Chinese in the teen years and beyond

There have been recent discussions in the FB group “Raising Bilingual Children in Chinese and English” that my co-administrator Virginia and I manage regarding the extreme difficulty many parents have in getting their children to learn Chinese in their teen years, living in areas where Chinese is a minority language.

Yes, it is all true.  It is extremely difficult.

It requires tremendous or unusual effort, time, “intelligence”, opportunity, money, or some such combination.

You probably understand very well all the above factors but may find it disconcerting that I include “intelligence”.  Please refer to the end of this entry for a brief discussion on this matter.  As far as the relationship between intelligence and “foreign language learning”, you can find some discussions on the matter in this site.  According to this one paper, “Taken together, the findings of the study are compatible with the conceptualization of language aptitude according to a hierarchical model which subsumes specific abilities of importance in the language classroom under a more encompassing general ability, or general intelligence.”

The point I want to get across is, learning Chinese in this kind of setting is more like learning a foreign language and less like a first language, and such ability correlates with our “general intelligence”, which typical IQ tests try to assess.  This type of “general intelligence” has little correlation to anthropologists’ idea of intelligence, which some consider as the global capacity to adapt to one’s environment and to exploit it to one’s advantage.

Basically, a “smarter” child in the sense of IQ test typically learn things faster, things in the usual academic sense.  So, a “smarter” child can pick up Chinese faster and with less committed resources.  When the kids approach and reach middle and high schools, there are simply tons of worthy pursuits other than Chinese and the opportunity cost to learn Chinese shoots up, typically in the sense of college application.  So,  children and their parents may find it much more appealing to hold off or slow down Chinese learning to pursue other worthy subjects.

This is the reason that, in my Letter to Parents in 2015, I wrote: “Lastly, given the immense effort required to achieve level 3 or above proficiency by mid-teens, I don’t think it is realistic and “necessary” for most heritage families to do so.  I think it is perfectly fine to achieve level 1-2 proficiency by the end of middle school.  For those students who really want to excel in Chinese in high school, college, or beyond, intensive studies then will typically be more efficient and less frustrating.  The difficult part for high school students is time constraint, due to the various academic and extracurricular demands.   However, in college and beyond, a couple of years of living abroad and intensive studying will be all it takes to achieve level 3 to 4 proficiency.”

Four years later, I maintain the same sentiment.  I do, however, want to provide you some real-life examples to assuage your anxiety.

As you may know, my family and I moved from a relatively rural NC community, where my daughters grew up, to metro Atlanta almost two years ago.  Here, I meet middle-aged professionals who immigrated to the states at a young age (say, 3 – 7) and speak Chinese pretty well now (ILR level 3.5-4).  One thing they have in common is their large Chinese speaking clientele.  They had good basics and relearned and picked up much Chinese due to their professional needs.  (I don’t know their reading comprehension proficiency.)

Recently, I met up with two couple friends, who immigrated from Taiwan in their mid 20s and one of their American born and raised daughters.  Their DD was able to speak fair Chinese by the end of high school (ILR ~2) but had limited Chinese reading comprehension.  She is smart, but likely not “crazy” smart.  If I remember correctly, she scored about 98-99th percentile in SAT and ACT with little preparation.  After taking two years of Chinese coursework in college, enough for a minor, I would say her Chinese speaking proficiency is now ILR level 3.  Her writing (typing, of course) and composition picked up tremendously with her course work.  The following is one of her college essays on 程蝶衣 in the 1993 movie, 霸王別姬 (Farewell My Concubine).

Some of the requirements for the essay are as follows.  “The length requirement for all essays is 600-800 Chinese characters. Provide the Chinese character count at the end of each essay…..  You are encouraged to use the dictionary for this assignment, but the use of translation tool is not allowed! You are also encouraged to use grammar and vocabulary beyond what you have learned in class, but you should be able to identify and know the meaning of the new words you used. You may not have a native speaker of Chinese help you write or correct your homework assignments.”

