March updates with impending COVID-19 outbreak

I hope all of you (US) are getting prepared (or are prepared) for and educated on COVID-19.

For one thing, it has been good for the girls to be fluent in Chinese during China’s early battle against COVID-19, when much of the primary source of information were in Chinese.  Our whole family have been keeping tab on COVID-19 development on news commentary shows from Taiwan, like 關鍵時刻 and 年代向錢看, that provide daily analysis on weekdays, with the “real story” from China, Korea, Japan, and the rest of the world.  Armed with such information, we were able to start preparing early on (before price gouging on some items) and even saved some money by getting out of stock mutual fund before the stock market started crashing for our retirement account.  The girls also read a couple of Chinese newspaper clips on COVID-19.

CHINESE POP BAND: COVID-19 did force the cancellation of one of our band performances in February, which was just fine, since we already performed three times over the winter.  Our band’s next performance will be in May, for Mother’s Day, but that will likely be canceled with how things are going now.  So, the girls are primarily working on our own band songs now.

CHINESE DEBATE:  As a result of COVID-19, Debate Asia (亞洲盃中文辯論錦標賽) has not make announcement on its 6th annual competition, 六國封相. It was going to be held in China in late July but, obviously, this is now extremely unlikely to take place.  The coach is looking into an alternative competition in Taiwan in July, 蘇州盃高中職辯論錦標賽.  This competition was previously limited to high school teams in Taiwan, but is now open to international teams for the first time.  Though Taiwan has done an exceptional job so far in her battle against COVID-19, anything can happen between now and July.  By then, air travel and large gathering may still be risky and there may be travel restrictions to Taiwan from the US, at the rate this is going.  So, I am not optimistic that the girls will be able to compete this summer.  But, regardless, the team is still training and that’s what counts.  At this point, the team is working on “Should UBI (universal basic income) replace means-tested welfare programs?”

CHINESE READING: DD#2 is pretty done with 7th grade first semester CLA textbook from Taiwan.  The last lesson she practiced reading aloud was a 1925 essay “背影“ by 朱自親.  It was the second to the last chapter but I have her skip the last chapter since it was just a simple short story.




Instead of having DD#2 move unto 7th grade second semester textbook, I now just ask her to do readings on the AP Chinese study guide (and typing).  I figure she might as well get it started and take the AP exam either in 9th grade or 10th grade.  DD#1 ended up not being able to take the AP Chinese exam this year (11th grade) since the schools that offer it locally (not available at her own school) ran out of spots early.  It might as well be that way since she would have to take her AP Bio exam in the morning and then get to another school for afternoon’s AP Chinese exam.  That may end up to be too much of a rush.  Oh well….



DD#2 finished watching 皓蘭傳, a 2019’s historical fictional TV series, which was loosely based on the life story of the 趙姬, the mother of 秦始王 (Qin Shi-Huang), who was the “first” emperor of China at around 200 BC.  So, DD#2 learned about 呂不韋 of 呂氏春秋, 長平之戰 in which Qin buried 200,000 surrendered soldiers alive, and how 秦始王 came about.



Now, we shifted back to 金庸’s work, 鹿鼎記, which will provide DD#2 with the historical background surrounding the first phase of the Qing dynasty in the 17th century.  For those of you who know this novel, you won’t find it surprising that my DD#2 is having a blast watching 偉小寶!  We are watching the 2014 TV series.










「兒時記趣」朗讀 (Childhood Story)

兒時記趣 (Childhood story) is a famous piece of writing by an author (沈復) of the Ching Dynasty and is often taught in the Chinese Language Art textbook in junior high school.  It is an example of classical Chinese.  I had never heard of it before, as I left Taiwan after fifth grade.  Nevertheless, since it is on the 7th grade first semester CLA textbook we received as a hand-me-down from a relative in Taiwan, I thought it would be good for DD#2 to study a couple of short passages such as this.


作者:沈復 (1763-1825)






Here is DD’s read-aloud:


Here is an educational video on it:


Supposedly the following last paragraph is omitted and not taught since it is not rated G, more like PG, 🤣.

