New Mandarin radio shows draw Huskies out of their comfort zone

By Simon Fox and Shirley Qiu

Danxiaomeng Huang (left) and Yiqin Weng (right) share a laugh during HUA-Voice Radio’s first official live broadcast at UW’s Rainy Dawg Radio studio on Friday, Jan. 17, 2014. (Photo by Shirley Qiu)
Danxiaomeng Huang (left) and Yiqin Weng (right) share a laugh during HUA-Voice Radio’s first official live broadcast at UW’s Rainy Dawg Radio studio on Friday, Jan. 17, 2014. (Photo by Shirley Qiu)

Keep that fork and knife away from my hamburger. Side of fries. Heavy on the BBQ sauce.

Ordering a hamburger in a restaurant might be second nature to most Americans, but for international students it can be an intimidating cultural barrier.

In an effort to break down these walls and push international students out into American culture, a University of Washington student club launched a new Mandarin Chinese language internet radio show earlier this month.

“People were thinking I was crazy, and I agreed with them,” said recent UW grad Daren Dai of the response he first got to the idea. But with close to 4,000 students from China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan — that’s three times as many as in 2008 —Dai knew the show would have a natural audience.

He teamed up with Yunfei Zhao, a student who, like Dai, had broadcast experience from working in China, and Mengxin Liu, a fellow student who shared the dream of bringing Chinese radio to campus.

Today, HUA-Voice Radio is produced by 16 Chinese and Taiwanese UW students who broadcast in English and Mandarin Chinese live online from 8 p.m. to midnight on Friday and Saturday nights.

The show joins Chinese Radio Seattle (1150AM) as the second radio program to broadcast in Chinese from the Seattle area.

So far, HUA-Voice’s most successful segments offer a slice of life in the U.S. and teach Chinese students the subtleties of American culture. They cover everything from getting internships outside of class, to how to order the perfect latte.

Or Zsu Wang’s segment, “I’m helping my roommate find a girlfriend.” Wang realized that relationships might be the best way for students to learn about the U.S.

“I asked my friend [in class] how she knew so much about American culture, and she said, ‘I’m dating an American boy.’”

In the segment, Wang visits his guest’s dorm room to rate how well it might attract a mate.

“Also because I’m single, so I started the show,” Wang added with a grin.

Besides dating, Wang urges Chinese students to travel within America during their breaks instead of going home. He wants his listeners to take full advantage of their study abroad experience, and to do that they must learn to navigate the American cultural landscape.

HUA-Voice also explores politics. UW Senior Daoming Li will anchor a weekly political talk show that will introduce U.S. politics to a Chinese audience.

Audio: Yunfei Zhao translates part of a speech by Seattle Mayor Ed Murray 

Audio: Clip from a HUA-Voice Radio segment discussing newly elected Seattle city councilmember Kshama Sawant 

“The way I do it is by comparing things here with things happening in China,” Li said. “For example, for the first show, I’m going to mention the [Seattle] mayoral election and compare to Chinese regional elections.”

He is excited to take advantage of having more freedom to explore political ideas while he is here in the U.S.

“Maybe this is an opportunity for us to [express] the opinions that we cannot say or broadcast back in China,” Li said. But he is not interested in stirring up controversy.

“We will be careful not to irritate or make anybody angry or offend anybody,” Li says. “We will not talk about oversensitive topics.”

Yunfei Zhao (right) offers advice to host Daoming Li (left) and guest Ziqiu Zhang (center) during the political talk show of HUA-Voice. (Photo by Simon Fox)
Yunfei Zhao (right) offers advice to host Daoming Li (left) and guest Ziqiu Zhang (center) during the political talk show of HUA-Voice. (Photo by Simon Fox)

In the future, both Wang and Dai would like the station to incorporate more international communities.

Dai said he wants “not only more DJs, but more audiences from different cultures to connect a network of international students.”

He hopes to produce content next quarter in both Japanese and Korean in addition to English and Chinese.

Co-founder Mengxin Liu couldn’t be happier to see her dream coming true.

“The U.S. is far away from China, but we want our show to let [international students] feel like it’s not far away from home,” she said. “I am so excited about the radio, and we all think this is a longtime thing.”

You can hear HUA-Voice Radio Fridays & Saturdays from 8:00pm to midnight on Rainy Dawg Radio »

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