NORTHVALE, N.J. — Two to seven people are showing up in Northvale Saturday mornings to take Chinese lessons from Wei Nitopi.
“I want the Chinese and Americans to be good friends,” said Nitopi, who started teaching “Chinese for Adult Beginners” last month.
The Northvale mom used to teach at the Rockland Chinese School .
First, her students learn to speak the language.
“When they go out, they can say little things at first,” explained Nitopi, who volunteers her time.
“They can say thank you or good-bye and make a short sentence.”
Last Saturday at the Northvale Public Library, standing before a white board of Chinese characters, Nitopi told Mary Infuso and Kay Rhee, both of Northvale, there are 56 dialects of Chinese.
She’s teaching Mandarin, the official language of China.
Schools offer Chinese now, she said, but she’s trying to reach adults who might not otherwise find a place to learn.
“I can help people,” Nitopi said. “It’s very hard, the Chinese language.”
Infuso, whose background is Italian, was drawn to the sessions because she is fascinated by language in her own heritage and wants to learn about others.
“In Italy, they took the Tuscan dialect and used it as the standard,” Infuso said.
“You’re not supposed to speak the other dialects,” she added. “A lot of people, especially older ones, are angry that that happened.”
Her classmate, Rhee, is Korean and has an easier time of the classes.
A long time ago, before the Koreans had their own alphabet, Rhee said, they used the Chinese alphabet.
“So when I was in school, we had to take Chinese classes,” she added.
“But we don’t have the same pronunciations as the Chinese. We have our own sound.”
Her hope is to better communicate with the Chinese people in her life — at the gym, in her neighborhood, at Chinese restaurants.
Meanwhile, Nitopi is happy just spreading her love for her language and giving back to her town.
But she has a dream: one day she wants to lead a group of her Bergen County students on a trip to China.