程蝶衣的各種感情

在《霸王別姬》裡,人物的相互關係反映在文化改革的中國社會情況裡面。這部電影隨著程蝶衣的故事,從他小時候呈現在戲班子的生活到他長大以後面對的關於各種關係的挑戰。程蝶衣的故事表達了古時候個人的關係,也讓觀眾看出他的性格怎麼影響他在那個社會的生活。

在電影的前幾分鐘,程蝶衣的媽媽,一位妓女,帶著一個小小的程蝶衣去戲班子,因為她沒辦法在妓院照顧他了。那時候程蝶衣被叫做小豆子,遇到了另外一個男孩,小石頭,開始他在生活中最重要的關係。因為兩個孩子還有其他的科班孩子從他們的師傅受到了非常大的壓力和挨打,所以他們得互相依賴才能繼續練習,繼續長大。小豆子是個年輕貌美的男孩,師傅指定他在戲裡扮演旦,然後小石頭扮演淨,兩個在同台演情侶的情況下一起長大。由於程蝶衣把自己投入到他的扮演角色,他就開始真正的愛上段曉樓。程蝶衣的性格其實很簡單,他很容易愛上他身邊的事,比如說,一開始他不愛戲,可是他沒有別的選擇,為了生活只好學戲,然後慢慢地喜歡上它。段曉樓跟戲一樣,讓程蝶衣有安全感,也天天跟他在一起,因為這個原因程蝶衣才會喜歡段曉樓。

第二個人物關係是戲班子的師傅和程蝶衣。在科班的時候,為了訓練學生,讓他們背腳本背歌詞,師傅以打為主,不管學生說得對說的錯,師傅還是打他們。雖然師傅在孩子的眼睛裡是他們得最尊重的人,但是在社會裡,他的地位其實是很低的,跟妓女的地位差不多。 其實師傅打他們是愛他們的,是為了他們好,也是愛他們的,因為如果這些學生沒有學好戲,那他們根本就沒有機會在傳統的社會裡生活。到程蝶衣長大以後,他變成一位明星了,還是跟段曉樓一起回去科班找他們的師傅,三十歲的時候被師傅打還是能忍受,因為師傅收養了他們,給他們機會。

第三個人物關係是程蝶衣和菊仙複雜的關係。由於菊仙嫁給段曉樓,程蝶衣他從一開始就恨她,她也恨程蝶衣。菊仙本來也是一位妓女,地位也沒比程蝶衣的高,可是程蝶衣心愛的段曉樓愛上了菊仙,沒有愛上他。他的性格比較冷漠,對別人的關係不感興趣,所以其他人如果沒有跟戲有關係,那程蝶衣就不管,他就狠心地不接受菊仙。不過,幾年以後,程蝶衣還是慢慢地容忍菊仙,因為程蝶衣非常愛段曉樓,還有他吸鴉片上癮的時候也收到菊仙的幫忙,到最後為了配合他的好友,就對菊仙好一點,但是在他的心裡還有一些不甘心。

程蝶衣並不是一個有愛的人,可是他很珍惜他和他尊重的人的關係。由於他兩個最愛就是京戲和段曉樓,他最重要的人物關係就跟著兩件事有關。在電影裡,這些不同的關係表達了各種的愛,讓觀眾受到深深的感動。

Here is the simplified Chinese version:

程蝶衣的各种感情

在《霸王别姬》里,人物的相互关系反映在文化改革的中国社会情况里面。这部电影随着程蝶衣的故事,从他小时候呈现在戏班子的生活到他长大以后面对的关于各种关系的挑战。程蝶衣的故事表达了古时候个人的关系,也让观众看出他的性格怎么影响他在那个社会的生活。

在电影的前几分钟,程蝶衣的妈妈,一位妓女,带着一个小小的程蝶衣去戏班子,因为她没办法在妓院照顾他了。那时候程蝶衣被叫做小豆子,遇到了另外一个男孩,小石头,开始他在生活中最重要的关系。因为两个孩子还有其他的科班孩子从他们的师傅受到了非常大的压力和挨打,所以他们得互相依赖才能继续练习,继续长大。小豆子是个年轻貌美的男孩,师傅指定他在戏里扮演旦,然后小石头扮演净,两个在同台演情侣的情况下一起长大。由于程蝶衣把自己投入到他的扮演角色,他就开始真正的爱上段晓楼。程蝶衣的性格其实很简单,他很容易爱上他身边的事,比如说,一开始他不爱戏,可是他没有别的选择,为了生活只好学戏,然后慢慢地喜欢上它。段晓楼跟戏一样,让程蝶衣有安全感,也天天跟他在一起,因为这个原因程蝶衣才会喜欢段晓楼。

