The English language, with colloquial contractions, plural compound nouns, and non-finite verb complements are a challenge to native speakers, and prove to be even more of a trial for people learning English. In school, we learn how to master other foreign languages such as Spanish, Tagalog, and French, but this goes without accounting for the individual languages ingrained in core subjects. Calculus is a perfect example as through math, students have to explain complex theories and proofs, all while utilizing new vocabulary. Both traditional and nontraditional languages can be a challenge, but junior Han Lin, who recently moved from Taiwan, has impressively mastered both educational and conversational languages.
Lin left Taiwan in 2013, shortly after his thirteenth birthday, to live with his aunt and cousin in the La Jolla area. Leaving the rest of his family and friends behind, Lin took a risk by uprooting his life in hopes of a better future.
“[The] Main reason [for moving to America] is because my auntie told me America is a better place, a better education than Taiwan,” Lin said.
As a young seventh grader, Lin was at first apprehensive of his aunt’s proposal to travel back to America with her.
“I was struggling to decide, but she persuaded me. I felt like during that time, if I stayed in Taiwan, I wouldn’t be better as a student, as a person,” Lin said. “We have a ranking system in school, and I was in the lower ranking.”Aside from educational opportunity, Lin has also gained a better perspective on the value of education and of varying cultures. In the past four years at American schools, Lin has noted the different experience in comparison to his old school.
“The school [in Taiwan] was like a cage. The teacher forced the information into you but here, it’s more open, more free, and I can see more diversity over here,” Lin said. “In Taiwan, all we do is sit in the classroom and don’t move, sit in a specific seat, and stay until five in the evening. It’s a very long day.”
Lin’s aunt also felt that her nephew’s presence in America would benefit her own son.
“My cousin is special needs, and he’s an only child, so my auntie wanted a buddy for him who he can always talk to,” Lin said.
While he is always enthusiastic to be there for his cousin and aunt, Lin still greatly misses his family.
“The rest of my family, my friends are all back in Taiwan, and I miss them so much. We stay in contact through Line, which is like Skype, calling every week,” Lin said. “My family came over last Christmas, which was really nice. I can’t visit Taiwan after I graduate because I would be drafted into their military for one year, which is a requirement for everyone.”
As a junior, Lin has flourished into a successful student and social person, but his beginning in America was not as easy.
“When I came here, I only knew how to say ‘Hello my name is Han Lin and I am thirteen years old.’ During my first half year was the toughest because the school area I was in didn’t have a ELD [English Language Development] program for all subjects apart from language,” Lin said. “They put in regular American History classes, and I knew the basic knowledge that George Washington was the first president, but the other vocabulary that I’ve never even seen before. I didn’t even know what to ask”
Fortunately, Lin’s next school provided him with a stronger ELD program and peers willing to help him learn conversational English.
“After I switched to Black Mountain, there was a better ELD system. My friends at the time really helped me learn English by just talking to me and teaching me grammar. Now I just keep learning and learning,” Lin said.
Lin now uses his acquired conversational skills in the classroom, helping other students tackle complicated concepts seen in Calculus. He offers his help to any student who might be struggling.
“I’m better at explaining things in smaller groups, less than ten people. I can explain better because I don’t get nervous about my English,” Lin said.
Regardless of how nervous he might get, Lin regularly volunteers to explain problems with complete thoroughness and clarity.
“Calculus is not really more difficult than English, because you use different logic. Calculus is easier for me to understand though. I guess math is the same anywhere, international,” Lin said.