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.










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.


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。



第五屆亞洲盃 美國東南區亞特蘭大聯隊 資格賽 (Qualifier debate for SE US Atlanta Team)

It was an incredible journey for the Southeast US Atlanta Team.  Our team members have various Chinese proficiency levels.  Truly, one’s language proficiency (or lack of) affects the ability to listen, comprehend, organize, and express various parts of the debate.  Shawn Yen, our excellent and most devoted coach, was able to utilize the best qualities of each debater and put each in the best line-up position.  The team went through so much in the last few months and we are ecstatic over their accomplishment (one win, one tie, one loss). In addition, my DD#1 was voted as the Best Debater for our second debate and our second chair debater was voted as the Best Debater for the first debate. Go Team USA!


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. 



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




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.)

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







第五课  翠玉白菜






Six grade textbook

Sixth grade Chinese Language Art textbook from Taiwan is indeed a step tougher than that of fifth grade.  It takes DD#2 a bit longer to read till fluency.

第三課 大自然的規則


新春演出 CNY performance 2-2019

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!

Happy Chinese New Year!!