My Sister’s Keeper

Here is a little update on how DD#1 “Charlotte”, now 14 and half, is doing with her Chinese.  As we moved to a different state a few months back, she was able to enroll in online high school level Chinese 3, her first “official” Chinese class.  The reading materials are easy for her but this is the only way I can get her to do expository Chinese writings (well, typing…).   (Oh, she learns to type pinyin herself, for those parents who worry this.)  It was a matter of choice that I didn’t ask her to take the Spanish course series.  One reason is that I want her to consolidate her Chinese more.  Another reason is that Spanish is much easier to acquire and there will be other opportunities to learn Spanish, particularly if future situations call for it.  And I didn’t want her to do it just for the sake of college application.  Given we just moved to a new state and she started high school in a completely different setting (going from 60 students per grade in a private school to 500 students per grade in a public school), I want to provide her some extra room for adjustment also (not that Spanish I is difficult).  In any case….  Next year in 10th grade, she will take Chinese 4.  I will consider that she takes AP Chinese concurrently at weekend Chinese school but I am not sure about that still, given her other activities on the weekend.

After not doing much extracurricular Chinese reading for several months related to our relocation, Charlotte is now back reading Chinese novels.  As you recall, she is much more fond of reading translated works of American young adult novels, such as the Selection Series or books like Ender’s Game.  As a second and half generation American, she can relate to them much more than traditional Chinese literature.

Nevertheless, she did re-read 九把刀’s 那些年,我們ㄧ起追的女孩 last month, a coming of age teenagers’ novel.  It was adopted into a most enjoyable movie a few years back and we enjoy watching it every couple of years.  (Yeah, the “clean” version, LOL.)  A growing teen, Charlotte probably gets something new out of the book every time she reads it.  She didn’t finish reading 金庸‘s 倚天屠龍記 over the summer.  Though it was partly related to our relocation, I think the main thing is that she simply doesn’t have much interest in Chinese kungfu novels.

  

This week, Charlotte starts reading the Chinese edition of My Sister’s Keeper.  She tackled it about two years ago.  Back then, though she had read the English edition already and had watched the movie (which is quite different from the book), the Chinese edition was too much (i.e. difficult) for her, particularly with many medical terminologies.  Now that she is more mature and her Chinese is better, she has little problem reading and enjoying the Chinese edition book now.

  

So, she is making some progress there.  I only expect her to make slow incremental progress over the next few years, given the demands of high school and college application.  Most of my work had been done when she was between the age of 4 and 12.

So, no, in terms of Chinese course work per se, she is not ahead of some Chinese heritage kids who went through weekend Chinese school.  But I bet that her Chinese literacy is much stronger than the vast majority, not to mention her appreciation and fluency of the Chinese language.

 

Addendum with question from my FB group:

Q: “Just curious what you consider Chinese coursework and why you think Charlotte is on par with the kids in Chinese school. And how is that different than literacy?”

A:  It is my impression that quite a few Chinese heritage kids these days go through weekend Chinese schools through ~9/10th grade and then Chinese AP class there.  It is my impression that some of the stronger students there from families with high “expectations” do well in Chinese AP tests.  However, my impression is that, for most, Chinese is something they study, not “enjoy” per se. Probably few of them can or will read Chinese novels with similar fluency.  Some weekend Chinese school curriculums, like MLP’s, are quite vigorous, if you stick with it.  My exposure and understanding are more limited, given where I spent the last 20+ years.  Since many of you live in CA, I would be happy to hear about you-all’s experience.  (Yeah, I am southern, LOL.)

朗讀比賽(Read-aloud competition)

We recently moved from relatively rural eastern North Carolina to the suburb of a large southern metro city.  DD#1 “Charlotte”‘ is officially taking Chinese classes now.   Just less than one week ago, her teacher asked me whether my DDs would be interested in participating in a local Chinese read-aloud competition, sponsored by schools using traditional characters.  My DDs gladly accepted the challenge.

