Ye Lu: Chinese Language Instructor

Ye Lu was born and brought up in Zhejiang, a province in eastern China. When she was a teenager, she moved to Shanghai where she lived and worked until she was in her 20s. From 2004 to 2009, Ye Lu attended the University of Shanghai, Faculty of Science and Technology, majoring in publishing and communication. In her professional life, Ye Lu has held jobs in the publishing industry, as an interpreter in a big oil company and in management positions at various NGOs. Presently she works as a consultant and Chinese language teacher at the Mandarin Centre in Renon, which teaches Chinese culture and language to Chinese-Indonesian children and to Bali’s hospitality industry serving Chinese tourists.

What was your childhood like?

I had a happy childhood, particularly when you compare it to my father’s who grew up in the 1960s during the Cultural Revolution. During the years 1960 to 1966, the people of China went through a period of great pain and suffering. I was born in 1980 when the policy of ‘Coastline Cities Opening the Door to the World” was being implemented, so I experienced the dramatic and sudden urbanization from the 1980 through the 1990s when Western lifestyles were adopted and Western goods flooded into China.

Have you done much international travel?

From 2006 to 2008, I was a high school exchange student at Anhalt University of Applied Sciences in Köthen, Germany, graduating with a certificate in the German language. At the time, I had planned to get a job in a German company. At the time, the German community was one of the largest in Shanghai because a Volkswagen plant is located there. In 2014, I attained an advanced teaching degree that qualifies me to teach Chinese anywhere in the world.

What inspired you to set up the Bali Mandarin Center?

In the beginning when I moved to Bali, people often asked me “Where are you from?’ I answered, “I am from China.” Then they would say, “Originally from China?” I became very confused about the meaning of ‘original.‘ There is only one China and IT IS ORIGINAL! Later I understood. What they were asking was whether I was a Chinese Indonesian. Most of my Chinese Indonesian friends considered themselves Chinese, but they couldn’t speak Mandarin. Eventually I realized that there was a huge market for Chinese-Indonesians who want to learn to speak Chinese. This was the inspiration behind the establishment of the center.

What is the mission of the center?

We provide instruction to children on how to read, write and speak Mandarin. We also offer three-month courses to adults that are customized so that the instruction gives them a specialized vocabulary related to their work. We also offer translation services for hotels and tour companies translating websites, as well as restaurant and spa menus.

What kinds of courses and seminars does the center offer?

Costing Rp300,000-Rp400,000 per month, we offer courses for all age groups from kindergarten (vocabulary), primary grades/teenage (writing and vocabulary) all the way up to classes for adults. I even have a couple of old Chinese grandparents who regret that they didn’t have a chance to learn Chinese in their youth. So far we have around 100 primary and high school students enrolled, not including students we instruct on the premises of hotels and tour companies.

Have you had much success in teaching young Chinese-Indonesian children to speak fluent Chinese?

Yes! Some of Chinese–Indonesian students have learned to speak Chinese after learning for just a few months and teenage boys very quickly found part-time work as Mandarin-speaking tour guides. The children have been hearing Mandarin words at home, so after only few months of classes many words become reconnected in their minds. It’s always funny to see the Chinese Indonesian children communicate in Mandarin with their grandparents who are able to speak only a few words of Mandarin due to the anti-communist purge in 1965 and the ban against learning Mandarin put in force by the Suharto regime. Both the grandparents and the children are able to communicate, but using very basic Mandarin and a lot of body language!

Do classes consist of mostly boys or girls?

Surprisingly, the genders are about equal in number. When the school first opened, I thought girls were going to be more interested in learning Mandarin than the boys. But as it turned out, the ratio is even. When I ask boys why they want to learn Chinese, they often answer, “My dad wants me to learn so I can help in the family business” or “My mom told me that my ancestors are from China, so I have to speak Chinese ……”

Any unique problems teaching hotel, cruise ship and tour company staff Mandarin?

The most difficult is the pronunciation of the Pinyin flat/rising/curving/down tones. Some of our students come back to us after few classes, saying that their mainland Chinese guests don’t understand them. Take the word ni hao, which means Hello. Ni and hao both have the curving tone ‘v’ tone, not the flat or rising tone. A different tone is a totally different word with a totally different meaning! But actually if you only learn to speak and not write Chinese, it doesn’t take long to speak the basic language because Pinyin is similar to the vowels a, e, i, o and u in the English alphabet.

What is the ratio between Chinese Indonesian students and are non-Chinese Indonesian students?

Chinese Indonesian students make up of 80% of our students at the moment, but more and more non-Chinese Indonesian and long term expats’ children in Bali are beginning to realize the importance of Mandarin in Southeast Asia and the world.

Does the Bali Mandarin Center also teach, language or culture of other Asian cultures?

Learning the culture and learning the language are always taught hand in hand. When we teach, we usually expand on a topic with examples from cultures related to Mandarin or Chinese history. Japanese kanji, for example, shares a great many similarities with Chinese characters.

How may you be contacted?

Email:; Bali Mandarin Center, Jl. Raya Puputan III, No.34, Renon; tel. 0361-227 447.

For anyone interested in being considered for Siapa, please contact: <>
Copyright © 2015 Bill Dalton
You can read all past articles of Siapa at