Learn Chinese: The Mormons Get It!

By Gregory
Taylor

Sister Nebeker teaches English to Chinese immigrants in Oakland Chinatown. Photo by Gregory Taylor.

“Ni hao ma! Nuestra familia llegará a México en agosto despueés de 2 años de vivir en Malasia.”
After an initial greeting in Chinese, the above letter was written in Spanish by a mother whose family is moving to Mexico in August after living in Malaysia for two years.  She goes on to say that wants her five-year-old son to continue studying Mandarin in Mexico.  She would like the institution to provide her with necessary information regarding location, classes, price, etc.
I spent a few hours last Saturday as an invited guest of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in downtown Oakland’s Chinatown.  The Mormons offer a vigorous English immersion program for arriving Chinese immigrants free of charge.  The language staff consisted of an even mixture of Elders and Sisters who were fluent in both Chinese and English.
Don’t let the  Elder  and  Sister titles confuse you because all of the bilingual staff are in their early twenties.  The entire staff, both young and old, is on unpaid mission assignments that usually last 18 months.  After completing their commitment they return home to continue their lives.
I learned that the language program has been in existence for two years and the ultimate goal is U.S. citizenship for the new arrivals.  The classes opened with a prayer in Chinese, another prayer before the break and a final prayer at the end of instruction  But, hey! As in any religious organization, saving souls is the paramount mission.
I met a 22-year-old named Elder Barria (pictures at left), who was teaching a class, moving in and out of Chinese and English effortlessly.  What made him noteworthy was his trilingualism.  Chilean born, his native language is Spanish.  His second and third languages are English and Chinese.  The clincher was his college major, which was in  Finance.
This young man is the exemplification of everything I’m trying to promote in the Black community.  The combination of Chinese and Finance is the future even to a native Spanish speaker from South America.
The Mormons get it and are moving fast to stay ahead of that breaking wave.   Speaking with a high official within the church, it was clear to me that they would like to help in bringing the Black and Chinese communities together.  Everyone benefits from peaceful coexistence. We need to seize on these opportunities to push our children in the right direction.
Send questions and comments to: gregoryktaylor@yahoo.com
Enroll your child in a Chinese class: gregschineseschool.com