Meet the rising TikTok star who is on a quest to learn English in Halifax

·2 min read
Yang Li created the TikTok account @yangpracticingenglish to document his language journey and share what it's like to move to a new country. (Yang Li - image credit)
Yang Li created the TikTok account @yangpracticingenglish to document his language journey and share what it's like to move to a new country. (Yang Li - image credit)

Yang Li is on a quest to master the English language, one 60-second video at a time.

The Halifax man's linguistic journey began on TikTok last October, a few months after he immigrated to Nova Scotia from China. He realized he needed an outlet to practise his English.

"I must practise over and over again, so I think this one minute is very comfortable," he told CBC Radio's Mainstreet this week.

Six months later, Li's delightful videos on the social media platform about everything from the unpredictable weather in Nova Scotia to the history of his hometown of Chengde have gained him a loyal following of fans who are cheering him on.

But learning a new language is not easy, and at first, Li said filming the one-minute videos entirely in English was a daunting task.

In a short documentary he and his wife, Eileen Tsao, made and posted online, he talks about the challenges of not being able to communicate in English when he first moved to the province, and how it limited his ability to find a job and share his hobbies with new friends.

Preparing to speak in English for just one minute could take an hour of practise, he said.

Li and Tsao arrived in Nova Scotia last spring through the Nova Scotia Nominee Program.

Li enrolled in online language classes with the Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia and began documenting his progress on TikTok because it's "very famous and very popular … with young people."

His online daily diaries have become popular in their own right — some net 40,000 views or more — as people tune in to follow his journey in a new country.

Li and his wife, Eileen Tsao, applied for the Nova Scotia Nominee Program back in 2018. After a long application process, they arrived in the province last spring.
Li and his wife, Eileen Tsao, applied for the Nova Scotia Nominee Program back in 2018. After a long application process, they arrived in the province last spring. (Yang Li)

In one video, filmed from the front seat of his vehicle, Li remarks on how often the weather changes in Halifax as the rain turns to snow on his windshield.

He also uses the videos to teach people about his Chinese culture, from how to make the perfect hot pot to celebrating Christmas in China.

"Sometimes I couldn't avoid to talk about my home country, about our culture ... I grew up with this culture, so I must talk about something about China," he said.

"It all depends on the reaction of the TikTok viewers, so they like me to share more about China."

Every so often, Tsao will make a cameo appearance. In one video, she sits down in front of a piano to play the theme song from Li's favourite movie, Terminator.

"She supports me very much," he said.

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