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HELEN T. LIN OVERVIEW

Helen T. Lin (DAI Zhu Yu, 林悆,), a professor of Chinese language and literature at Wellesley College, was affectionately known by her students as Lin Tai Tai  (林太太) or Mu Lao Hu (母老虎, mother tiger). Throughout her career, Helen broke many barriers in the field of Chinese language pedagogy, particularly in the teaching of grammar and the use of politically current and culturally relevant curricula.  She also demystified the Chinese language, insisting that mastery of Chinese is not an innate function of ethnicity or heredity, but of understanding the language holistically in the context of Chinese culture and society.


Helen began teaching Chinese at the Foreign Language Institute in Taiwan (1957-1962), and subsequently at the Institute of Far Eastern Languages at Yale (1962-1966).  She started the Chinese program at Wellesley College in 1966, growing it into a full-fledged department that offered a Chinese Studies major.  She taught there until her death in 1986.  She also taught at Middlebury College’s Chinese Language Summer School from 1972 -1976, serving as Director 1973 – 1976.  During the 1980s, Helen traveled to China frequently to conduct teacher trainings and exchanges about teaching Chinese.


Helen achieved eminence in her field despite the absence of academic credentials from an American university.  Her accomplishments were based on the strength of her substantive expertise, her commitment to her students and teaching and, above all, her willingness to break barriers -- not simply for the sake of doing so, but in service to her students and colleagues. For this reason, many of Helen’s students have played a leading role in their respective fields.