Michael Lemus: Learning Chinese changed my life

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By Hannah Robar

One of the first people I met at MSU as a Freshman was Michael Lemus. The first day of Chinese class I felt immediately that he had a cool story about why he chose to take Chinese as a third language! Michael is currently an Apparel and Textile Design major with a minor in Chinese. Coming from a Guatemalan background he had always spoken Spanish at home, so when coming to college I asked him, why Chinese?

“I chose Chinese because I had wanted to challenge myself, I knew that any other romance language would have been too easy for me. I always thought Chinese would be more exciting to have as a class versus other romance languages. I also thought it would help me going into any field after graduation.”

What was your first class in Chinese like?

“I was just very confused (insert laughter), I was like where is the alphabet?! I was confused and bothered by the tones of the language and them all sounding the same! It was all just very irritating that first week and made me think that I was tone deaf.”

How are you planning on using your Chinese?

“I am planning on going into the Apparel industry and a lot of employers have been looking for applicants with Mandarin capabilities especially in the Merchandising area, which is something I am thinking about pursuing!”

A man smiling in front of the Great Wall of China.

How have you used language around MSU campus or in your communities?

“Yea! Actually there a few girls in my degree that I honestly think I never would have gotten close to if I didn’t speak Chinese. I would jokingly go up to them and ask them when they would be taking me out to dinner in Chinese. It was a lot of fun! Eventually they warmed up to me and then speaking to everyone else in the class more. It really brought people together within the class to start communicating across the language barriers to become that much closer.”

Did you ever feel that point that you started to catch on to Chinese?

“No (Laughing)! I did start to get it at the very very end when we were in China, right when I met the requirements of the minor, did I say I was eventually getting it. There was never another point that I was truly confident but I guess that is how it works. ”

Do you think your time abroad motivated you more?

“Definitely, the fact that when you are hanging out with the local people it helps you feel in sync with the culture and the language.”

What was your favorite part about taking a Chinese class?

“Honestly, I loved the consistency of the class. It was nice to have that group of people that you were with everyday that you knew that you would see for those first years. It was this great consistency among the craziness that is college life normally. It was just so nice knowing that there were people that understood how hard learning Chinese was that you knew you could depend on.”

Did it impact your first year of college?

“I think it did help me grow not just academically but socially because it will always be a group of friends that I know and have. Also knowing that Chinese was always going to be there in my schedule. Academically it helped me learn how to study because in high school I never studied so Chinese really forces you to because it is so hard, which is something I needed.”

This is the part of the interview when we went on a tangent about how much Chinese meant to both of us as Freshman and how we never would have become such good friends if not for the Chinese community. It really made me nostalgic, even though we both agreed we don’t miss the quizzes but more the people that made the class so great.

Finally, what advice would you give new language students??

“Make sure you have time for the language and to make sure you have time to practice, at least an hour a day, always! And always make flashcards, they are your best friend!”

 – Story by Hannah Robar