My Chinese Heart | Growing Up, with Children

ByYang Ning and Zhao Yuanmeng July 10, 2024

Seville Chinese Cultural Center, in Seville, Spain, was established in January 1997. Three months later, Liu Ahe arrived at the center, and she assumed responsibility for Chinese-language education at the facility. She has since planted the seeds of Chinese language education in the hearts of children in Seville.

Liu Ahe

From 22 Students

"It was an opportunity for me to become a Chinese language teacher," Liu says. "I had tried several jobs before. It wasn't until I became a teacher that I realized I was really suited for, and enjoyed, this profession." Liu studied international economics at university, so she had never thought of working in the education industry. 

"Maybe it is related to my personality. I like children, and school is a relatively simple workplace. I am willing to stay at the center, and I enjoy teaching children," Liu says. 

April 19, 1997, is a day Liu will never forget. That was the day she met her first group of students at the center. 

"When I first saw the children, I was very excited. Twenty-two children, of different ages, sat in the classroom, the oldest being 11, and the youngest only 3," Liu recalls. 

Students enjoy their class.

Most of the children's families had originated from southern China, and the children generally spoke the dialects prevalent in southern parts of China. Few of the children spoke Mandarin. As such, communication was difficult between Liu and the children.

"At that time, there was an older child who spoke both the dialects and fluent Mandarin. She often helped me translate. It was fun, and difficult, indeed," Liu recalls. Liu's relationships with the students grew over time.

Classes taught by Spain's public school system were from Monday to Friday, while classes offered at Seville Chinese Cultural Center were held on Saturdays and Sundays. The Chinese children expected to attend the Chinese classes each weekend. 

Once, a student asked Liu, "Why does our Chinese school only have two days of classes per week? Can we extend it a little longer?" Liu was pleased, and felt fulfilled, when the children showed their love for the center. The children said the center was like a big family for them. 

Students visit Chengdu, in Southwest China's Sichuan Province.

Lifelong Learning

Education is like planting trees. The educational saplings planted by Liu, and other teachers at the center, were rooted deeply, and have since flourished, in Seville. 

"The most important thing for teachers is to have the habit of lifelong learning, and to grow up together with the children," Liu says. 

"As a teacher, we should obtain various kinds of knowledge. In addition to language, we also need to impart other knowledge to students. I enjoy reading books. Since becoming a teacher, I have read a lot of books related to education," Liu says. 

Since the turn of the century, the development of overseas Chinese-language schools has been receiving increasing attention. Of the many schools in Spain, Seville Chinese Cultural Center has an important advantage — the teaching staff is very stable. 

Students perform during the center's Spring Festival gala.

The teachers at the center have a common passion for education. They have been touched by the center's warm atmosphere, which generally motivates them to remain at the center. 

Thanks to the stable teaching environment, the center's teachers and students are familiar with each other, and they enjoy the benefits of deep relationships. During a child's growth process, a stable environment is helpful for his or her language and cultural learning. Such an environment is also conducive to shaping the child's sound personality. 

The center enjoys a good reputation with the locals. Many of the center's former students now send their children to the facility for Chinese language lessons. "Once, I noticed a student in my class who looked very familiar. It turned out his father had also attended my classes. The father and son looked very similar, and for a moment, I felt I was moving across time and space. My heart was touched," Liu says. 

The center's graduates are fluent in Chinese, and they have achieved all-round development. Many of the graduates have relocated to other regions of the world, but their hearts are filled with love for the school. "Once, our school organized a visit to the Complutense University of Madrid, where our graduates received us. During holidays and festivals, some of our graduates will come back to visit us, and bring us gifts," Liu says. 

Students and their parents attend a parent-child activity.

Facing the Future

Seville Chinese Cultural Center is one of the oldest Chinese-language schools in Spain, and even in the world. Regarding the center's future development, "Education should face the future," Liu says.

"The times are developing fast. In the first few years of our school, there were no suitable Chinese textbooks, so I needed to choose textbooks every time I returned to China, and then bring them over. Now, with the advancement of science and technology, various information resources are easily accessible. Students may know more than us in some areas," Liu adds.

"Never mislead children." Liu always keeps that sentence in her heart. She regularly reflects on her teaching methods and their effects, and she organizes discussions among the other teachers to improve courses at the center. 

As a teacher, Liu believes it is important to impart knowledge, and to solve problems. With the rapid development of society, new challenges have been imposed on teachers. "Sometimes, I wonder if there needs to be some new definitions for the teaching profession. Teaching experience is very important, but we cannot just rely on theory, and talk, on paper. Our teachers have rich experiences, but there are also new technologies and methods that need to be learned, and understood, to keep up with the pace of the times," Liu says. 

In October 2023, the Spanish Chinese Language Education Conference was held in Madrid, and Liu gave a speech, as the principal of Seville Chinese Cultural Center. 

"Education is a two-way street. During the teaching process, we are also learning. We are educators, and also learners. We need to keep learning, and making progress, and striving to become better teachers and better selves," Liu said during the conference.

"Because of love, we persevere," Liu says. The center, which had 22 children and one teacher in the beginning, now has more than 600 students, and more than 20 teachers. Liu believes the center will continue to accompany generation after generation of children during their growth. 


Photos from Interviewee

Source: People's Daily Overseas Edition

(Women of China English Monthly June 2024)

Editor: Wang Shasha


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