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  • Writer's pictureSumbella

Yes, you can. 你可以!

Caption reads: '我的天啊!' - meaning 'Oh my goodness!'

I've written before about how motivating, inspiring, and encouraging is such a fundamental part of learning and teaching, and something every lesson needs to be sprinkled with.

In addition to things like 'High 5' and 'Add oil!', there is another word I teach early on to my students:

可以 - kěyǐ

It's pronounced a little like 'kuh-yee'.

In a most simple meaning, it translates as 'possible', or 'can'.

And when we add 'you' to it, it has a nice way of translating as:

'You got this'.

你可以。Ni keyi. (pronounced like knee-kuh-yee). Meaning: you got this. You can.

I didn't want to learn Chinese in the beginning. That's a story for another time, but the point was, I felt it was too impossible, so why try?

Connecting this to my experience with teaching English, I know many non-native yet brilliant English speakers who won't even attempt to apply for a job because they themselves believe they can't apply.

They believe they won't be able to compete with the demand and priority given to native English speakers.

There have been so many times where I have seen good teachers of English rejected for jobs, or just put down in general, because they don't have a qualification that was stamped in the UK, US, Australia etc.

Rejected because they aren't a 'Britisher' (true story).

Rejected because they have a non-native accent.

Rejected because they don't have the right skin colour, or because they aren't wearing the right kind of clothes.

It is strange, because I experienced the 'inverse' of this block for a long time when I was first began to teach Chinese.

I had a belief that native Chinese teachers are probably the best fit for the job, just like how people looking for English teachers seemed to frame 'native speakers' as the best.

For sure, there are plenty of benefits to having a native speaker teach you.

It's a no-brainer: you get a sense of natural pronunciation. You get a feel for how you could eventually be in the language.

But there are also a host of benefits to having a teacher who has also mastered what you are trying to learn.

They have insider tips they used and developed themselves.

They can anticipate with great accuracy any learning blocks and how to explain them.

They know how and when to drip feed you content so that you won't be overwhelmed and give up.

And you know that when they praise you, it's because they really, really know you've achieved something great.

There's something special about this, that I didn't appreciate until I started teaching Chinese formally myself.

So this article, is a note to myself, as much as to any student who thinks they can't learn Chinese, or any teacher who thinks they can't teach a subject because they weren't born in the right country, or they're not the right colour, or they don't speak with that perfect accent:


Ni keyi.

You can.

You got this.


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