第二个人物关系是戏班子的师傅和程蝶衣。在科班的时候,为了训练学生,让他们背脚本背歌词,师傅以打为主,不管学生说得对说的错,师傅还是打他们。虽然师傅在孩子的眼睛里是他们得最尊重的人,但是在社会里,他的地位其实是很低的,跟妓女的地位差不多。其实师傅打他们是爱他们的,是为了他们好,也是爱他们的,因为如果这些学生没有学好戏,那他们根本就没有机会在传统的社会里生活。到程蝶衣长大以后,他变成一位明星了,还是跟段晓楼一起回去科班找他们的师傅,三十岁的时候被师傅打还是能忍受,因为师傅收养了他们,给他们机会。

第三个人物关系是程蝶衣和菊仙复杂的关系。由于菊仙嫁给段晓楼,程蝶衣他从一开始就恨她,她也恨程蝶衣。菊仙本来也是一位妓女,地位也没比程蝶衣的高,可是程蝶衣心爱的段晓楼爱上了菊仙,没有爱上他。他的性格比较冷漠,对别人的关系不感兴趣,所以其他人如果没有跟戏有关系,那程蝶衣就不管,他就狠心地不接受菊仙。不过,几年以后,程蝶衣还是慢慢地容忍菊仙,因为程蝶衣非常爱段晓楼,还有他吸鸦片上瘾的时候也收到菊仙的帮忙,到最后为了配合他的好友,就对菊仙好一点,但是在他的心里还有一些不甘心。

程蝶衣并不是一个有爱的人,可是他很珍惜他和他尊重的人的关系。由于他两个最爱就是京戏和段晓楼,他最重要的人物关系就跟着两件事有关。在电影里,这些不同的关系表达了​​各种的爱,让观众受到深深的感动。

How about that?!!!!  Reflecting back on my own daughters, I now understand why, shortly after turning 13 a few years ago, having read quite a few teenage American novels in Chinese edition, my elder DD was able to compose the following, which could be the beginning of a short story or novella:

下課的鐘終於響了。  我馬上把所有的課本和習作塞進書包裡和跑出教室。  春假開始了。  我得快點敢回家。  我走到許阿姨的麵包店,買了哥哥最喜歡吃的新鮮奶油吐司。  我進家門時突然感到頭暈, 然後正常。  我慢慢的走進客廳,看到哥哥和另一位我不認識的男孩子的背影。  哥哥轉向我而開始微笑。  我給了他一個大擁抱後,把麵包給了他。  哥哥接過了麵包後便給我介紹他旁邊的男孩。

“凱雅, 這是我的朋友維斯。” 哥哥說。  維斯有一雙鑽石藍的眼睛和深咖啡色的頭髮。  他穿著休閑褲子和一件白色的上衣。

“妳好。“ 維斯說。

”你好。“ 我回答。

”維斯跟我是在大學認識的。  因爲他春假沒事所以帶他來。“ 哥哥解釋。

我怎麼覺得維斯好像不太對勁。  每次靠近他時,我的頭越來越暈。  在吃飯時, 我故意坐和他最遠的坐位。  維斯總是令爸媽和哥哥笑而他很有禮貌。  可是我還是覺得他不太對勁。

半夜, 我起來去拿一杯水喝。  當我回來時, 快經過哥哥房間時,聽到他和維斯在悄悄的說話。

”你確定?“ 哥哥問。

”你妹是。“ 維斯回答。

”我妹是我們在尋找的天使?”

“是。”

“你確定?”

“安靜, 有人來了。” 維斯說。

我停下了腳步。

“那是凱莉。” 哥哥說。

我還是站在走廊中間。  為什麼他們在三更半夜講那麽奇怪的話?

