The Mango office is not your average workplace. You know how they say that couples start to look like each other after awhile? Well, our Mangos don’t fall very far from the tree. We’re all as obsessed with language and culture as our products would imply — it’s the classic chicken or the egg scenario. Our employees hail from all parts of the world with many different native languages, and we collectively speak 32 different languages. We’re always teaching each other and learning new languages and exploring different cultures, and each and every Mango gives us plenty to brag about.
Lately, one particular Mango has caught our eye with her lightning-speed language learning, passion for new cultures, and general awesomeness. We caught up with our own Meiyi Cheng, an international whiz kid who always uses her language learning skills for good, not evil. Whether you’re looking for a little motivation to amp up your own language studies, or you’re just in the mood for a good old-fashioned language-learning love story, she has it all.
Meiyi came to us through a Challenge Detroit fellowship, and she is now our Business Intelligence Analyst. She also serves as our resident photographer and videographer, so we know she’s working both sides of her brain on the regular. Meiyi grew up in Changzhou, China, and moved to the United States when she was 20 years old to study at Wesleyan University. Meiyi graduated with a B.A. in Economics and promptly moved to Detroit to start her fellowship and begin working at Mango. We’re so glad she did.
Meet her many languages.
For the past year, Meiyi’s been on a personal mission to achieve fluency in Brazilian Portuguese — and that’s in addition to her current mastery of Mandarin, Wu, and English. Meiyi’s native language is Mandarin, but she was exposed to English at the early age of 7, and regularly studied it from thereon out. She attended a junior high that emphasized foreign languages. introducing her to what she sees as the “linguistic diversity” in this world. One of her happiest encounters with the English language was the summer she spent reading the sixth Harry Potter book in English, taking in each page and growing closer to the language. As a college sophomore in China, a friend introduced Meiyi to the idea of transferring to the U.S. to finish her degree. Motivated by the unknown, Meiyi made the move, hoping to achieve personal growth by immersing herself in a foreign environment.
Despite her early start learning English, Meiyi did face some difficulties mastering spoken English once in the U.S. She spent roughly two years working through her strong accent and the natural learning curve of a new language, but her English-speaking friends, teachers, and even an Italian class her senior year brought her to English fluency. Ask her to tell the story of how after 7 months of training her tongue, she finally mastered the rolling “R,” a sound not used in Chinese — it’s a triumph worthy of its own Ted Talk.
Let’s talk about Brazilian Portuguese.
So, here’s a person who has just recently mastered the English language, coming from a Mandarin background. It’s a linguistic workout that totally justifies taking a breather, but Meiyi just looked for what’s next. Meiyi found herself working at Mango Languages, a place where people voluntarily start language clubs and swap foreign vocab like baseball cards. In June 2014, Mango’s own Josiane Toboy started a Brazilian Portuguese Club and Meiyi decided to join. And let’s be realistic: not every love story starts with love at first sight. Sometimes it’s a slow build. Meiyi and the small cohort of learners met weekly, studying the language, culture, and getting to know each other. Around October, something snapped. Meiyi totally fell in love with Brazilian Portuguese language, culture — all of it. She describes it as if something possessed her (in a good way!) and she fully immersed herself in learning the language.
With clear eyes and a full heart, Meiyi set a personal goal of achieving fluency — despite the fact that she had zero prior knowledge of the language. She started tracking her hours and methods used in a Google Doc, and she found herself often logging 1 hour and 40 minutes a day studying this new language. Today, she has achieved 70% of her fluency goal, and is able to communicate with native speakers without much difficulty. She hopes to achieve fluency within the next two months (don’t worry — we’ll update you!). That’s all through independent motivation and self-study, folks. Long term, Meiyi hopes to travel to Brazil and experience the culture for herself. She’s got high hopes of visiting Bahia, and she hopes to put her Capoeira skills (check it out!) to good use. All we can hope is that we can hitch a ride, or that she’ll at least Skype us from Salvador Carnival.
Language learning tips and tricks.
When it comes to language-learning advice, we like to go to straight to the source. When one of our own independently masters a brand-new language in a year flat, we’re going to hit them up for advice. While learning Brazilian Portuguese, Meiyi used goal setting, tracking progress, and talking to other speakers to support her learning. She encourages learners to fight the urge to be shy, and instead start talking to other speakers as early as possible. It helps your pronunciation, confidence, and motivation. Meiyi used Mango Conversations to study the language, and linked up with language partners through Italki, and practiced with native speakers here at Mango. She supplemented her language learning with cultural immersion, and has taken Capoeira classes, which she describes as a mixture of dance and martial arts. Keep things interesting, fun, and fresh, and you’re on the fast track to fluency.
Share the love.
Mango Meiyi is also Modest Meiyi. Her love for language learning is matched only by her admiration of her fellow multilingual Mangos, of which there are many. In particular, she feels all kinds of gratitude towards Josi (our Executive Assistant!) for teaching her the ins and outs of Brazilian Portuguese, and wants to give a shout out to Mango’s Thomas McDonald (our Product Manager!) for speaking a jaw-dropping number of languages. We all strive for your mastery, Thomas.
At the end of the day, Meiyi’s motivation for language learning speaks to the global soul in all of us. She believes that language is a tool that allows us to achieve a new understanding of the world. It is key to opening the door to different cultures, meeting amazing friends — like her English-speaking friends and her awesome Brazilian Portuguese friends — and connecting with unexpected people in unexpected places. Case in point: Meiyi is an avid host for Couchsurfers, and thanks to her language skills, she can offer up the most hospitable home for travelers who speak Mandarin, English, and Brazilian Portuguese, and then some.
Meiyi, hats off to you. Like so many Mangos on our team, your passion for language learning is exactly what we needed to step our language-learning game and make magic happen. Our Mangos rule, each and every one of them.