About US


Onion Language Centre exists to dismantle the way we interact with language learning in general and put it back together with the learner in mind.

Language is a huge part of our human experience, and it is meant to be learned as an extension of human interaction.

Language is not just about mechanically trading words back and forth with others, but really involves conveying meaning through what you say and even what you don’t.

Learning Chinese is frankly often a painful experience for many people. But learning a language doesn’t have to be painful. It can, and should, be a challenging but rewarding experience that you face on your own terms.

Our goal at Onion Language Centre is to provide a strong foundation for Chinese learning

Whether you use that in conjunction with further classroom instruction or whether you’re a determined solo learner– you get to choose your path to reach your language learning goals.

Conventional language instruction often makes us feel as if we are not ready to use what we’ve learned out of fear that our conversations won’t go smoothly.

Here at Onion Language Centre, we are not study robots collecting vocabulary and grammar, leaving at the end of the day without having had a conversation and hoping desperately that one day everything will suddenly click.

Conversations don’t have to go smoothly,

they just have to happen

Most importantly, they have to happen in a way that fosters more opportunities for conversation and communication to happen. As a student, you need to be able to learn to have the conversations you want to have right now, not years from now.

We focus on sharing human connection here and now as a cornerstone of language learning and community building.

Learning Chinese is doable. It doesn’t have to sit on your bucket list for years because you feel reluctant to go to yet another class or you don’t know where to start on your own. You can feel affirmed and empowered to take on the challenges of learning a new language.

You can learn in an environment that feels welcoming and free of judgment. No more being frozen by fear of making mistakes. This isn’t a place where you come to study Chinese by yourself, surrounded by other solo learners. We are all here to help each other and work together to get where we want to be.

Get the tools you need to understand how language works and what you can do with it

Our goal is for you to feel confident about expressing yourself in Chinese, long before you feel “fluent.”

Maybe you’ve found yourself in a Chinese class before. You show up to class, you drill new vocabulary, your teacher forces you to read a scripted dialogue, and then you drill sentence patterns until life no longer has any meaning.

Often, you are expected to model your speaking attempts after a textbook and if you’re not on the mark, maybe your teacher has time to give you a full explanation of what you’re doing “wrong.” But this is more or less akin to telling you to imitate language until you eventually imitate well enough that what you’re doing can be called speaking.

Learn to communicate, not just imitate

Our classes help students establish a foundation that starts with the communicative basics, and builds from there.

This looks like:

  • Starting with speaking and listening
  • Focusing on communication methods
  • Treating grammar like mental building blocks

The sooner you start communicating, the sooner you will feel comfortable. The more mental building blocks you have at your disposal, the more capable you will be of producing sentences and phrases you’ve never encountered before.

About the founder

My name is Mark, and much of my personal philosophy around language learning is informed by my personal experience of grappling with the disconnect between my native English, my professional Mandarin, and the Toisan Cantonese that could have been my mother tongue.

My unending journey of learning Chinese has been littered with myths and detours. The myth that I was not Chinese enough to learn Chinese is one I left in the dust years ago. But when my grandmother told me to learn Mandarin instead of Cantonese, the path that took me down is one that changed the course of my life forever.

I have always been enamoured with language. I used to write Chinese characters on my bedroom wall from the Cantonese-English dictionary my father had bought years earlier. I took French and Japanese in high school before taking up Mandarin, and later still I took Spanish and German in university. There is something about language that never ceases to engage and evade me at the same time. It is a mystery and a science all at once.

So you can imagine how upsetting it would be for me to sit through years and years of terrible Chinese classes. I’ve taken it after school, I’ve taken it in high school, I’ve taken it in Sunday school, I’ve taken it in university, I’ve taken it in China, and I’ve taken it in Continuing Studies. And for the most part, it has all been pretty awful.

Yet here I am, a Mandarin Interpreter and Chinese Translator by trade, with years of practice trying to help others find their way through the mess of learning Chinese. Because I truly love language, and when it comes to the state of typical Chinese instruction, I know we can do better.

I see my work as an Interpreter/Translator as inextricably linked to my work in Chinese instruction. I am tirelessly labouring for inclusion and language access, and I do not believe we can have equitable language access until we are supporting language learning and community-building around language.

That is why Onion Language Centre is committed to breaking down the barriers to communication and community that make language learning painful. We are determined to change the language landscape, and it starts with you coming along on this journey with us!

Check out our current class line-up and enrol now!


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