Happy Valentine’s Day! For 40 years, I celebrated Valentine’s Day by writing poems and songs for my wife and best friend, Susan Marie, who was born and raised in Taiwan.
But last Valentine’s Day, we had Sue’s funeral, which destroyed any love I have for this holiday. But in Sue’s memory, I will briefly share the secret of why Sue originally said she’d live anywhere in the world but China—and why she changed her mind!
Like many Western youth in Taiwan, Sue could not wait to finish high school and move to the U.S. She lived at the American school, all of her friends were foreigners, and she had no Chinese friends. She studied Chinese because it was mandatory, but because she resented being forced to live in Taiwan, she never learned it well eough to communicate with Chinese. When she moved to the U.S., she said she would be happy living anywhere in the world except China! And yet within two years, her goal was to return to China—although to the mainland, not Taiwan.
Sue disliked China because she knew nothing about it. But in California, she met many Chinese who spoke English, and the more she learned about China and Chinese, the more she wanted to know. She determined to return to China, and even took college courses to prepare. And then she met me, and when we found that both of us wanted to move to China, we became best friends, and then married. So China truly was our matchmaker!
We moved to Xiamen in 1988 with a goal of staying here 1 or 2 years, but we all fell in love with Xiamen, and the rest of China as well as. We drove with our two boys over 200,000 km around China, and made sure our own sons learned all they could about China. And only two years before Sue died, she said she would stay in China the rest of her life. And she did.
Sue’s life is a perfect example of why we need to tell China’s story to the world in their own language. Many foreigners misunderstand China and even dislike it, but this is because it is impossible for them to know China from Western media, educators or politicians. They need to hear the true China’s Story from the Chinese—people like you!
Learning a second language is helpful not ony for children’s mental development but also the mental health of adults. It’s also good for your career, whatever your profession. Best of all, science has shown that adults can learn a second language as easily as children—and even surpass children.
So I hope that you will commit to learning a second language, and persist with passion until you can help foreigners like my best friend, Susan Marie, come to love China. China has achieved the China Dream, and we need to help the rest of the world realize that they share the same dream.
Happy Valentine’s Day.