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Rebuild Their Mother Tongue for Abandoned Chinese Children

Updated: Dec 21, 2021

Let Dreams Fly with Technological Wings, Making One's Mother Tongue Develop Across the Pacific Ocean—the Launch of a Project to Rebuild Their Mother Tongue for Abandoned Chinese Children

110,000! This is the total number of abandoned Chinese children that have been adopted by American families. Most of the abandoned children that are adopted are between the ages of 2 to 9. What does this mean? It indicates that after adoption, many of these children will never use their mother tongue and they will continue to speak English instead.

However, among adoptive parents, many of them hope that their children will speak Chinese and understand Chinese culture, despite being unable to teach this to their children. In addition, it is not easy to learn Chinese in most parts of the United States (public middle schools from 49 out of 50 states do not list Chinese as a foreign language class). Although a small portion of the United States provides Chinese language learning in private institutes, it is expensive. The hourly rate can be up to $40 for one-on-one tutoring. This absolutely goes beyond the daily expenditure standards of most adoptive families.

Therefore, after establishing A Perfect Love, a foundation that helps these adoptive families in America, I began to have a dream - to provide those adoptive children with opportunities to learn the Chinese language for free to rebuild their relationship with their mother tongue, experience the beauty of the language, and become future ambassadors for both countries. These children make up a group of over 100,000 people and it is still increasing every year.

I believe I am the most suitable person for this. It is not only because of my "authentic" background - a graduate from the Department of Chinese Language in Peking University and a former teacher in a top liberal arts college in the United States - but because I founded China-US Business Summit, a private communication platform between China and the United States that I have operated for over 10 years. Therefore, when I established the foundation last year, my classmates and friends volunteered for my project - to teach those children Chinese for free.

Last year when I was back in China, I gathered my classmates from the Class of 1979 and encouraged them to join my team.

However, upon some careful thinking, I realized this was an extremely difficult project for private organizations. Just imagine how magnificent the teachers’ teams would need to be for online one-on-one teaching. More importantly, it would be very hard and tough to manage and operate entire teams.

While I was having such thoughts, I met Tian Na, a young man with a start-up - Artificial Intelligence Tomorrow. With Mr. Na's leadership, Artificial Intelligence Tomorrow successfully developed human-to-machine dialogue software for English learners, with positive feedback from the market. I talked with Mr. Na to see if he was willing to cooperate for a Chinese language teaching software that would be available on mobile phones, allowing anyone without basic Chinese knowledge to learn the language at any time. I also told Mr. Na that my purpose was not to generate profit, but to benefit my charity - to make it possible and more convenient for those adoptive Chinese children to learn the Chinese language. Hearing this, Mr. Na responded, "All you need to do is to find the most appropriate sentences and I will deal with the rest - English-Chinese translation, pronunciation, and on top of that, the technical programming development."

Amazing! There was finally hope! I was extremely happy about Mr. Na's promise. I still remember that that day, I did not go home after work. I stayed in my office's conference and picked beginner-level Chinese sentences one by one. When I stepped out of my office at midnight, the rain was pouring down…

I was very concerned when I sent 550 sentences to Mr. Na. I was not sure whether a young man in his 30's could keep his promise. After all, I had seen many people make promises on impulse.

Three weeks later, I received the software from Mr. Na on my WeChat. This Tsinghua University graduate lived up to my expectations! I tried the software - upon clicking, everyday, conversational English sentences were translated and pronounced in beautiful Chinese. We had succeeded! By simply sending the software to children's mobile phones, we can make it possible for them to learn Chinese by themselves. If they are in Chinese-speaking communities, the software also makes it easy to select the pronunciation they want.

Even though there is much to improve on, the human-to-machine dialogue software, TofuChinese 1.0, has been implemented. On October 3rd, the first group of American families received the software, and the feedback I got from them was: "Amazing!"

Now, A Perfect Love's Mother Tongue Rebuilding Project officially enters its practical application phase, and my dream has started to come true.

I hope there is a day when thousands of Chinese children can return to their hometowns, and they can say with fluent Chinese, "Family and friends, I am back."

Chairman of China-US Business Summit

President of A Perfect Love

Steven Shen

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