“凱莉。  你三更半夜在家裡走來走去幹嘛?“ 哥哥問。

”你們幹嘛三更半夜在講一些奇怪有的沒的?“ 我問。

哥哥把頭探出門外而說, ”妳還沒回答我的問題。“

”你也還沒回答我問你的話。“

“妳先回答我的問題。“ 哥哥又說。

”你們兩個不要吵了。“ 維斯說。

“明天再講吧。  我要睡覺。” 我說便回了房間。

********

(睡夢中……)

太陽的光照射在石門上的圖案。  那些圖案是為了封閉門後面的靈魂。  我拍一拍我雪白的翅膀而降落在門的正前方。從門裡的一些小縫隙我能看到靈魂淡藍色的光。  傑克也在門前降落。

  “妳準備好了嗎?他問。  我點了頭。  我從口袋裡拿出一把銀色的鑰匙然後解開了門上的鎖。  古老的石門慢慢的打開。

********

有人在門上一直敲門。  我看了床頭櫃上的鬧鐘。  現在早上7:45。

“幹嘛?  今天禮拜六。” 我問。

“我們跟你哥哥和維斯要出外爬山。  妳要去嗎?” 媽媽回答。

“不用了。”

“好, 傍晚見喔。”  我聽到大家穿鞋和門上鎖的聲音。  幾分鐘後, 我走進哥哥的房間。  在他的床上有一本很厚的書本。  書的封面是用深色的牛皮所做的而且上面沒有字。我把書拿起來便把它拿回我房間去看。  前幾頁記載著一個神話故事:

她的使命, 是守護他的靈魂。  他為了人類跟地獄的鬼魂爭鬥而喪命。  她答應了湯姆斯她會盡所有能力保護他。  幾百年過去了。  湯姆斯還是沒有回來。  她的答應,也跟著那些年一天天的消失。  直到那天使死了, 他還是沒有回來。 

真是一個悲慘的故事。  我才不會那麽耐心地去等一個永遠沒回來的人。  這個天使也真是的。我再翻了一頁。  這一頁上面寫了不同人的名字。

So, as you can tell, all is not lost for you parents out there!  There is great hope!  I would say your children’s Chinese can improve by leaps and bounds in college and beyond, if they apply themselves later,  with the basics that you painstakingly provide in their youth.  If you have to put Chinese on hold in their teens, just trying to maintain their level of proficiency would be more than fine.

Good luck and good journey!

Oliver

**********************

Like many things in the field of IQ, there is more than enough controversy: “No anthropologist believes that IQ tests measure intelligence. At best he believes that IQ tests measure only a small part of intelligence, and by far the least important part. This is because the anthropologist does not use the word intelligence in the same way as the psychometrician uses it. The anthropologist thinks of intelligence as the individual’s global capacity to adapt to his environment and to exploit it to his, and his group’s, advantage. To the anthropologist, any nonphysical ability possessed by man but not possessed by animals, or possessed in only a rudimentary way by animals, is a legitimate manifestation of intelligence. An individual’s ability to sing, dance, create art, see visions, or fashion tools is as much a part of man’s intelligence as his ability to do geometry or argue philosophy. IQ tests are good estimates of the latter, but have little correlation with the former, and in the context of man’s evolutionary history, the anthropologist considers these non-IQ attributes to be the more important. There can be little wonder, then, that anthropologists regard IQ tests with skepticism. IQ tests are not measures of general adaptability……..  When intelligence tests are factor analyzed, there are normally seven factors extracted: verbal meaning, verbal fluency, reasoning, number, space, memory, and perceptual speed. But all of these factors correlate, or overlap with one another to such a degree that what is common to all of them accounts for most of the variance in test scores. This common property is itself a factor, the general factor, and has been given the symbol g.  All of these factors now have the status of hypothetical constructs, but g is by far the most important of them.  A test is an intelligence test only insofar as it is saturated with gPsychometricians make a conceptual distinction between intelligence and g, but for all practical purposes they treat both terms as interchangeable………. The two with the highest g loadings are the verbal and reasoning factors.

 

母親節表演 Mother’s Day performance

As part of the girls’ Chinese learning, they continue to perform for our family Chinese pop band, “Tu and Only” or 「杜ㄧ無二」.  Since DD#2, “Georgia” is now officially 13, “Tu & Only” is probably the only teenage band of its kind in southeast US or maybe the whole US (?!).  We took a three month break after our four February performances for the Chinese New Year celebration.  Below is our most recent two-song performance for Mother’s Day celebration with over 200 folks in attendance.  By the way, I haven’t played the violin in about thirty years and just bought a violin from Amazon to play for the band.  So, I am a bit rusty!

 

 

Here is the crowd after some have left and others line up for snacks.

 

Chinese debate class update

So the Chinese debate class is moving along, now to the meat of proper debate rules.

