Learning Chinese and Chasing My Dreams

By Victor Liang, Recipient of the Noreen Chung Scholarship

To be able to write, read, and speak Cantonese are the necessary requirements to receive the Chung Scholarship, so what better way to express my ability in Chinese than to write an application essay in Chinese?

In Fall of 2013, I became the first recipient of the Chung Scholarship and felt very honored to receive this award. I never knew that my hard work throughout my life would finally pay off. A quick summary of my background, I am Victor Liang, 19, and currently at Northeastern University studying Computer Engineering.
Victor Liang (left) receives the Chung Scholarship at CHSNE’s annual meeting on Spet. 24, 2014.

Ever since I was little, I was forced to go to Chinese school in Chinatown and hated waking up early on the weekends. I remember the times when I could barely read and write Chinese. I would always place second to last every year. Once, when I came home with my report card, I was shaking. I then slowly showed the grades to my dad. He then said, “It’s okay, as long as you know how to speak Chinese, I am fine with you getting bad grades.” The little me was shocked as he said this. If this was in my real studies, he would yell at me until the ends of the earth. But in fact, he was depressed deep in his heart. But because he did not want me to feel bad and give up on Chinese, he did not say anything. He was the one to teach me that even though I am American, there are some things about your culture and tradition that I must never forget. I do not think he would ever expect me to submit an application essay in Chinese to be able to show to the world.

So where did I learn my Chinese? Of course Chinese school did help, but I think hard work is the biggest part to learning Chinese. A lot of kids learn Chinese at Chinese school and quickly forget everything because they barely use it. So the best way is to not forget Chinese is to keep on learning and practicing.

The immigrated Cantonese often call us American Born Chinese(ABC) as “Jook Sing” and this brings a negative connotation when said. People may think that us ABC have it easy, thinking we can communicate so well with Americans with our fluent English, having character like Americans, and have a great future ahead of us. But there are so many problems not told. When calling an ABC a “Jook Sing” the connotation that is brought about is, clumsy, honest, and easily tricked by others. Now obviously, there are people that fit this description, but not all. The term “Jook Sing” is referred to every ABCs and thus hides all the good qualities that these ABCs have. This lowers the self-esteem of many ABCs and can cause great problems if not changed in the future. That is the reason and motivation for why I learn Chinese. I want to prove to the world that not all “Jook Sing” fit this stereotype and that I can show everyone that even “Jook Sing” can be intelligent and capable. I believe everyone especially ABCs has the ability to get rid of any stereotype as long as we work hard and persevere.

My dream is to go to live and work in China or Hong Kong. Even today, my dream remains the same, which is why I have to keep on learning Chinese so that I can communicate with those in China as well as I can with Americans. Unfortunately, the Chinese Language Head Professor at Northeastern University told me that they do not offer Chinese classes at my level, which ruined my plans to continue learning more Chinese. Although I do have plans to go study abroad in Hong Kong next year as well as co-op or intern at a company in Hong Kong. During that period, I will study at the Chinese University of Hong Kong to learn more Chinese(specifically Putonghua or Mandarin and culture/traditions). This will help me when I return to the United States and I can talk about the situation in Hong Kong and mainland China.

Because I have never lived in China, I do not fully understand the culture, traditions, and the lifestyle in China. Thus, the past year, I have been meeting Chinese international students and acquiring info as to how their life in China is. In addition, at Northeastern, I attended a Chinese-English program where I would help international students with English while they would help with my Chinese. For example, one classmate told me that on July 14th on the lunar calendar every year, it is ZhongYuan Jie (Ghost Festival), similar to Halloween in the United States. I talk about this because it emphasizes the difference in culture between American and Chinese culture as the Chinese would not go out at night to avoid the ghosts that return while the Americans purposely go outside at night for candy. For us ABCs, not knowing about the traditions and cultures will only further drag us away from our roots. I want to experience this myself so that I can inform others and the next generations to come.

To be able to be the recipient of the Chung Scholarship is something I would not have imagined and I hope I am able to receive that honor this year as well. I will return my knowledge and experiences back to society, telling more people about what I know and have more people understand the true qualities of us Chinese.