Today is the competition.  Here is DD#2 “Georgia”‘s performance in the intermediate level division  (Click link for the reading selection).

 

Below is “Charlotte”‘s performance in the advanced level division.  I only got part of it, since my phone ran out of memory…..

 

Here is Charlotte’s practice recording, if you are interested:

Since there are large number of contestants, the results won’t be announced for 1-2 weeks.

It is easier to read aloud fast but more difficult to read aloud slowly, which require more accurate prosody and pronunciation.  IMHO, reading aloud well is not a skill appreciated or emphasized by many parents, with competing demands.

CLE update: Chinese Language Ecosystem (中文語言生態系)

Chinese proficiency aside, which I had posted here on this blog, I am glad that my DDs (“Charlotte”, 14, and “Georgia”, 11) continue to enjoy the cultural experience still.  This June, they had a lot of fun touring different parts of metro Taipei and Taichung in Taiwan.  I think they had the most fun goofing off and shopping at Taipei’s 西門町!  Here is one such photo (truth be told, this one was my idea….).

“Charlotte”, now at 14, just started high school and continues to enjoy the Chinese cultural experience.  She is taking Chinese III class on-line to do more expository writing (typing really) and to learn reading simplified Chinese.  “Georgia”, now at 6th grade in a new large middle school (we recently relocated), is half way through reading the Chinese edition of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s stone, whose English edition she read a few times before.

She should have finished this book a while back, as she reads it at 400-450 characters a minute or about one chapter in 15 minutes or so.  But she has not, as she is mostly reading English novels these days, an English Language Art (ELA) class requirement.  She probably has caught up to most kids of her age in terms of English reading and is taking Advanced 7th grade ELA at school.  With all the extracurricular activities these days including debate class, weekend 7th grade Chinese class (simplified), tennis league, guitar, etc., I have to set aside time for her to read Chinese novels.  She does, however, continue to enjoy reading Chinese comics on her own at meal time, now reading 機器娃娃與怪博士, which I also loved reading as a child.

At the mean time, the three of us watched the famed 2015 Chinese TV series 琅琊榜 over the last three months and we absolutely loved it!!  They are now big fans of 王凱, who played 靖王蕭景琰 in the TV series!  They probably prefer 靖王蕭景琰 over 梅長蘇/林殊 since beauty standard is different between Chinese and Western culture and they grew up in the US.  Charlotte learns to play 紅顏舊, one of the theme songs, on the guitar herself.  (“這明明有ㄧ顆痣!”…….非禮啊…..LOL)  She does that for the Chinese songs she enjoys listening.

We also rewatched 那些年,我们一起追的女孩, a hit 2011 teen romance film, and 我的少女時代,a hit 2015 teen romance film, both of Taiwan.  These two movies always cheer them up ~

We are now starting to watch 女医明妃传 (The Imperial Doctress), a top 2016 TV series from mainland China about a young lady determined to become a life saving Chinese medicine doctor despite the limitation of Ming Dynastic’s conservative feudal ethics in the 15th century.  The backdrop of Ming dynasty, limitation of its conservative feudal ethics on women, and the practice of medicine seem like a good fit for us.

So, that’s what they have been up to these days in terms of Chinese.  They continue to converse with each other in Chinese 80-90% of the time at home.

 

瓊瑤之六個夢:再次閱讀(Rereading Six Dreams)

13 year old dd “Charlotte” is now rereading Six Dreams, a six short stories collection by Chiung Yao (瓊瑤), often regarded as the most famous romance novelist in the Chinese speaking world, with her novels adapted into more than 100 films and TV drama.  Charlotte read a few of the stories a couple of years ago, without zhuyin, and the fate of women in an era gone by (about 100 years ago) left a deep impression on her.   This time, I ask Charlotte to read the stories aloud to her weekend Chinese tutor, comfortably on the couch, who then provides her cultural background information and discusses nuances of the dialogues with her.  With a bit more maturity (lots of middle school drama at school, LOL) and guided reading this time, Charlotte has a deeper understanding this time around and greatly enjoys it.  At this point, she is finishing up reading the first short story: 追尋, which I printed out with zhuyin on the side to aid her reading aloud.