Asia Debate will announce the debate topics toward the end of May.  Our team will get to know their assigned topics then.  At the mean time, the coach gave reading-aloud assignment from United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals to build up their Chinese vocabulary and familiarize themselves with UN topics.  The website has simplified Chinese version, which I then copied and converted to traditional Chinese for my girls.  For their initial readings, I changed the font to one with zhuyin to make it easier for them, though alternative pronunciation would not be accounted for.  I sometimes find the translation less than optimal.

Here is what they have to read for Goal 4 on Quality Education:

Goal 4: Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.  目標4:確保包容和公平的優質教育,讓全民終身享有學習機會

Obtaining a quality education is the foundation to creating sustainable development. In addition to improving quality of life, access to inclusive education can help equip locals with the tools required to develop innovative solutions to the world’s greatest problems. 

獲得高質量的教育是改善人民生活和實現可持續發展的基礎。除了提高生活質量之外,獲得包容性教育還有助於本地人掌握開發創新型解決方案所必需的工具,以解決世界上最棘手的問題。

Over 265 million children are currently out of school and 22% of them are of primary school age. Additionally, even the children who are attending schools are lacking basic skills in reading and math. In the past decade, major progress has been made towards increasing access to education at all levels and increasing enrollment rates in schools particularly for women and girls. Basic literacy skills have improved tremendously, yet bolder efforts are needed to make even greater strides for achieving universal education goals. For example, the world has achieved equality in primary education between girls and boys, but few countries have achieved that target at all levels of education.

目前,超過2.65億兒童失學,其中22%為小學適齡兒童。此外,上學的兒童也缺乏基本的閱讀和數學技能。過去十年間,在增加各級教育機會、提高入學率,尤其是婦女和女童的入學率方面取得了重大進展。基本的識字技能大有提高,但還需作出更為大膽的努力,在實現普及教育的目標方面取得更大進展。比如,世界在初級教育階段已經實現了男女平等,但在所有教育階段都實現這個目標的國家並不多。

The reasons for lack of quality education are due to lack of adequately trained teachers, poor conditions of schools and equity issues related to opportunities provided to rural children. For quality education to be provided to the children of impoverished families, investment is needed in educational scholarships, teacher training workshops, school building and improvement of water and electricity access to schools.

缺乏優質教育的原因在於缺乏訓練有素的教師、學校條件不佳以及農村兒童機會公平問題。為了給貧困家庭的兒童提供優質教育,需要在教育獎學金、師資培訓、學校建設和改善學校飲用水及電力設施方面進行投資。

 

Facts and Figures 事實與數據

  • Enrollment in primary education in developing countries has reached 91 per cent but 57 million primary age children remain out of school.  發展中國家的初等教育入學率達到了91%,但仍有5700萬兒童失學。
  • More than half of children that have not enrolled in school live in sub-Saharan Africa.  未入學的兒童中,超過半數生活在撒哈拉以南非洲。
  • An estimated 50 per cent of out-of-school children of primary school age live in conflict-affected areas.  據估計,50%的小學適齡失學兒童生活在受衝突影響的地區。
  • 617 million youth worldwide lack basic mathematics and literacy skills.  全球有6.17億名青少年缺乏基本的數學和識字技能。

 

Goal 4 targets 目標4的具體目標

4.1 By 2030, ensure that all girls and boys complete free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education leading to relevant and Goal-4 effective learning outcomes.  到2030年,確保所有男女童完成免費、公平和優質的中小學教育,並取得相關和有效的學習成果。

4.2 By 2030, ensure that all girls and boys have access to quality early childhood development, care and preprimary education so that they are ready for primary education.  到2030年,確保所有男女童獲得優質幼兒發展、看護和學前教育,為他們接受初級教育做好準備。

4.3 By 2030, ensure equal access for all women and men to affordable and quality technical, vocational and tertiary education, including university.  到2030年,確保所有男女平等獲得負擔得起的優質技術、職業和高等教育,包括大學教育。

4.4 By 2030, substantially increase the number of youth and adults who have relevant skills, including technical and vocational skills, for employment, decent jobs and entrepreneurship.  到2030年,大幅增加掌握就業、體面工作和創業所需相關技能,包括技術性和職業性技能的青年和成年人數。

