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Everyday campus heroes: Lingo Legend

4 June 2018
Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s an everyday campus hero!
Living among us are a handful of secret superheroes who use their powers for the greater good of our campuses. They’re the everyday heroes who make our University community truly special.

Starting university can be daunting, especially if you travel from afar. Local students take for granted that it’s a steep learning curve to understand the quirks of Aussie slang, but Hillson Lui, the campus Lingo Legend, is here to help!

Now in his third year of a Bachelor of Science/Arts degree, Hill teaches free language and cultural classes to help international students struggling to decipher Australian lingo, making it much easier to settle into uni life.

Hill’s real life super power is being exceptionally multilingual. He is proficient in English, Cantonese, Mandarin, Japanese and Spanish – an impressive collection.

Q: How did you learn so many languages?  

A: “My parents are from Hong Kong, so I’m Cantonese, and that’s the language I speak at home. When I was younger they threw me into Mandarin school, and then I learned Japanese and Spanish in high school. Now Spanish is my Arts major”.

Q: When did you start using your language for the greater good?

A: “It was my first year and I received an email calling for volunteers for the Australian Discussion Group and I thought, why not?! I just signed up and I’ve been teaching classes once a week ever since.”

“Each week we focus on a different cultural theme. The sessions are run to help international students transition into Australian uni life by discussing topics like Australian slang, cultural norms, love and dating, etiquette and Indigenous culture. We even invite AIME to give a cultural tour around Redfern.”

Q: What kind of things do you teach in the first session?

A: “Our first sessions revolve around debunking classic myths like Drop Bears and using kangaroos as transport, and then we move onto understanding terms that are unique to Australian culture. A lot of international students find it hard to keep up with the fast pace of Australian dialogue, but the real struggle comes with trying to understand cryptic abbreviations like avo, arvo, servo and barbie”.

Q: What makes you want to continue doing what you do?

A: “It’s the international students, really. Even though I grew up in Australia, English isn’t my first language, so I relate to a lot of the challenges they face. Throughout primary school I was really shy, so didn’t practice English that much with my peers – I ended up teaching myself the language with grammar books. Now I teach the language to others who struggle with it, so it’s just a full circle”.

Q: What can domestic students do to help international students feel more comfortable on campus?

A: “Just reaching out and speaking to them. A lot of international students want to speak to you, but they’re just not comfortable with their English yet. The only way to improve is to practice so just asking simple questions like their name or how their day has been can be really helpful and will probably make their day”.

If you want to know more about the Australian Discussion Groups and how you can get involved as a volunteer or student, visit the USU website or the USU Volunteer Facebook page.  These workshops are free and open to all international students.


Do you know an everyday campus hero? Let us know.