十三歲大女兒現在再次讀瓊瑤著作的六個夢。她幾年前讀過普通沒注音的版本,現在我把它加注音印出來,讓她朗讀給家教聽,讓家教跟她說說故事的文化背景和對話中她不懂的微妙之處,讓她讀的津津有味,有更深的認識。

The first story started out like this:

民國初年,北平。那一天,對婉君而言,真像是場大夢。一清早,家裡擠滿了姨姨姑姑,到處亂哄哄的。媽媽拿出一件繡滿了花的紅色緞子衣服,換掉了她平日穿慣的短襖長裙,七八個人圍著她,給她搽胭脂抹粉,戴上珠串珠花,遮上頭帔,然後媽媽抱了她一下,含著淚說:「小婉,離開了媽媽,別再鬧孩子脾氣了。到了那邊,就要像個大人一樣了,要聽話,要乖,要學著侍候公公婆婆,知道嗎?」婉君緊閉著嘴,呆呆的坐著,像個小洋娃娃。然後,她被硬塞進那個掛著簾子、垂著珠珞的花轎,在鞭炮和鼓樂齊鳴中,花轎被抬了起來。直到此刻,她才突然被一種恐怖和驚惶所征服,她緊緊的抓住轎桿,「哇」的一聲哭了起來,拚命叫媽媽。於是媽媽的臉在轎門口出現了,用非常柔和的聲音說:「小婉,好好的去吧,到那兒,大家都會喜歡你的。別哭了,當心把胭脂都哭掉了。」

轎子抬走了,媽媽的臉不見了。她躲在轎子裡,抽抽噎噎的一直到周家大門口。然後糊糊塗塗的,她被人攙了出來,在許許多多陌生人的注視下、評論下,走進了周家的大廳。

她一直記得那紅色的地毯,就在那地毯上,她被人拉扯著,扶掖著,和一個十三、四歲的漂亮的男孩子拜了天地,正式成為周家的兒媳。事後她才知道和她拜堂的那個神采飛揚的男孩子,並不是她的丈夫,而是她丈夫的大弟弟仲康。她的丈夫伯健那時正臥病在床,而由仲康代表他拜了天地。這種提前迎娶被稱作沖喜。或者,她真的是一顆福星,無論如何,她進門後,伯健的病卻果然好了。

那一天,婉君才剛八歲。

Summer trip plan – 2017

The theme of our summer trip this year will be learning some of the culture of Taiwan and China.   I plan to take the girls to visit many notable places in and around Taipei and Taichung, followed by a corresponding trip to Beijing.   I am preparing synopsis on each of these places at this point, mainly by simplifying information from Wikipedia, so that each can be printed out on no more than one page, using size 13 fonts with zhuyin added.  The first pieces I just worked on are as below.  As you can see, knowing zhuyin (or pinyin) is immensely helpful in reading more difficult passages.  As the material can be rather dry, even after explaining much of the background information and intricacies, I hope pictures from Google map or YouTube videos will come in handy and make it more lively.

今年暑假的台灣和中國之旅,以學習台灣及中國文化為主旨。在台北時,我會安排他們去龍山寺,艋舺老街剝皮寮,西門紅樓,總統府,凱達格蘭大道,國立台灣博物館,二二八紀念館,台北市立美術館和行天宮,台北101,象山,國父紀念館,松三文創圓區,四四南村眷村文物館,蔣家士林官邸,故宮博物院,和士林夜市等。在台中時,會安排參觀梧棲漁市,高美濕地,大甲鎮瀾宮,郭叔叔獼猴生態區,阿亮香菇園,新社古堡,霧峰林家萊園,霧峰林家宮保第園區,九二一地震教育園區,鹿港民俗文物館,和鹿港老街等。之後,再去北京旅遊參觀。

