LHS Student Starts Language Learning Initiative Over the Pandemic

Anagha Chakravarti and Rebecca Gu

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Emily Wang, currently a sophomore at Lexington High School, founded World Wide English, an English language learning initiative. The program, pairing native English speakers with Chinese students, has expanded to serve students in over 20 cities in China.

As an immigrant from China, Wang wanted to create a community that Chinese students could belong to, something she had sought when she first moved to Lexington in sixth grade.

“We wanted to create a place where you could share whatever you want and learn at the same time,” Wang said. 

With the help of Lonamae Shand, the English Language Learning teacher at Diamond Middle School, Wang was able to create a space to foster cultural exchanges between the students living in the United States and China. 

“Ms. Shand inspired me a lot and really helped me get settled in living here,” Wang said.

Wang started the project by reaching out to family friends back in China, and from there, they spread the word to their own classmates. 

Depending on their English proficiency, each student in the program is placed into one of three levels: beginning, intermediate, or advanced. They are then paired with a volunteer teacher. An average class typically meets weekly for half an hour, with each lesson tailored to the student’s needs. 

The program presents an opportunity for students to verbally practice their English in conversations, a skill not focused on in typical English classes for Chinese students.

“In China, they may get the experience of listening and writing since they are mainly focused on grammar, but they don’t necessarily get the experience of speaking it for themselves,” Jocelyn Huang, a teacher in the program, said. 

Not only has the program benefited the students in China, but it has also benefited the student teachers in the United States.

“Even though I may be Chinese myself, I normally don’t get to learn about Chinese culture, so I think teaching has given me a better understanding of what life in China is like,” Huang said. 

Teachers also have a chance to create a personal connection with their students amid a time of isolation.

“A lot of students like to tell me about their birthdays and personal details like that. I even know all their dogs and all their siblings,” Huang said. 

Wang discussed bringing World Wide English to Lexington for ELL students in the future while still maintaining the relationship she has created with the students back in China. 

“I want to do the most we can as I feel that the program has brought me lots of joy for a long time now,” Wang said.