年長思之,二蟲之鬥,蓋圖奸不從也,古語云:「奸近殺。」 蟲亦然耶?貪此生涯,卵為蚯蚓所哈,腫不能便,捉鴨開口哈之,婢嫗偶釋手,鴨顛其頸作吞噬狀,驚而大哭,傳為語柄。此皆幼時閑情也。

Christmas band performance 12-2019

Our “Tu & Only” band was invited to perform again at Atlanta Chinese Medical Society’s Christmas/New Year celebration this year.  My DDs spent hours honing down their performances and did a fantastic job last night!  They each received an outstanding volunteering award for all the hard work they put into supporting the nonprofit organization.


Easy instant annotation tool from

It has been a while since I used, a clever site someone coded a few years back. provides an easy to use tool to annotate online Chinese text with 注音 or 拼音 and English definition. Pop-up annotation tooltips open when you move mouse over the word.

For example, my DDs are working on a Chinese debate on the topic of mandatory vaccination.  There is a Chinese Wikipedia page on vaccine hesitancy.  So, I copy and paste the link under “Web site annotation” as below.



After clicking “Annotate”, it leads me to a Mandarin Spot version of this webpage.  If I don’t know the pronunciation or meaning of certain Chinese characters or words, hovering the mouse over the word will bring up a box with the Chinese pronunciation (注音 in this case) and English meaning.  Pretty nifty, no?

You can do the same with pinyin.  Just change the phonetic system above to pinyin.


Reflection on 7th grade Chinese Language Art textbook

7th grade CLA textbook
First semester, chapter 5
My DD#2 is working on chapter 5 this week.  There are a couple of words that I can’t pronounce either, having gone through 5th grade in Taiwan 30+ years ago.  So, we learn together.
I was able to read 金庸 novels and newspaper just fine by my mid teens, without additional lessons in Chinese, which is likely a typical experience for youth immigrants who had received ~ 4th grade education in Taiwan/China and kept on reading afterwards.
Looking at my DD reading aloud this chapter, I am like, yeah, they will be just fine with their Chinese.  What a relief!
We can work on her Spanish more now…. 🤣。 It happens I also grew up in a Spanish speaking country, in my teens.



○3鐐銬:音ㄌㄧㄠˊ ㄎㄠˋ,刑具。鐐,鎖住腳的刑具。銬,鎖住手的刑具。
○7憔悴:音ㄑㄧㄠˊ ㄘㄨㄟˋ,面色黃瘦,沒有精神的樣子。
○13囹圄:音ㄌㄧㄥˊ ㄩˇ,牢獄。

7th grade Chinese Language Art

DD#2, 13, 8th grade now, is moving unto 7th grade Chinese Language Art textbook from Taiwan.  Her Chinese lessons now mainly consist of reading aloud to fluency Chinese Language Art textbooks and doing Chinese debate, besides watching 「如懿傳」(Ruyi’s Royal Love in the Palace).  This movie series sits nicely between the two series she previously watched,「後宮甄嬛傳」and 「延熙攻略」.

Here is the first chapter she is working on, which is chapter 2 of 康軒’s 7th grade second semester textbook.  I previously couldn’t acquire the first semester book.


一大清早,掀開窗簾看看,窗上已撒滿了水珠。啊,好極了!又是個下雨天。雨連下十天,半月,甚至一個月,屋裡掛滿萬國旗似的溼衣服,牆壁地板都冒著溼氣,我也 不抱怨。雨天總是把我帶到另一個處所,在那兒,我又可以重享歡樂的童年。那些有趣的好時光啊,我要用雨珠的鍊子把它串起來,繞在手腕上。

那時在浙江永嘉老家,我才六歲,睡在母親暖和的手臂彎裡。天亮了,聽到瓦背上嘩嘩的雨聲,我就放了心。因為下雨天長工不下田,母親不用老早起來做飯,可以在 熱被窩裡多躺會兒。我捨不得再睡,也不讓母親睡,吵著要她講故事。母親閉著眼睛,給我講雨天的故事。在熹微的晨光中,我望著母親的臉,她的額角方方正正, 眉毛細細長長,眼睛瞇成一條線。我的啟蒙老師說菩薩慈眉善目,母親的長相一定就跟菩薩一樣。

