Yan Yu is an Economics second year majoring in at Oberlin College.
Tell me about the languages you know and how you learned them.
I know Chinese (mandarin) and English. Chinese is my mother tongue. I learned English at school and also on my own (through reading, listening, etc).
What challenged you when you were learning English?
I think mostly the lack of English-speaking environment. At most Chinese schools English is taught in very rigid ways and there isn’t an organic environment to learn and practice. So It was hard for me to familiarize myself with the context of the language at school. And it took some time before I could understand more clearly about the logic and customs in English. Also vocabulary was kind of challenging when I started reading books in English.
How do you use Mandarin in your daily, weekly, or monthly life?
I read and communicate with people in Chinese on a daily basis.
How does your comfort change depending on which language you are speaking?
It’s hard to say. I think for me it’s more about the situation where I’m speaking rather than the actual language I use. Although sometimes I do need more time to find expressions for certain things in English.
How has learning English influenced the way you think or learn?
Through English I’m able to access more resources and understand about more parts of the world. And it’s useful in a “global language” kind of way.
Are you looking to learn any more languages in the future?
I am. Maybe French, maybe Portuguese, we’ll see.