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5 Questions for a Chef Learning Mandarin

Portrait photo of Dante in a chef's uniform
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We’re asking students, recent grads, teachers, and counselors five questions on how languages play a role in shaping personal and professional success…

Meet Dante—a chef studying Chinese at the East Los Angeles Community College who also holds a Technical Certificate in Culinary Arts from the Natural Gourmet Institute in NYC.

1. Why Mandarin? What inspired or motivated you to begin learning this Chinese language, and when did you get started?

I chose to study Mandarin for a few different reasons. My main reason for choosing Mandarin was to be able to connect with and understand my wife’s heritage better. Also, for as long as I can remember, I have been drawn to Chinese foods and culinary traditions. As a chef, I feel that learning Mandarin has helped me make connections that I would otherwise be missing.

2. Was this your first experience learning another language?

For the most part, yes. I have been interested in learning another language for a while but never had the time or opportunity. I recently decided to leave my job in order to start my own business. While starting that, I had a little more free time and thought learning Mandarin would be beneficial.

3. We’d love to hear more about your recent online Chinese class through East Los Angeles College! What would you say has been the best part and/or what has most surprised you about the experience?

I was definitely hesitant to do an online course, especially when it came to learning another language.

While there are some drawbacks to online, overall it was a very good experience and I would recommend it.

I think the best part of my experience was my teacher, Rongwen Liu. Mr. Liu is a very engaging and knowledgeable teacher. He is able to make his class feel welcoming to anyone regardless of their skill set, he just asks that you put in the effort. One thing I appreciated was that he understands that we all have lives outside of class.

4. Any advice or tips for people learning or considering learning another language?

The best advice I can give for someone learning another language, and something that I have to remind myself of, is not to be too shy or embarrassed to try speaking to a native speaker. We all sound silly when we are starting out, and we will definitely make mistakes at first. It’s all part of the process, so why not embrace it!

5. Complete this thought: “Learning another language means…”

Learning another language means understanding, not just of a language but also a culture. In a world as connected as ours, now more than ever, I believe it is important for us to be understanding of other cultures, especially ones that may not share a similar cultural foundation.

Check out our Connect with Chinese and Language Programs & Funding pages to explore language scholarships, university programs, testimonials, and more! And, as always, visit @LangConnectsFdn on social media to share your story with us.