雨下得越來越大。母親一起床,我也跟著起來,顧不得吃早飯,就套上叔叔的舊皮靴,頂著雨在院子裡玩。溝裡水滿了,白繡球花瓣落在爛泥地和水溝裡。我把阿榮伯 給我雕的小木船漂在水溝裡,中間坐著母親給我縫的大紅「布姑娘」。繡球花瓣繞著小木船打轉,一起向前流。我跟著小木船在爛泥地裡踩水,吱嗒吱嗒的響。


五月黃梅天,到處黏糊糊的,母親走進走出的抱怨,父親卻端者宜興茶壺,坐在廊下賞雨。院子裡各種花木,經雨一淋,新綠的枝子頑皮的張開翅膀,托著嬌豔的花 朵,父親用旱煙袋點著它們告訴我這是丁香花,那是一丈紅。大理花與劍蘭搶著開,木樨花散布著淡淡的幽香。牆邊那株高大的玉蘭花開了滿樹,下雨天謝得快,我得趕緊爬上去採,採了滿籃子送左右鄰居。玉蘭樹葉上的水珠都是香的。

唱鼓兒詞的總在下雨天從我家後門摸索進來,坐在廚房的長凳上,唱一段「鄭元和學丐」。母親一邊做飯,一邊聽。淚水掛滿了臉頰,拉起青布圍裙擦一下,又連忙盛 一大碗滿滿的白米飯,請瞎子先生吃,再給他一大包的米。晚上就在大廳裡唱,請左鄰右舍都來聽。寬敝的大廳正中央燃起了亮晃晃的燈,燈一亮,我就有做喜事的 感覺,心裡說不出的開心。雨嘩嘩的越下越大,瞎子先生的鼓咚咚咚咚的也敲得越起勁。母親和五叔婆聽了眼圈兒都哭得紅紅的,我就只顧吃炒米糕、花生糖。父親卻悄悄的溜進書房作他的「唐詩」去了。



Introduction to the work of Professor Stephen Krashen

“Stephen Krashen (born 1941) is professor emeritus at the University of Southern California,[1] who moved from the linguistics department to the faculty of the School of Education in 1994. He is a linguist, educational researcher, and political activist.” – Wikipedia

Principles and Practice in Second Language Acquisition by Stephen Krashen

“The acquisition–learning hypothesis claims that there is a strict separation between acquisition and learning; Krashen saw acquisition as a purely subconscious process and learning as a conscious process, and claimed that improvement in language ability was only dependent upon acquisition and never on learning……..Acquisition requires meaningful interaction in the target language, during which the acquirer is focused on meaning rather than form.” – Wikipedia     (CLE = subconscious acquisition + meaningful.  Weekend Chinese class = conscious process.  Based on a cursory review, this is where I may differ with the professor, as far as Chinese is concerned.  Using his term, I think acquisition and learning are complementary, due to the high opportunity cost and resource commitment required.)

“Furthermore, Krashen claimed that linguistic competence is only advanced when language is subconsciously acquired, and that conscious learning cannot be used as a source of spontaneous language production. Finally, learning is seen to be heavily dependent on the mood of the learner, with learning being impaired if the learner is under stress or does not want to learn the language.” – Wikipedia  (CLE =subconscious.  Weekend Chinese class = stress + does not want to learn)

“The monitor hypothesis states that consciously learned language can only be used to monitor language output; it can never be the source of spontaneous speech.” – Wikipedia  (Weekend Chinese class = consciously learned language => not the source of spontaneous speech)

“The affective filter hypothesis. This states that learners’ ability to acquire language is constrained if they are experiencing negative emotions such as fear or embarrassment. At such times the affective filter is said to be “up”.” – Wikipedia (Parents speaking Chinese with children in the public  [granted there may be some scenario that this is not wise].  Also, we parents can readily admit that there are things that we don’t know how to say but we can look it up and learn together => less fear or embarrassment)

“Krashen promotes the use of free voluntary reading during second-language acquisition, which he says “is the most powerful tool we have in language education, first and second………Proponents such as Stephen Krashen (1989) claim that reading alone will increase encounters with unknown words, bringing learning opportunities by inferencing. The learner’s encounters with unknown words in specific contexts will allow the learner to infer and thus learn those words’ meanings. While the mechanism is commonly accepted as true, its importance in language learning is disputed. “- Wikipedia.  (This is where  access to and reading of extensive Chinese books come in, of course.)

