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Parent Interview: Brett Hughes

As you might know, I am always looking for people to share their ideas and experiences on education and parenting.

If you read my former post: Parent Interview: Oliver Tu, I hope you learned something.

In this post I am going to interview Brett Hughes.

Brett and his wife Betsy raised three bilingual/multilingual children Xander 展涛 ( zhǎn tāo ),Vaughn 展望 ( zhǎn wàng ) and Quinn 可馨 ( kě xīn ).

When I first watched Xander, Vaughn and Quinn’s YouTube channel Hey, World! · 你好世界!,I was very impresses with their Chinese skills.

That is why I decided to interview their parents to know more stories behind the scene.

In this interview, Brett shared his insightful ideas about parenting and raising bilingual children in a new century.

I am sure my readers will get some ideas from this interview. Enjoy your reading.

1, Tell us about yourself. 

My wife and I raise three kids just west of Minneapolis. Xander (13) is in seventh grade, Vaughn (11) is in sixth grade and Quinn (9) is in fourth grade.

Each of us plays piano, violin and/or guitar and we enjoy sports, especially baseball, football and gymnastics.

The kids are avid readers and enjoy composing, making videos and, occasionally, playing video games.

Betsy is a director of global market intelligence for a medical device manufacturer while I have been an at-home parent for the last 13 years while working out of the house.

Previously I enjoyed stints making TV commercials, working in theater and doing corporate marketing.

Through all these years of bottles, boo-boos, birthdays and ball games, I’ve found time to become a writer and, most recently, develop a kid-hosted YouTube Channel in Mandarin with English subtitles called Hey, World! 你好世界!

There is more information and links to content at

2, Which language(s) do you speak?

I am a native English speaker who can get through simple conversations in German and Spanish and I know just enough Chinese to embarrass myself.

I am truly envious of my kids who have been learning Chinese and Spanish since they were toddlers.

3, Why did you decide to raise English and Chinese bilingual children? Any tips, stories and lessons?

I always say we have two reasons for pursuing Chinese.

First, Mandarin is the most commonly used language in the world with over one billion speakers.

Considering there are “just” 301 million Americans, being bi- or trilingual gives a student or young professional from the United States a distinct advantage.

Even when real-time translation technology is perfected, there will be no substitute for face-to-face genuine conversation or the ability to internalize thoughts in a non-native language.

The second reason we are raising bilingual speakers is because of the way a tonal language requires the brain to use both hemispheres.

Most languages don’t require use of the right hemisphere to process pitch and tone while one is speaking or listening.

We added violin to our musical repertoire for the same reason to build more neurological connections and challenge the kids’ brains at an age when these connections can be more easily built and maintained.

4, Why did you decide to have a YouTube channel? Any interesting stories to share?

We created Hey, World! 你好世界! because we want to share our love of language, travel, learning and family with others.

We want to leave a record of what it’s like for an American kid to grow up with a Mandarin-immersion education in the early 21st century.

We hope to build an international audience and interact with viewers both home and abroad.

It’s also a great resource for the kids to build new skills while putting their Chinese studies to use in a fun and rewarding way.

We’re always looking for viewer questions to which we can respond and invite your readers to contact Xander, Vaughn and Quinn with their questions or suggestions.

One story that comes to mind took place at the amusement park in the famous Mall of America when a boy came up to Vaughn and asked him if he and his siblings were the Hey, World! 你好世界! kids.

He was a Mandarin student from another school who had seen all the videos and was genuinely thrilled to meet the kids.

Everyone was motivated to get to work on the next episode after that!

5,  Any parenting tips to share with other parents?

I think there are a few things that have help us find happiness as a family.

We keep a very busy schedule but try to make sure the kids have free time every day.

We’ve let them forget a violin on orchestra day or suffer through missing a deadline at school to learn from a small failure.

We read books around the kids and try to leave our phones down unless we need them. We hug a lot and we dance and sing together.

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