4.5 By 2030, eliminate gender disparities in education and ensure equal access to all levels of education and vocational training for the vulnerable, including persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples and children in vulnerable situations.  到2030年,消除教育中的性別差距,確保殘疾人、土著居民和處境脆弱兒童等弱勢群體平等獲得各級教育和職業培訓。

4.6 By 2030, ensure that all youth and a substantial proportion of adults, both men and women, achieve literacy and numeracy.  到2030年,確保所有青年和大部分成年男女具有識字和計算能力。

4.7 By 2030, ensure that all learners acquire the knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development, including, among others, through education for sustainable development and sustainable lifestyles, human rights, gender equality, promotion of a culture of peace and non-violence, global citizenship and appreciation of cultural diversity and of culture’s contribution to sustainable development.  到2030年,確保所有進行學習的人都掌握可持續發展所需的知識和技能,具體做法包括開展可持續發展、可持續生活方式、人權和性別平等方面的教育、弘揚和平和非暴力文化、提升全球公民意識,以及肯定文化多樣性和文化對可持續發展的貢獻。

4.A Build and upgrade education facilities that are child, disability and gender sensitive and provide safe, nonviolent, inclusive and effective learning environments for all.  建立和改善兼顧兒童、殘疾和性別平等的教育設施,為所有人提供安全、非暴力、包容和有效的學習環境。

4.B By 2020, substantially expand globally the number of scholarships available to developing countries, in particular least developed countries, small island developing States and African countries, for enrolment in higher education, including vocational training and information and communications technology, technical, engineering and scientific programmes, in developed countries and other developing countries.  到2020年,在全球範圍內大幅增加發達國家和部分發展中國家為發展中國家,特別是最不發達國家、小島嶼發展中國家和非洲國家提供的高等教育獎學金數量,包括職業培訓和信息通信技術、技術、工程、科學項目的獎學金。

4.C By 2030, substantially increase the supply of qualified teachers, including through international cooperation for teacher training in developing countries, especially least developed countries and small island developing states.  到2030年,大幅增加合格教師人數,具體做法包括在發展中國家,特別是最不發達國家和小島嶼發展中國家開展師資培訓方面的國際合作。

Changing direction – social studies textbook

DD#2, “Georgia”, almost 13 now, is finishing up reading aloud to fluency the first semester Chinese Language Art (CLA) textbook from Taiwan. My original plan was to move onto six grade second semester textbook, which would be the natural progression. But, now that she recently joined the newly organized Chinese debate team, I am changing our plan.

Debate Asia, the organization that runs the Chinese debate competition, frequently uses as debate topics subjects that are of concern to the United Nation. There are, therefore, much use of social studies terminology and language, in Chinese of course.  Regular CLA textbooks would not be efficient in providing such subject languages exposure. 

The following two pictures are from a 7th grade second semester CLA textbook that I prepared for my DDs before. 

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Compare the above with the following images from an 8th grade second semester social studies textbook.

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As you can clearly see, the social studies textbook provides excellent and efficient exposure to relevant Chinese terminology and language.  It is also fitting that these materials overlap with Georgia’s English based social studies course material at school, which makes learning via scaffold reading experience (SRE) possible.

Yes, it is more boring to read these social studies textbook aloud, but I hope she can appreciate the language knowledge soon, when her debate competition gets closer and closer.  We will see how it goes!

(There are videos online which go over much of materials presented in the textbook, but some narrators kind of just read the slide content off the screen, which is boring.  Their pronunciation could be “better” also.)

Chinese Debate Team

Five students, including my two daughters, signed up for the junior team (16 years of age and below) at this point, with several other potential candidates.  They started training last weekend.  The coach is a Chinese-English bilingual debate instructor educated and trained in debate competition in Taiwan throughout his high school and college years.  He coaches secondary school English debate team here in his spare time and got his team to second place in this year’s debate competition at Harvard.

This is the first year that an American team competes in this Chinese debate competition in Asia.  Certainly, with only a couple of months of training till summer competition in Taipei and with obvious disadvantages, the goal this year is to gain exposure and experience with eyes toward the following years.

Below are two YouTube videos showing the teams which competed last year and one of the actual debate in Hong Kong.

Here are a few photos and a video of our team’s first training session.

