Hey, I’m Wendy!
I serve people who secretly yearn for the chance of a lifetime — the opportunity to work or study overseas. They desperately want to get there, but don’t know how. I give them the tools to gain momentum in their language study — all the while making them feel like they’re coasting!
My teaching career got booted into gear by events occurring on the other side of the world.
I was an undergrad at UVic (Victoria, Canada) when unrest sent student protesters into Tiananmen Square in Beijing. It didn’t end well, but the married Chinese students at UVic had their spouses at their sides within days. Great! They’re safe and sound, and Canada is a great place to be…right?
But their lives had been derailed. And while the Canadian government debated over whether to call them immigrants or refugees, they had no government benefits, no government sponsored ESL classes. They were left to flounder on their own.
Seeing the need, a few of us Linguistics majors opened a free ESL class. It turned out to be a real win-win situation…they got free English lessons and we got teaching experience.
But it was more than that. We also formed strong friendships. We were there for each other when the going got rough… doctor’s appointments, finding legal aid, but we also celebrated each other’s victories… like when Ming got a job, or when Mingyong got out from under unfair working conditions by starting his own business.
Ah, yes! This is what language teaching was all about — seeing my students gain the skills to cope with the demands of life in English, to fit into their new surroundings, and to get comfortable enough to call Canada ‘home’. Their success was my reward.
I completed my BA in Linguistics with a minor in Asian Studies at UVic, and topped it off with TESL certification (Teaching English as a Second Language). Shortly after, my husband and I headed to Taiwan.
After teaching English in Taiwan for about five years, I wanted to teach at university level. That meant I needed an MA, but I didn’t want to go home to get it. I was afraid I might lose my Chinese.
Well, ‘use it or lose it’, they say! So I applied to National Qing Hua University (NTHU). I had no idea that for the recommendation interview I would have to face a whole committee of professors, nor what it would take to prove myself in that interview. There were no books or websites to guide me in how to prepare for this.
I had a friend spurring me on. He’d decided to get his PhD at another university in Taiwan. That accountability kept me going. Still, I had to find my own strategies for academic success — how would I take notes? Writing in Chinese was still a slow painful process for me! And how would I ever give presentations in seminar classes?
If you’re goal is to study overseas, I just want to let you know that I know what you are up against. Was my experience ideal? Did I have it all figured out? No. If I could have been more prepared, I would have jumped at the chance to practice note-taking, presentation skills, and to strengthen the vocabulary I would need for my major. It would have helped a lot. And what a boost it would have been to my confidence!
As it was, I found my own way — sitting through 3-hour classes taught in Chinese (I confess, I took notes in English, but my listening improved a lot!), participating in class discussions (forcing my classmates to tolerate my limited Chinese), and collecting my Atayal language data through Chinese. I finally got my degree. Happy day! It paved the way for my 13 year university teaching career.
And when I’m not teaching, tutoring or creating irresistible courses, I can be found reading detective novels in Chinese, or with ear-buds stuck in my ears while I listen to podcasts and language learning courses. I absolutely LOVE my iPod for that. It goes with me on my long bike rides. So while I pump the pedals on my bicycle, my iPod keeps me pumped with fascination over a new language!
If you’re dying to know more, here are four things you don’t know about me.
• My Louis Garneau bicycle and the Garmin cycling computer mounted on the handlebars. It keeps me clocking my progress and striving to better myself — my time, my cadence, my level of fitness.
• Fishkeeping — my fish are all from the Amazon… so they too are foreigners living in a strange land!
• Frequenting Chinese teahouses — and coffeehouses (Did you know Taiwan grows coffee too?)
• Dabbling in a little web design — it satisfies the ‘geek’ in me!
• And, of course, language learning — I continue to work on my Chinese.
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