Xiaoyan Liu, known as Yanny, arrived in Taupo in 2010, leaving a big-city life in Canton province for a quieter lifestyle.
When I came, it was very hard,” Yanny Liu says. “I couldn’t speak English, and my husband didn’t make much money, so I needed to find a job to pay the rent. I could do anything, except speak English!”
Today, Yanny runs Taupo’s Tasty Fish and Chips with her husband. It looks out over the lake.
Between serving and joking with her customers, Yanny describes her journey from new migrant to business owner.
Some Chinese friends gave her a job initially: working in their fish and chip shop. Her busy work life meant she couldn’t find time to devote to learning English. Several years later, when Yanny’s second son was born, she stopped working, and a friend told her about English Language Partners, and she joined an English Language Group and accessed other programmes.
“I learned for about a year, and during that time, my English improved a bit. But I needed to start working again. So my teacher said: ‘Yanny, when you’re free, come to my house, I’m happy to teach you’.”
“When I had time, I would go,” Yanny says. “It was really nice.”
Four years ago, the family took the plunge and started their own takeaway business. There were a lot of official documents to be understood.
“So I went back to English Language Partners for help.”
“My teacher really pushed my English,” says Yanny. “Before, I wasn’t talking too much English, but now, I’m really confident in myself.”
Jackie Moffat is one of English Language Partners’ teachers. “When I think of Yanny, I think of someone pretty confident and fun,” she says. “You always know when she’s arrived in the room.”
Although Yanny still has a lot to learn, she’s fearless in her efforts to speak English. She is always smiling and laughing, and her enthusiasm is endearing, as is her way of stringing words and phrases together.
“Her ability has grown with time,” says Jackie. “She still has pretty basic English, and her pronunciation is a work in progress, but it’s never stopped her from throwing together a sentence.”
Yanny says English Language Partners has helped.
“I think it’s really good. If you go to class, you can meet lots of people from every country, and all have different stories.”
“You can meet some friends,” she says. “This is a really good thing. If you need extra help, I can ask Jackie. She can give me help always.”
The support that English Language Partners lends to their learners often extends beyond language lessons.
“I went with Yanny to her son’s parents evening at school,” says Jackie. “She didn’t want to go, as she was nervous, but it’s so important to attend these things, so I said ‘I’ll come with you’.”
When Yanny bought a house, Jackie also helped during the auction process, as well as ensuring the family could understand and adhere to the codes and practices concerning running a business in New Zealand.
“What I think is really special about what we do as an organisation, the language learning of course, but it’s so much more; it’s about navigating community and culture.”
Six months ago, Yanny and her husband moved to the new premises they are at today. It was a good move for them.
“We’re in a good position now. My husband and I are a bit more relaxed, we are not working too hard.
“Four years ago, we were so busy,” she says. “We used to make more money, but we were too busy. Too much work, too much thinking!”
They run the family business in the truest sense: just Yanny and her husband, with their eldest son helping out in the weekends. He’s in his last year of high school, and Yanny is proud of his English.
“He always jokes with me, Mum, your pronunciation is not too good!’ and I say I want to get better, practise, practise.”
The family has no regrets about their move to Taupo. “Taupo is a clean city, I love it here,” Yanny says. “Months ago, I went to the South Island. Everyone says South is beautiful, but I still love Taupo. It’s such a clean city, and the people are so nice and friendly.”
Yanny likes to help her customers who are tourists in Taupo, and always recommends the free thermal spots where they can bathe. “I like walking on the hills and around the lake, that’s my favourite thing. And I can relax in my time off by going to the spa.
“I am really lucky here.”
English Language Group focus on Kiwi English and culture. They run in all ELPNZ centres. Get in touch with your closest centre for more information.