 

Fewer posts

One reader noted that I don’t blog as much about my DD’s Chinese learning journey these days.  That is absolutely true. There is simply less to blog about these days, as we are mostly in late consolidation to maintenance phase.  For me, most of the work for Chinese learning before they finish high school would have been done toward the end of middle school.

DD#1 “Charlotte”, almost 16, is finishing up 10th grade.  She has already switched track and commit most of her effort and time to academic and extracurricular activities with emphasis on future college application.  She attends a competitive high school and it is harder to stand out these days.  I have her do just a little maintenance type of Chinese reading to keep up her proficiency.  We continue to converse in Chinese at home, though I do have to correct her often as our conversation topics and depth increase further.  We spend maybe 15-20 minutes a day watching a Chinese high school teen soap 「致我们单纯的小美好」or “A Love So Beautiful.  She loves the show but cringes at the awkward teen puppy love interactions, LOL.

Charlotte does attend a Saturday simplified Chinese “AP” class a couple of times a month just to maintain some exposure to AP Chinese topics.  There are only two to three students in the class, one of whom is my DD#2.  That class provides more of an exposure to the Chinese AP topics rather than being a test preparation course.  It is unfortunate that her high school doesn’t have Chinese AP class.  However, since my goal has never been about test taking and has always been about actually knowing and using Chinese as a communication tool, I am not sweating it and would rather that she commits her time to other areas.  For more formal instruction, I recently resumed having her read aloud select piece in CLA textbook about 10-15 minutes a day several days a week, picking up where we left off almost two years ago in 6th grade CLA textbooks.  That’s all the time she can commit to Chinese these days.  But we hope to move onto junior high level textbooks soon.

The good news is that she has just been recruited to join a brand-new southeast regional Chinese debate team that will compete in Taiwan with teams across Asia at the end of the summer.  This is a wonderful opportunity to hone in her Chinese colloquial proficiency, as I have been seeking out extracurricular activities that require much actual Chinese usage.  Since there are few such activities for teens, we often have to come up with our own, such as our band.  To receive coaching in Chinese for debate conducted in Chinese is like a dream-comes-true.  So, hopefully the whole things goes smoothly.

As for my almost 13 years old DD#2 “Georgia”, we continue to do Chinese read aloud exercises 5 days a week as mentioned in recent blog entries.  She is using 6th grade textbook also, moving at a faster pace than “Charlotte” three years back.  She attends the same casual Saturday “AP” Chinese classes every week, which I plan for her to repeat next year to improve her familiarity with simplified Chinese and get really acquainted with the material.  She watches about 30 minutes of Chinese drama 後宮甄嬛傳 with me at night, which she loves.

“Georgia” is also finishing up reading the third book (out of four) of 神雕俠侶 kungfu novel.  I recently printed the remainder of the novel out with zhuyin included, since her comprehension and reading speed do go up with them.  I plan to have her finish reading this novel with zhuyin assistance and then try another 金庸‘s kungfu novel without zhuyin.  She doesn’t particularly enjoy reading Chinese kungfu novel (but loves watching such TV shows) and that’s why it has been taking this long.  Maybe I should have her pick out the next novel herself.

“Georgia” was also recruited to try out the Chinese debate team as well.  She took three semesters of English debate classes before; so, this will be an excellent opportunity for her as well.  In terms of her English, she is doing extra reading comprehension exercises to “close the gap” further.  She is in accelerated ELA class one grade level higher at school, but can still work on her English more.  She is not one of those “brilliant” kids who are two-three years (or more) ahead in multiple subjects.  My best guess is that such “brilliant” kids probably have IQ (in the general sense) of around 150  (~1 in 2,000 people) or higher.

In terms of our band, we performed four times in February and are taking a little break.  We plan to work on one popular Cantonese and one Taiwanese song in the coming months.

Overall, IMHO, how well a child handles Chinese-English bilingual education in the tween to teen years, even with favorable Chinese Language Ecosystem (CLE), depends much on the individual’s general intellect, given high level competition for top college spots these days.  Most children likely need to divert attention away from Chinese learning to participate in the college application rat race.  So, it is ever more important that the majority of a solid Chinese instruction and foundation be laid down by the end of middle school.

