Lixia Ma

Learning a foreign language not only opens a door to another culture, another world, it also creates a new identity and perspective. I personally went through that amazing journey while learning English at a young age, and I relish the opportunity to share the excitement of such a journey by teaching my students Chinese. From imitating the sounds, copying the characters, piecing together a sentence, students are on their way to creating brand-new worlds of their own in a different language. However, at this stage they can’t be too creative yet; what they do is follow what teachers say and what native speakers say. And when writing characters, they have to copy them stroke by stroke and get the whole word right.

Once they have the basics, they are able to freely express their thoughts in creative sentences or start to create their own writing style. I view the relationship between foundational knowledge and creativity as a coexistent entity; one without the other will be meaningless, if not useless. As a teacher, I am constantly striking a balance of the two. Have I given my students the nuts and bolts, and have I also left enough blank space for them to create their own masterpieces?

Reprinted from Andover magazine.

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