Skip to main

Justin: Head of Mandarin at an International School

Educators are sharing the importance of language teaching!

Portrait of Justin with the text "My favorite word or expression in another language is 'ikigai'"
Share this page:

Meet Justin—Head of Mandarin at Stamford American School Hong Kong, a diverse K–12 international school in Hong Kong.

A language teacher is not just teaching grammar and vocabulary. Instead, we are opening doors to new worlds for our students—bridging cultures and fostering global citizenship.

Language(s) you currently teach: Mandarin

Other language(s) you know and/or are learning: English, Korean, and Spanish

Non-language subjects you currently teach: Teacher development, educational technology, curriculum and instruction (International Baccalaureate)

Degrees held: Bachelor's Degree in broadcast journalism, Masters in Applied Linguistics and Chinese Language Education, and PhD in Educational Technology (See additional training below)

Study Abroad: South Korea, Spain, France, United Kingdom

What role have languages played in your life outside of the classroom?

Languages have profoundly enriched my life outside the classroom by expanding my perspective, enhancing my open-mindedness, and fostering a growth mindset. Through the lens of different languages, I've embraced diverse cultures, religions, and values, which in turn has honed my interpersonal and intercultural skills. This exposure has cultivated in me a deep respect for various perspectives and an ability to remain neutral and appreciative of differing voices.

Could you share an interesting, moving, or humorous anecdote featuring your language skills?

While studying at university, I taught myself Korean, which led to an exchange program in South Korea. On a trip to Jeju Island, I found myself in a traditional restaurant owned by an elderly lady. My Korean wasn't perfect, but it was sufficient for us to communicate. Since the restaurant was quiet, the owner shared the history of her establishment with me. As the afternoon unfolded, she taught me how to prepare authentic Korean dishes.

That day, I didn't just learn about Korean cuisine, but I also immersed myself in the island's traditions and forged a meaningful connection with a local that enriched my understanding of their culture beyond what I had learned from books.

What advice or encouragement would you like to share with aspiring or early-career language educators?

Language is not just a set of rules and vocabulary; it is far beyond that. It is a gateway to understanding cultures and connecting with people.

Here are a few specific tips I would like to share:

  • Be Patient: Language acquisition is a process with ups and downs. Celebrate small victories and encourage your students to persevere through challenges.
  • Cultivate Empathy: Understand that each student will have a unique learning style and pace. Tailor your approach to meet their needs and instill confidence.
  • Address Authenticity: "Fake" learning experiences will not train students to familiarize themselves with real-life scenarios. Authentic materials and learning activities keep lessons relevant, engaging, and effective.
  • Language Educator Community of Practice (CoP): Networking with fellow language educators is important. Sharing experiences and resources can provide new insights and inspiration.
  • Ongoing Reflection: Regularly evaluate and adapt your teaching methods with a growth mindset. Be open to feedback and willing to implement changes for improvement.
  • Infuse Technology: Leverage technology to enhance language learning. Online resources, interactive games, and newly emerged tools such as Generative AI can provide diverse and immersive experiences.

Have you got a favorite word or expression in another language? What is it, what does it mean, and why did you choose it?

Ikigai (Japanese) is a person's reason for being or a sense of purpose that brings satisfaction and meaning to life. The concept of ikigai is often represented by four intersecting circles, each representing what you love, what you are good at, what the world needs, and what you can be paid for. The convergence of these four elements is where ikigai is found, integrating personal passion with talent, societal purpose, and a viable career path.

Ikigai does not necessarily pertain to grand accomplishments but can be found in the small joys of daily living, contributing to a well-rounded, fulfilling life. It is a holistic view that balances various aspects of life to create a sense of completeness.

Check out our Become an Educator and Connect with Chinese - Mandarin pages—or explore another language of your choosing—for information about university programs, scholarship opportunities, testimonials, and more!

Then tell us how you put your language skills to work @LangConnectsFdn on social media.

Know an amazing language educator who we should feature next? Refer them to us for consideration in an upcoming Educator Profile.