Using Non-Conformity To Bridge Cultural Divides


    Chinese-American student gets published in German eBook

    Princeton Huang (center) and his proud parents, Poay and Ben Huang

    If there is any doubt that society is in the throes of full-on globalization, look no further than Princeton Huang. The offspring of a mother from Malaysia and a father hailing from Taiwan, Huang recently had his German language essay, “Warum Lernst Du Deutsch?,” published in an eBook sponsored by the German government.

    Adding to the prestige of being selected was the fact that the Plainview-Old Bethpage John F. Kennedy High School junior was, out of 300-plus international submissions, one of only two teenage applicants from the United States to be featured in this anthology. The 16-year-old started learning a different language at the Garden City outlet of the German-American School at the tender age of 7. In the interim, Huang has consistently won awards in each of the nine years he’s been going down this unorthodox linguistic path. He admits his decision to become fluent in German started with an innocuous childhood interest of his.

    “I was definitely interested in German cars,” he recalled. “My uncle also said it would be a good idea for me to learn German and my parents have also been very supportive of this decision.”

    Since then, Huang has become enamored with German culture, a fact that became more concrete after his parents took him to Germany four years ago. It was a life-changing experience for him on a few different levels.

    “This was not just a trip, but an amazing experience for me, because I saw Germany with my own eyes ,” he explained. “In the classroom, we had learned about German culture, but one could not understand the environment in this way. German is more than a language. Passionate speakers and modern architecture accompany this language and it is truly another world.”

    Currently enmeshed in a full course-load, Huang is involved with his school’s STEM program and counts AP World History and AP American History as some of his favorite subjects. He is still taking courses at the German-American School and due to a busy schedule, Huang splits his time between the language organization’s Garden City and Franklin Square locations. Along with English and German, he is taking French in school and can read, speak and write Mandarin Chinese, despite having an aversion to learning it when he was younger. With college just around the corner, Huang is leaning towards attending Dartmouth. Being a polyglot at such an early age is something Huang feels will help him down this potential career path.

    “I think having all these language skills will really help because so many of these technology companies need multilingual people to converse and have correspondence with their staff all over the world,” he said.

    At a time when a recent report by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences calls for more attention to language teaching in the U.S. and that American students have much less access to foreign language instruction than students in other economically developed countries, Huang is an anomaly. All the more so given that he chose a language so far removed from his family’s culture. But for this future car designer, embracing the unorthodox is a personal philosophy he embraced early on and one that he continues to navigate with.

    “I think it’s important for children to embrace being different. Wanting to conform as a child hindered me, especially when I was looking to distance myself from my Chinese culture. I think it’s the ideas and norms that society is putting on us and I feel that we should ignore that kind of thinking that we should conform,” he said. “When you can appreciate being unique, it allows you to pursue so much more than you would have thought possible and give you motivation to do different things like learning German. It’s not something that’s typically associated with me but it was something I wanted to do and something that I wanted to pursue. I appreciate and accept being different.”

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