Struggling to stay Chinese in Windsor, Ont.

Joy Chen
By Joy Chen May 1, 2017 22:11

Struggling to stay Chinese in Windsor, Ont.

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It’s a quiet Wednesday afternoon, three people doing three different things in the same house, three cultures coming together.

Chloe is the Chinese mother, cooking for her Greek husband Stephanos Mavromoustakos, who’s working on the computer, and their daughter Melina – growing up now in Canada – is playing the guitar.

It’s been two years since the Mavromoustakos family came to Windsor from Cyprus. Two years of trying to figure out how to honour three cultures: Chinese, Greek and Canadian.

“My Dad talks to me in Greek, my Mom talks to me in Chinese. They talk English to each other. I usually sometimes forget to say Greek and Chinese back to them. I am used to talking English, so it’s hard to remember,” said Melina, 11.

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There are different languages among the books on the shelf including Disney’s fairy tales in Chinese alongside stories of Greek mythology.

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“Every day we read those stories when she was young. One day we read Chinese, second day we read (a) Greek story, and third day we read in English, so she has three languages all the time,” Chloe said. “Sometimes Melina refused (because it) feels so difficult to learn three languages but she still does it.”

Though she is young, Melina can see the value in it.

“It’s nice to know many languages in a multicultural family. When you go travelling somewhere, you can talk to many other people and understand them. Many different things you can do,” said Melina.

She is far from the only child in Windsor to grow up with in a multicultural family. And she is one of many with at least one parent who is from China and who places emphasis on maintaining ties with the culture.

According to the most recent data from Statistics Canada, in 2011 2.6 per cent of the population in Windsor comes from China, including from Hong Kong and Taiwan.

Many of these children get some Chinese education here in Windsor.

In fact, there’s enough demand that two places offer classes: The Chinese Association of Greater Windsor and the Windsor Chinese Alliance Church.

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The children not only study on weekends but during the week as well.

But in the opinion of Chloe Mavromoustakou’s family, even that is not enough.

Five years ago, Chloe went back to China for about two months to learn how to teach Chinese as a second language. She wanted to learn how to give her daughter a more professional education herself.

Her concern is that many of the teachers at the Chinese Association of Greater Windsor and Windsor Chinese Alliance Church are volunteers.

Chloe was worried that the teachers are not required to have professional knowledge or a teaching background. And she realized that learning Chinese on the weekend is not enough for students to truly understand Chinese culture.

But what the volunteer teachers may lack in training, they make up in motivation.

Many are students from China studying in Windsor and wanting to share culture with the young Canadians.

They teach students Mandarin in their free time.

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Linda Yao is a Grade 11 student who volunteers in Windsor Chinese Alliance Church.

“I feel like many Chinese or people who born in Canada, they are not familiar with their own culture. I feel like that’s very sad thing. Me and my friends are trying to spread Chinese culture to more people like multicultural dinner in our school. We are also contributed that,” said Yao.

Zhengzhong Ma is an organizer with the Chinese Association of Greater Windsor.

“We try to integrate together, Canadian culture, western culture,” he said, adding it is more acceptable these days in Canada for anyone with a Chinese heritage to hang on to it.

And the Mavromoustakos family is grateful as they learn what it means to be part of the cultural mosaic in Canada.

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Joy Chen
By Joy Chen May 1, 2017 22:11

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