Kelly Chen
Break Diver Kelly Chen
  • DIVER: Kelly Chen
  • CATEGORY – Linguist
  • DIVE: Chinese (Mandarin)
  • LEVEL: 1
  • REQUIREMENTS: Can read, write, speak, and listen at a basic level

When and why did you decide to start studying this language?

Well, I actually wasn’t given a choice: my parents and their families are all Chinese. Funny thing is, I might have been born in the U.S, but Chinese is actually my first language. A year after I was born, I was sent to China. I went to school in China like other Chinese kids, and received the same level of education, and in the same environment. It was an unforgettable experience.

I moved back to the U.S. at the end of 5th Grade when I was 11 years old, which was and is another learning process in my life. I get to learn a new language, and again had to adapt to the new environment as a novice.

As for Chinese, while I had to learn it due to my family background, while learning it, I fell in love with Chinese calligraphy, and can’t wait to share how amazing it is with others. Plus having really good Chinese handwriting and the ability to tell everyone else that you speak fluent Chinese is something you can be really proud of! You get to brag about it and enjoy the unbelievable faces and praise you get. It’s a huge accomplishment!

How long did it take for you to reach this level of proficiency from the day you decided to pursue it?

I’m actually not so sure. Since I learned Chinese as a baby, it was a lot easier to learn in that environment.

What do you think is the hardest & easiest part about studying this language?

Unlike English with only 26 letters to make up words, Chinese has very distinct characters. Missing a tiny dot or line might change the whole character, and thus, the whole meaning. In order of difficulty from least to most difficult, think it would be: listening, speaking, reading, and writing. With the technologies nowadays, it’s easier to practice listening in the language environment to reduce accent. With speaking, you have to learn Pinyin (拼音) which is an anglicized form of Chinese writing. It requires a bit more practice but it is considered easier than reading. Next, it’s very helpful and super important to feel comfortable to go outside your comfort zone and be brave enough to go out and seek opportunities to talk to more native speakers. Reading is when it gets a bit harder. Chinese characters at first glance may seem daunting and you probably won’t know where to start. Here are some tips, learn the 部首 bu(4)shou(3) or 偏旁 pian(1)pang(2) first. These two grammatical structures are similar to root words in English, and learning them will help you, later on, surmise the definition of the characters or words in order for you to better understand the passage you’re reading.

What is your advice for someone who is pursuing this dive?

Persistence is the key. You have to be able to constantly talk, listen, read, and write Chinese. There’s no shortcut! You just have to Practice! Practice! Practice!

How did you prove you met the requirements for this level?

I have provided regular feedback to others on to posts that ask for help about understanding Chinese, have texted in the live chat, and had a number of voice chats with Break Diving founder Monroe Mann. I also have passed the Chinese 1 CBE (credit by exam) with a score of 99 out of 100, and shared those results with the Break Diving Dive Committee. The exam includes reading and listening multiple choice questions, speaking live to a Chinese teacher, and writing.

Please share some original writing in this language, with perfect spelling and grammar (Title, plus one paragraph).

书法 (Chinese Calligraphy)


Will you be pursuing the next level?  If so, what is the next level, and what is your plan?  If not, why not?

Yes, of course! In the next level, I will share my experience taking my Chinese 2 CBE and more tips onlearning Chinese

And having made this post, and provided adequate evidence to the dive committee, Kelly Chen is now hereby certified by Break Diving, Inc. as: LINGUIST – CHINESE (Mandarin) – LEVEL 1.  Congratulations Kelly!  Thank you for being an inspiration to others!

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