Our family band “Tu & Only” (杜ㄧ無二）performed three times this month for various Chinese New Year festivities. To get a glimpse of my DD’s (12 and 15) current colloquial fluency and accent, at least on a scripted level, you can listen to their introductory remarks at the beginning of the first video. They do speak Chinese at home with each other about 80% of the time, at least when I am around. When they say things incorrectly in Chinese or don’t know how to say certain things in Chinese, I do my best to correct them and then ask them to repeat it a few times. Since I left Taiwan after fifth grade, not infrequently do I have to look up things I don’t know how to express in Chinese as well. We then learn to say it together. These are normal part of our lives and the girls don’t get mad at me for doing so.
I learned to play the bass guitar (very badly though) a year ago so that I can play along with the girls. Then, I got busy at work and haven’t practiced much. A few months ago, I decided to learn to play the drum (also very badly….) and let DD#2 play some of the bass. I learn just enough to get by.
We performed four songs at a Chinese New Year celebration in Atlanta this past Sunday. There was a crowd of probably 250-300 people with standing room only. Here is their introductory remark and first song, 朋友 (Friends) by 周華健. (I missed a few notes. Sigh…..)
The next video is DD#2 singing 楊培安‘s 「我相信」 (I Believe).
Our third song was better recorded from an evening church performance the day before. It is 流星, the Chinese version of “Yellow” by Coldplay, one of the theme songs in the movie “Crazy Rich Asian” last summer.
The last song is the classic CNY song 恭喜恭喜 by 陳歌辛. You can listen to their closing remarks at the end of the video.
Our band is getting better with each performance over the past year, though we still need to squeeze in vocal lessons in the future. A major local Chinese school troupe just asked us to collaborate with them in the future! Not bad for the end of our first year! Our family band has certainly brought the family even closer and has given us more things to talk about, in Chinese of course!
I didn’t write much last year. I had a busy year at work and we did not do nearly as much Chinese as I would like. This year, I am switching to a new position, which will give me more family time, a much needed luxury these days.
DD#1, “Charlotte”, is now in 10th grade. She took a high school Chinese IV online class last summer, which was easy for her. It is unfortunate that her school doesn’t have AP Chinese class. We are considering forgoing taking the Chinese AP test, as she has other school work, AP test, extracurricular activities to attend to. My concern has always been their actual Chinese functional proficiency and literacy and not about taking tests. To maintain her Chinese and interest, Charlotte and I now watch a little bit of 致我們單純的小美好 (A love so beautiful), a 2017 high school web series drama from China, available on Netflix.
DD#2, “Georgia”, is now in 7th grade. Last year, she only got to do some traditional Chinese textbook reading and learning at home. She has been attending Chinese Saturday classes using simplified character this year. It is a very small school and very casual. We chose that school since it is super close to our neighborhood. I had her focus on learning to read simplified Chinese. Basically, I ask her to read the simplified Chinese textbook passages to fluency. This year, the small class (2-3 students) she attends mainly go over Chinese cultural materials for the Chinese AP test, but with little structured instruction. She does minimal writing this past two years, which is just fine with me. For myself, I hardly wrote any Chinese for about 30 years after I left Taiwan after fifth grade. Then, I just started composing in Chinese through typing. Certainly my writings are not 100% “grammatically” correct but I think I convey decently well what I want to say.
Georgia and I watched a few Chinese TV drama series last year. After finishing up 女醫民明妃傳 of the Ming Dynasty early least year, we watched 那年花開月正圓, a late Ching Dynasty drama starring 孫儷. We then watched 延熙攻略 (Story of Yanxi Palace) in the fall, a super popular Ching dynasty last summer. It was a fantastic show and Georgia (and I !) got hooked the very first episode. We typically spend about 30-40 minutes watching Chinese TV drama after her evening studies.
Georgia loves Chinese TV shows depicting the infighting among the empress, consorts, and concubines of the Ching emperors. So, I pulled up some information from Wikipedia and have her read some of the following passages. I have another version with zhuyin added, since this is a difficult passage for her otherwise.
Georgia particularly loves information about the titles of the various consort and concubines.
Georgia is also familiar with the names of the various buildings that housed the consorts. So, I printed a map of the Forbidden City and we made sense of their living quarter arrangement.
延熙攻略 was excellent. After we finished watching it, Georgia wanted more. So, we are now watching an equally famous drama 後宮甄嬛傳 (Empresses in the Palace) from 2011, a fictional historical drama of the court of Ching’s Emperor Youngzheng. It also stars 孫儷.
With more time this year at my disposal, I have Georgia pick up her pace of traditional Chinese textbook reading. She finally finished reading (aloud, to fluency) the 5th grade Chinese Language Art textbook that we have at home. The following two passages were the last two chapters that we went over. Each passages takes about 40-60 minutes of practice to read aloud fluently, which we spread out over four days or so.
So, this is where we are right now. I am learning new stuff myself since I only went through 5th grade in Taiwan about 35 years ago. There are characters that I had either incorrectly pronounced before, mainly heteronym, or characters that I didn’t know how to pronounce previously. I hope that Georgia will finish 6th grade textbooks by the end of summer and then we can move onto junior high textbook in the fall.
As far as our family band is concerned, we are still performing and have two performances this month for the Chinese New Year celebration. I hope to write another blog entry on that later.