在暑假前,我會請她們念熟和朗讀景點的簡介,做為中文和文化的教學。以下是剛開始準備的簡介,大多是從Wikipedia得取,再加以簡化,以13字體大小加注音,印出來ㄧ面之內為標準。希望在暑假前,能讀完所有將準備的簡介。

龍山寺

艋舺,今名萬華,為臺北市發源地,其最古老市街在今貴陽街與環河南路口。清康熙四十八年(西元1709年),福建泉州之晉江、南安、惠安三邑人士渡海來此而漸成聚落,當時平埔族人以獨木舟自淡水河上游載運蕃薯等農產品與漢人交易,時稱“蕃薯市”;而獨木舟在平埔族語言中之發音為Banka,漢人乃音譯為「艋舺」。

早年臺灣北部環境十分險惡,俗諺「十人來台,三在六亡一回頭」,漢人前來墾植時為求神佑,多攜帶家鄉廟宇香火以為庇護,後因漢人聚落漸增,三邑人士遂於清乾隆三年(西元1738年)合資興建龍山寺,並迎請福建省安海龍山寺觀世音菩薩分靈來臺。龍山寺不僅是居民信仰中心,舉凡議事、訴訟等均祈求神靈公斷。

初創之龍山寺,規模雄偉,雕塑精緻,歷經多次天災後修復,奠定今日龍山寺之規模。民國卅四年於第二次世界大戰期間受空襲摧殘,中殿全毀,惟觀世音菩薩聖像仍端坐蓮臺;以往遇有空襲,居民皆以觀世音菩薩蓮座下為避難所,然此次空襲前夕,避難居民因不堪兇蚊肆虐紛紛返家,以致中殿受毀時無人受難,居民相信是觀世音菩薩庇護而奔相走告,此一神蹟更使得觀世音菩薩成為艋舺居民一大精神支柱。

龍山寺坐北朝南,面呈回字形,為中國古典三進四合院之宮殿式建築,由前殿、正殿、後殿及左右護龍構成。前殿為11開間,分為三川殿、龍門廳、虎門廳。三川殿前有一對全臺僅見之銅鑄蟠龍柱,正面牆上故事多出自三國演義和封神榜。正殿屋頂採歇山重簷式,四面走馬廊共42根柱子構成,殿內的螺旋藻井不費一釘一鐵,全由斗栱相嵌築構而成。後殿為典型儒、道教諸神佛供奉處。左右護龍各配有鐘樓與鼓樓,晨鐘暮鼓。全寺屋頂脊帶和飛簷由龍鳳、麒麟等吉祥物造形,飾以剪黏和交趾陶,色彩瑰麗,堪稱臺灣剪黏藝術之精華。

艋舺龍山寺為國家保護之二級古蹟,每年定期舉辦節慶祭典及民俗活動,如農曆正月花燈展覽、四月浴佛節、七月盂蘭盆勝會等,民眾來到艋舺龍山寺除了欣賞臺灣寺廟建築藝術之美,亦可以感受傳統民俗文化的樂趣。

剝皮寮

剝皮寮位於臺灣臺北市萬華區,北臨老松國小,東至昆明街,南面廣州街,西接康定路,為臺北市今日碩果僅存的清代街道之一,開發至今已有兩百多年的時間,混合著閩南式及西洋巴洛克式的獨特建築。

「剝皮寮」之名始於戰後的1950年代,而「剝皮寮」的地名來源有二說。一是殺牲製革所在,意即剝獸皮而得名。二是清朝時期商船運進杉木,在此剝去樹皮而得名。現鄰近康定路、廣州街交會口一帶的路段,則因早期發展為煤炭販售地而通稱「土炭市」,當時曾是商業交易熱絡的街道,擁有不少精緻洋樓房屋,該街道約成形於1850年代的台灣清治時期,而台灣日治時期實行「市區改正」將原本窄小彎曲的道路拓寬、拉直,自台灣清領時期至今,仍保有初期開發的空間特色與都市紋理。除了有歷史背景之外,該街道亦為唐景崧力主台灣民主國,1895年5月27日發起台灣仕紳遊行的起點。