“Free voluntary reading (FVR) is the reading of any book (newspaper, magazine or comic) that students have chosen for themselves and is not subject to follow-up work such as comprehension questions or a summary.” – An introduction to the work of Stephen Krashen.     (I rarely ask the girls on the details of their reading.  As long as they read, it’s good.)

“In language learning, extensive reading is contrasted with intensive reading, which is slow, careful reading of a small amount of difficult text – it is when one is “focused on the language rather than the text”.   Extensive and intensive reading are two approaches to language learning and instruction, and may be used concurrently; intensive reading is, however, the more common approach, and often the only one used.  Extensive reading has been used and advocated in language learning since at least the 19th century.  In the first language, many connections have been made between reading and vocabulary size, as well as other academic skills.” – Wikipedia.  (For me, intensive reading comes in two major flavors.  The first one is the usual language instruction based on textbooks or the likes.  The second one is the read-aloud exercises of an appropriately leveled reading material – probably the most efficient way of increasing colloquial fluency in my pointed of view.  In my point of view, intensive reading and extensive reading are complementary, and, when combined with CLE, is the best long-term method to learn Chinese (or other difficult to learn languages), when the requirement of time, resources, and opportunity cost is high.  Interestingly enough, to a certain extent, Karaoke singing can provide CLE, read-aloud intensive reading, and voluntary-extensive reading, all concurrently!)

In conclusion….

To sum it up, I think I have done the many things that Professor Krashen promotes based on his research, by providing CLE and free voluntary reading.  Where he and I may differ is that I think acquisition and learning (his terminology) are complimentary, to provide long-term, effective, and efficient improvement in Chinese proficiency.  CLE makes long term possible, providing the psychological backdrop for the child, which promotes effectiveness.  Due to its high resource/time demand and opportunity cost, we need efficiency as well.  That’s where intensive reading and active learning comes in.  For me, the particular instruction curriculum and the actual instruction/active learning is the easy part.  Providing the CLE is the tough part.  Where Chinese weekend schools fail for most is not only for the lack of rigor, but that active learning is only part of the picture and can not provide the long term needs, which is required to sustain such learning.  Where Chinese immersion school is far less than optimal for most is that it provides only ~ 15-20% of students’ year-round waking hours as their CLE, which is a far cry from the amount of CLE required for difficult to learn languages such as Chinese, in the greater Anglophone environment.

Maintaining Heritage Language: Perspectives of Korean Parents

I stumbled on a 2011 paper on maintaining Korean heritage Language from the perspective of Korean parents.  There is little here that I don’t know already, but I see that both ethnic Korean and Chinese parents share the same struggle.

“Perhaps more importantly, none of the students felt that Korean HL schools had made a difference in their HL maintenance. Based on what both the parents and students stated, it is fair to say that parents could not do the job of policing HL with their children, since the children were increasingly resistant to speaking and learning Korean.

Korean HL schools were therefore an easy alternative that the parents could count on in spite of the fact that their children hated those schools. While the parents might have agreed that the Korean HL schools were not effective, to stop sending their children would have been an admission of failure in HL maintenance. For these parents, the HL schools were a solution to the dilemma they faced, and the burden of teaching and monitoring Korean was turned over to those institutions…….

This remark strongly suggests that the parents themselves gradually reduced the use of HL and switched to English, perhaps because they felt that they were in fact capable of speaking in English. This might be the key reason why the student participants’ younger siblings’ seldom spoke Korean. The interviews revealed that in the cases of Derek, Gene, and Nina’s younger siblings, the use of Korean ranged from dismal to none.

It can be argued that the student participants in this study maintained HL not because of their parents’ determination or choice, but because of a lack of English proficiency at the beginning of their immigrated life. Of interest in Nina’s statement above is that there was not a time when Korean was used 100% of the time at home. This may be the reason why HL parents chose to send their children to Sunday HL schools, since they might well have felt that they could not maintain the HL at home, definitely feeling that they needed outside help. For these reasons Korean HL schools remain as one of the most popular choices for HL parents. “