Ben Bradfield: Embracing a New Language and Culture

Embracing a New Language and Culture

Ben Bradfield has always been fascinated by languages. As a high school student in Columbus, Ga., he took up the challenge of learning Mandarin, the most widely spoken language in the world.

He taught himself the first 100 characters of the language in a few months, but he realized without any real-life contact with other Mandarin speakers, he’d never truly grasp it.


Ben Bradfield

As an undergrad at Georgia State, Bradfield participated in two study abroad programs in China and got to know Chinese students studying in Atlanta, building personal relationships that can bridge cultures.

“We might come from different cultural, linguistic and personal backgrounds, but if you can meet someone at a human level, that type of understanding is not something that you can communicate in an academic sense,” he said.

Bradfield, an Honors College student who is graduating with bachelor’s degrees in applied linguistics and economics, began to grasp the Chinese concept of “moqi,” sharing an understanding with someone without speaking it in words.

“It almost kind of implies that if you speak it in words, it falls apart or that the further you try to elaborate on it, the further you get from the truth,” he said.

When Bradfield served as an unofficial ambassador to the 2013 Summer Institute, a group of visiting Chinese students, he made sure they ventured beyond the classroom to get a better understanding of the United States and its people.

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“I invited a couple of them back to my house, we had dinner, we went to the lake and did some fun activities,” Bradfield said. “I introduced them to my family so they could see some real people as opposed to just a bunch of people who have extensive education in linguistics, language and intercultural communication.

“I wanted to introduce them to the non-academic side of a country, that most of us are really just down-to-Earth people.”

After graduation, Bradfield wants to return to China, where he wants to run his own business. He hopes to take over an existing private English school and work to expand it.

“I really want to have an integration of my life and my work,” he said. “I want to be able to look back in three to five years, step back and say ‘this is my creation,’ seeing how far I’ve come and being able to enjoy that.”

For more pictures from Ben’s study abroad experiences in China, please visit OII’s Flickr.

This sectional feature is a part of the Georgia State University homepage story entitled Class of 2014: Portraits of Success.