During middle school, students are expected to have minimal exposure to a language other than English. I had Spanish and French for two hours a week in 7th and 8th grade, and I was not interested in either. When high school came, we were allowed to choose between Spanish, French (though this department was later cut because of the cleaver dubbed “Insufficient Funds” that looms over every public school), and German. I was mildly interested in French, but I wasn’t feeling the “yearn to learn” for any of those. Then, my guidance counselor made an announcement that would alter my linguistic career forever: I could take Mandarin Chinese online.
I couldn’t wait. I enrolled as soon as possible and felt hope and excitement for learning a foreign language. I signed up because I wanted to learn the language and learn more about the culture. At that point in my life, I hardly knew anything about Chinese culture. I had the face of a Chinese person, with the values of an American and cultural knowledge that could match the amount of a tourist. This online class was an opportunity to learn and enrich my then-deprived cultural identity.