Chen.
An Zhi is a 13-year-old boy of mixed heritage. His mother is Chinese, and his father is Norwegian. They have been living in Norway for the past 21 years and are raising An Zhi there. An Zhi’s mom, Qiong Chen, shared their story with LingoAce in the hopes that it might inspire other parents to use language learning as an opportunity to build connections.
Raising a “free range” Norwegian child
I named my child An Zhi because the name evokes a sense of peace of mind and serenity. As a parent, I have always emphasized my child’s social-emotional development. I ultimately want him to have a strong understanding of himself and explore his interests without fear.
This approach mirrors Norway’s education philosophy. Norway is ranked first on the Human Development Index and is considered one of the happiest places on earth. As such, Norway approaches education differently.
Instead of rote memorization and endless hours of homework, they take a holistic approach that centers the child and encourages them to explore their interests. Here, even preschool education focuses on cultivating a character that is unafraid of difficulties, has a limitless mindset, and promotes a spirit of teamwork. Ultimately, they believe that stimulating a child’s pursuit of knowledge is key.
An Zhi is a junior high school student, but he doesn’t have any homework. At first, I felt hesitant about it. How can he learn without hours of review?
Before I immigrated to Norway in 2002, I was set on teaching my child according to a traditional Chinese way of learning. I felt like he needed homework and hours of preparation to properly review and retain new material. How else would he learn? However, after living in Norway for many years, I understand that there is more than one way to learn.
Norway focuses on providing a holistic education that's play-based and hands-on. They focus on physical fitness, creativity, self-care, and emotional intelligence. This semester, An Zhi recently had a project where the teacher asked students to observe how slices of bread change in different environments. This hands-on experiment helped him understand scientific concepts. Students were then encouraged to write their own analysis, make suggestions to optimize the experiment, and ask questions.
Connecting my son to his Chinese language and heritage
Norwegians believe that there is no bad weather, only people who are not diligent enough to prepare.
Well, the bad weather came, and I found myself unprepared to teach my child Chinese. At first, I thought that An Zhi’s English would have issues because I raised him in a Chinese-speaking household, and it's his first language. However, because Norway is a predominately English-speaking environment, his English is perfect.
At the same time, I thought teaching my son Chinese would be easy. I used my spare time to teach him after school. But the reality hit me hard. I couldn’t capture his attention, and he lacked the motivation to learn. I thought it would be easy. After all, it’s not as if he doesn’t speak any Chinese. But I never gave up.
Chinese is a part of his heritage, his birthright. I wanted my child to have every opportunity to connect with his culture. I also wanted him to build strong bonds with his family in China. I didn’t want him to feel like a stranger to our loved ones, especially to his grandparents. So, I knew he needed to learn Chinese despite the difficulty.
I set off on his Chinese language journey with no expectation that he would become 100% fluent. I just wanted him to be conversational — I wanted him to have the foundation. With the foundation, he could reach fluency on his own when he got a bit older. Like every parent, I simply wanted to pave a bright future for my child.
I started diving into a rabbit hole of research. I searched online a lot to find the best online Chinese class. I narrowed my options to three companies. LingoAce was one of them. An Zhi tried out his first trial course, and I was sold. His teacher, Ms. Lili, is impressive. Her engaging instruction and teaching style immediately caught my child’s attention. The concepts and words that I struggled to teach him, Ms. Lili just breezed through. It was honestly amazing to see. She is patient and professional, and the LingoAce curriculum is truly a game-changer for my child’s Chinese.
An Zhi is a heritage speaker, but he simply couldn’t speak well. Before LingoAce, An Zhi could say a few basic words and recognize simple words and phrases. He would often say, “I don’t know how to say it, mommy,” as he was speaking in Chinglish.
Now I rarely ever hear him say, “I don’t know how to say it”. Instead, he is speaking in longer sentences, expressing himself and his interests in Chinese, and happily communicating with our family.
He is quite witty with his word choices. If he doesn’t know a word, he no longer says, “I don’t know”. He uses another similar word to express his meaning. If we correct him, he changes gears and uses the right word instead.
Just last week, we were eating steam dumplings at home, and he said excitedly in Chinese, “We are going to eat dumplings. The bun is half enveloped.” I understood his meaning and corrected him. LingoAce is not only teaching him Chinese, but it’s also teaching him how to use language flexibly and to express himself in the moment. He speaks without hesitation and with confidence now.
There are many reasons why Chinese immigrants across the world want their children to learn Chinese. For me, my original intention remains unchanged. I don’t set language goals for An Zhi to achieve. Instead, I am encouraging him to learn and use his Chinese. I know that this is the best time for him to learn —while he is young and language learning is easier. I am setting a bright path for his future and connecting him to his culture. This is priceless for me.
If you were to ask me, "How does a parent provide the best education for your child?" I would say that Norway has taught me there is no one unified path. However, it is important to actively explore and expand your child’s horizons.
I think learning Chinese is a kind of perspective. In Norway, people believe that the strong learn to help the weak, that we can all learn from each other, and that the community serves as an ecosystem of learning that develops the whole child. For An Zhi, LingoAce is a part of our ecosystem and helps my child connect to his culture, heritage, and language in a way that is fun for him. Our family is happy about his Chinese language learning journey and is excited as he continues to learn and grow!
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