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.


The first story started out like this:





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.
















Classic Chinese poems 唐詩


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!