VINTON–Downtown Vinton is unique and even contradictory in many ways. It is filled with historic buildings, some undergoing dramatic renovations, but also has a new state-of-the-art public library. It has recently become home to the only craft brewery in Roanoke County.
Strangely enough, Vinton also has a Chinese language school located at the HIVE Business Incubation Center on Pollard Street. The school is affiliated with Dreyer Coaching, whose instructors teach English to Chinese students around the world.
The HIVE (Home of Innovative and Visionary Entrepreneurs) is the brainchild of The Advancement Foundation (TAF) president and founder Annette Patterson. The HIVE serves as “a launching pad for local businesses and non-profits” and offers aspiring business owners a professional setting with low overhead.
Last winter and spring, the HIVE hosted business classes for fledgling entrepreneurs which concluded with the Gauntlet Business Competition in April in which about $100,000 in prizes were awarded to beginning business owners. Dreyer Coaching was one of those businesses to be recognized at the highest level, winning $10,000 in cash and prizes.
Scott Dreyer owns Dreyer Coaching which offers online ESL lessons internationally for those who want to learn real world English. The majority of those students are in Taiwan and Mainland China, ranging in age from children just starting to learn English to adult professionals.
His wife Deborah Dreyer, who he describes as “an integral part of the company,” does the reverse. She teaches Mandarin Chinese to English speakers in the Roanoke area. She operates the Chinese language school at the HIVE, teaching classes on Mondays and Thursdays from 4 to 5 p.m. She is from Taiwan and a native speaker of Mandarin Chinese and Taiwanese.
The couple met in Taiwan. Scott Dreyer is originally from Roanoke. After graduating from William and Mary, he moved to Taiwan in 1989, where he worked as a teacher and as a pastor. They married in 1992 and began their family in Taiwan before returning to the United States in 1999. Their family grew to include four children—all fluent in Chinese. They now live in Vinton.
Deborah Dreyer has several years of experience in teaching Chinese to both adults and to Patrick Henry and Hidden Valley High School students. Two of her students did so well that when they entered the College of William and Mary, they were able to test into higher level Chinese classes. She also currently teaches art at nearby Parkway Christian Academy.
The Dreyers say there are a variety of motivations which would lead a child or adult to enroll in Chinese language classes. While Chinese students abroad learning English with Dreyer Coaching are mainly between 7 and 17 years old, Deborah Dreyer’s students here learning Chinese are generally high school and college age. Some want to learn the language for personal gratification, to be able to list the accomplishment on college applications or business resumes, or for use in business or travel.
A current student, retired CPA Steven Lawrence, searched for a local class in Chinese because he is leaving on an extended three-month mission trip to Taiwan in February. This will be his second trip to Taiwan for mission work.
Lawrence believes that he will be better able to share his message if the Taiwanese see–and hear–that he has made the attempt to communicate with them in their native language. He believes even a rudimentary knowledge of the Chinese language will “open more doors” than communicating primarily through a translator.
Lawrence says he feels “called by God” to this particular mission, where “the need is great.”
He is involved with the Awana program at First Baptist Church in Roanoke and will be working to establish the program in Taiwan as well. Awana is a global, nonprofit ministry for ages 2 to 18 that actively involves two million children and youth, along with their parents and church leaders.
Once there he will be living with a missionary couple who he says will be a help to him in adapting to the culture and in expanding his knowledge of the language.
Lawrence discovered the Dreyers through inquiries and word of mouth reputation after attempting first to take an online class. They are known for establishing the Roanoke Chinese Church, a ministry of Cave Spring Baptist Church.
Scott Dreyer commends Lawrence for making the effort to learn the language of the culture he will be immersed in when he reaches Taiwan.
“It is rare for someone to make the effort to speak the language,” said Dreyer. He says that Lawrence is cognizant of the fact that he is “going into their culture in Taiwan; they aren’t coming to him.”
During one recent class session, Deborah Dreyer and Lawrence focused on learning some basic questions and responses to them, such as “Where is your home?” and “How many children do you have?”
Her teaching method emphasizes repetitive practice in speaking and writing. The only supplies needed are a three-ring binder, a pencil—with what will be an oft-used eraser—and “curiosity.” She provides the other materials. The cost is a mere $10 per class.
While the English language is made up of 26 letters, the Chinese written language is composed of thousands of characters. Some characters are almost “word pictures.” Most are not. Most characters are composed of several writing strokes—some require up to 19 separate strokes.
There are four tones—or pitches—in speaking Chinese. The meaning of a word may change by the inflection it is given.
Learning Chinese is a long-term commitment—and there is homework.
Dreyer teaches Chinese conversation, writing, listening, pronunciation, the four tones, and some art, history, and geography as well—all “face to face.”. She determines the student’s intent for learning the language and tailors the lessons to their needs.
On her website, Dreyer quotes some interesting statistics. “If you can speak English and Chinese, you can talk with over one half of the world. There are more people in China learning English than there are people in the United States, period. For every one U.S. citizen, there are more than four Chinese people. There are more gifted students in China than there are total students in the United States.”
Scott Dreyer believes that, “It is crucial as the world is getting smaller that countries understand one another and language is a big part of that.”
Anyone interested in learning to speak and write Chinese in local classes, may contact Deborah Dreyer by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 540-525-1269.