翠玉白菜 (Jadeite Cabbage) – expository writing

About 5 weeks out from when DD#2, “Georgia”, started working on a 6th grade Chinese Language Art textbook (first semester) from Taiwan, she is right on track, at a pace of one chapter a week.  She just finished reading to fluency chapter 5.  It is on 翠玉白菜 or Jadeite Cabbage, a piece of jadeite carved into the shape of a Chinese cabbage head with insects on the leaves.  It is a prized piece at the National Palace Museum in Taipei.

This is a tougher piece for her to read aloud, given it is an expository and descriptive writing, with more difficult expressions and wording.  I think she’s got it down pretty good after working on it for about an hour and half, spread over five days or so.

 

第五課  翠玉白菜

玉是一種半透明、具有光澤的美石,中國人極愛玉石的雅致和溫潤,喜歡拿玉來比喻美麗或尊貴,更將玉石巧雕成各式各樣的吉祥造型。

玉器的製作相當費工、費時,玉匠為了充分利用玉料,雕琢時會順應其自然天成的外形或色澤來設計製作,這就是所謂的「量材就質」。故宮博物院典藏的「翠玉白菜」,就是依循這種理念的經典之作,因為奇巧無比,所以成為名聞中外的藝術品。

一般而言,質純的玉石呈白色,有些因為含有不同的金屬元素,會呈現翠綠色或赤色。翠玉白菜就是以一塊半白半綠的玉料雕成,玉匠巧妙利用玉質顏色的變化,將玉石綠色部分,雕出翻捲的菜葉;白色部分,雕出脈絡分明的菜莖,白、綠的漸層變化,渾然天成,有如一顆鮮嫩欲滴,可以掐出水來的白菜。更有趣的是,玉匠巧妙的在葉片上雕了活靈活現的螽斯和蝗蟲,這神來一筆,讓原本靜態寫實的作品,頓時活潑起來,充滿令人驚喜的動態美。

翠玉白菜原是北京紫禁城永和宮中的陳設品,是清末光緒皇帝的妃子——瑾妃的嫁妝。這件嫁妝不但貴重,還隱含著父母對出嫁女兒的祝福:白菜寓意清白,象徵新娘的純潔;螽斯,俗稱「紡織娘」,能高聲鳴唱,而且繁殖力很強,用來祝福新娘多子多孫。

遠近馳名的翠玉白菜,結合了玉料天然的美和玉匠精湛的雕工,除了令人賞心悅目,還有一層寓意傳情的物外之趣,堪稱為玉器中的珍品,也讓所有慕名前來參觀的人,留下深刻的印象。

 

第五课  翠玉白菜

玉是一种半透明、具有光泽的美石,中国人极爱玉石的雅致和温润,喜欢拿玉来比喻美丽或尊贵,更将玉石巧雕成各式各样的吉祥造型。

玉器的制作相当费工、费时,玉匠为了充分利用玉料,雕琢时会顺应其自然天成的外形或色泽来设计制作,这就是所谓的「量材就质」。故宫博物院典藏的「翠玉白菜」,就是依循这种理念的经典之作,因为奇巧无比,所以成为名闻中外的艺术品。

一般而言,质纯的玉石呈白色,有些因为含有不同的金属元素,会呈现翠绿色或赤色。翠玉白菜就是以一块半白半绿的玉料雕成,玉匠巧妙利用玉质颜色的变化,将玉石绿色部分,雕出翻卷的菜叶;白色部分,雕出脉络分明的菜茎,白、绿的渐层变化,浑然天成,有如一颗鲜嫩欲滴,可以掐出水来的白菜。更有趣的是,玉匠巧妙的在叶片上雕了活灵活现的螽斯和蝗虫,这神来一笔,让原本静态写实的作品,顿时活泼起来,充满令人惊喜的动态美。

翠玉白菜原是北京紫禁城永和宫中的陈设品,是清末光绪皇帝的妃子——瑾妃的嫁妆。这件嫁妆不但贵重,还隐含着父母对出嫁女儿的祝福:白菜寓意清白,象征新娘的纯洁;螽斯,俗称「纺织娘」,能高声鸣唱,而且繁殖力很强,用来祝福新娘多子多孙。

远近驰名的翠玉白菜,结合了玉料天然的美和玉匠精湛的雕工,除了令人赏心悦目,还有一层寓意传情的物外之趣,堪称为玉器中的珍品,也让所有慕名前来参观的人,留下深刻的印象。