Obies Using Languages: Laura Li ’18

Laura is a second year majoring in East Asian Studies and Cinema Studies at Oberlin College. Laura is currently taking Spanish and Japanese classes at Oberlin College. She is fluent in Mandarin and English, is currently learning Spanish and Japanese and knows a little French. Laura is amazing.

Where were you when you first started learning English & Spanish & Japanese?

I started learning English when I was five during the summer vacation right before I went to primary school. I was in my home town. My mother and I passed by a building and it was like a really colorful building, I thought it was an amusement park or something but it was an English after school study institute.

The institute was a Taiwanese-funded institute and the director imported a United State’s textbook and the class was really fun and conducted entirely in English. We were only allowed to speak in english. I was the youngest in the class. Most of the students in the class were in fourth grade or fifth grade, I was not even a first grader. But they cared about me a lot and they took care of me and I felt really comfortable in that setting. And ya that is how I got started with English.

I couldn’t speak Chinese that well because I had problems with speaking. My parents took me to the hospital because I stuttered and couldn’t finish a sentence in Chinese. But when I spoke English it was a new language and I could speak with people who were older than me so I started to get confident in English.

Then I stopped taking the after-school classes when I was in third grade because the school offered mandatory English classes. And then I started to taking the school class which wasn’t funny or interesting. The professor’s pronunciation was not that great and it was less fun.

And then I started to learn Japanese because I was into anime in that time. I chose the international high school [in my province] and then wanted to go to Japan and that was my plan.

I learned French for two months the summer vacation before I went to the private school. I like the way it sounds. I like French cinema, that is what drove me to take the class. I had the class with a lot of college students when I was 15-ish. It was not a great experience for me, but it was helpful for learning Spanish later because I learned about verb conjugation and gendered objects.

There was only one private institution in my provence, 40 minutes by car from my house, for high school. I performed poorly cause the whole curriculum was taught in English I was the only kid who wasn’t use to that type of schooling. I was the only one who had been educated in a public school. And the school offered Spanish so I started to learn Spanish in my first year in high school.

How do the languages you know influence the way you watch films in various languages?

I never really watch movies with the dubbed version. It changes emotions it has lost something when it is dubbed. I watch them with subtitles definitely. I watched anime, the anime was in Mandarin and then I watched a Taiwanese version and then it gave me a feeling that was different and then I watched the Japanese version. It was the real version, I got a different feel from it than the dubbed ones.


Image Courtesy of Laura Li.


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