Father-daughter bonding

by Don Bingham

Most fathers have a special place in their hearts for their daughters, and Dr. James France and his daughter, Nicki, are unique in their relationship — they are both fluent in the Chinese language!  

James is a doctor at Conway Urology, and Nicki’s mother, Dr. Diane France, practices medicine at France-Tilley Family Medicine. Nicki is a recent graduate of Bard College in New York with a joint major in Chinese language and art. 

To add to this amazing story, Nicki’s brother, Ryley, made 36 on his ACT test and celebrates the family heritage of talents and gifting as well. It seems to “run in the family” with grandparents who are avid readers — curious, open minded and progressive. 

James’ father is deceased, but his mom, Doris, remains actively serving the community at age 80.

Much of the love and passion for China, the Chinese people and their language originated with Janet Lane, a local Chinese resident in the Conway area. At a dinner party with several couples, Janet encouraged the couples to involve their children in the study of the Chinese language. 

Many took the challenge, with Nicki continuing for years of study with Janet, which passed on to her dad.

James studied with her once a week for many years and continues to this day. The result has been Nicki’s degree in the language, multiple trips to China for the France family and even a published novel in comic form in the Chinese language and culture, written and artistically produced by Nicki.

Dr. France and Nicki both agree that Janet made the study fun. 

“Janet is outgoing, friendly, generous, very opinionated and a wonderful cook,” said Nicki. “The Chinese culture has the attitude that food is a celebration, and social dining is an integral part of the lifestyle — the meal involves many courses — the last dish is always a fish presentation!”

Not only were there private lessons with Janet, but lessons at the University of Central Arkansas  — learning phonetic helpers, radicals and systems involved with writing and speaking the language. 

The “tonal based” language requires a challenging use of pitch to give proper definition to words. Nicki just completed a “level four” exam that will enable her to qualify for further study.

“I am regularly asking my daughter for help with my homework,” said James.

While the lifestyle of a doctor is demanding, James still tries to work in an occasional movie with the family, along with reading, enjoying comedy, artwork and music. But there is a special delight in China and the Chinese language.

When asked about her passion for study, Nicki encourages the student to “be motivated to push outside one’s comfortable environment.” 

She is certainly a good example of the concept. She recently spoke at the Chinese University of Technology (in the Chinese, of course) on the amazing depth and invigorating experience of Toad Suck Daze. 

The entire family is highly motivated to return to China, and Nicki is completing her portfolio for entrance into the Art University in San Francisco. 

501 LIFE wishes the France Family a “Happy Father’s Day!”