西門紅樓

西門紅樓位於台北市萬華區的成都路上,在臺灣日治時期俗稱八角堂,緊鄰西門町徒步區。建築為兩層高的紅磚洋樓,其外觀每正立面8公尺,八角堂主建築體後面連接著的是十字型外觀的一樓磚造樓房,而結構不太相似的這兩棟建物合稱西門市場,紅樓則為市場入口。

1895年,台灣進入日治時代,大量日籍移民進入台北市。台灣總督府規劃台北城西門附近空地為日人居住處所。而為因附近日人生活機能需要,台灣總督府於1907至1908年興建西門市場,台灣第一座官方市場。1945年台灣進入中華民國時期,連同八角堂的西門市場轉由新政府經營,後方十字型建築繼續擔任傳統市場。1949年,移居台灣的上海知名商人陳惠文向政府承租八角堂,並改名為滬園劇場,以表演京劇為主,但並不受歡迎。1951年,陳惠文將滬園劇場改名為紅樓書場,表演內容也從京劇變成了說書相聲,而取其紅樓名。1963年,因電影日漸普及,紅樓再度改名為紅樓戲院,開始播放國語電影影片,該電影院也為西門町早期電影街的起始點之一。1970年代,紅樓戲院日漸沒落,於1997年正式歇業。

1997年,內政部將西門紅樓列入三級古蹟。2007年,市政府以官辦民營方式,將西門紅樓委由「台北市文化基金會」營運管理,轉型成為台北市西區新生之文化創意產業發展中心。如今,西門紅樓與十字建築旁的公共空間也經常舉行藝人的簽唱會或專輯發表會。諸如王力宏、林俊傑等等藝人都於西門紅樓廣場舉行相關活動過。同時,西門紅樓也成為台灣同性戀者與外國人的知名聚集場所之一。

Classic Chinese poems 唐詩

唐詩:下課坐車時ㄧ個禮拜讀ㄧ首,每天花1-2分鐘而已。

I have started using this particular book for my dds (10 year old “Georgia” and 13 year old “Charlotte”).  It was published in 1991 and was probably a used copy that a friend gave us a few years back.  My girls have memorized a few poems before and did a Chinese stand-up comedy a couple of years back.  So, they are familiar with classic Chinese poems.  We are using this during their car ride back home from school.  I simply have them read one new poem a week and they each recite the poem about 5 times a day.  All it take is about one to two minutes a day for each girl.  There is well written explanation on the pages.  I read the poem ahead of the time myself, as my knowledge on the subjects is fairly limited also (maybe about twenty poems).  I make sure to explain to them the poem myself the first day they read it.  I don’t need them to memorize the poems this first time around, but they can memorize it somewhat by the end of the week.   So,  1-2 minutes a day in the car, easy peasy.

 

 

This is the first poem.  They know this one already, as likely do many children.  So, we skipped ahead.

 

This is the second poem, which they read last week.  Nice and easy to understand.

 

This third poem, they know already.  So, we skipped it this week.

 

They are reciting this fourth poem this week.  It is another easy to understand poem.  After all, this is a book for kids.

 

If things go well, we can go through some 30-40 poems in a year, when school is in session.  That will more than I knew myself as a kid (and now, LOL).  We will come back a second time next year and they will be able to memorize the same poems readily then.  What’s the purpose of learning classic Chinese poem?   I don’t think they are on the AP Chinese exam.  But, we don’t learn Chinese for testing purposes.  It is just to have a deeper understanding and appreciation of the Chinese culture.  In addition, they will learn broader usage and definition of Chinese characters and words as well.  Benefits on the side: they may be able to better understand the lyrics of some of 周杰倫 Jay Chou’s songs, but not for the fact that one simply can’t understand his enunciation!