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.
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.
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.
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!
I didn’t write much last year. I had a busy year at work and we did not do nearly as much Chinese as I would like. This year, I am switching to a new position, which will give me more family time, a much needed luxury these days.
DD#1, “Charlotte”, is now in 10th grade. She took a high school Chinese IV online class last summer, which was easy for her. It is unfortunate that her school doesn’t have AP Chinese class. We are considering forgoing taking the Chinese AP test, as she has other school work, AP test, extracurricular activities to attend to. My concern has always been their actual Chinese functional proficiency and literacy and not about taking tests. To maintain her Chinese and interest, Charlotte and I now watch a little bit of 致我們單純的小美好 (A love so beautiful), a 2017 high school web series drama from China, available on Netflix.
DD#2, “Georgia”, is now in 7th grade. Last year, she only got to do some traditional Chinese textbook reading and learning at home. She has been attending Chinese Saturday classes using simplified character this year. It is a very small school and very casual. We chose that school since it is super close to our neighborhood. I had her focus on learning to read simplified Chinese. Basically, I ask her to read the simplified Chinese textbook passages to fluency. This year, the small class (2-3 students) she attends mainly go over Chinese cultural materials for the Chinese AP test, but with little structured instruction. She does minimal writing this past two years, which is just fine with me. For myself, I hardly wrote any Chinese for about 30 years after I left Taiwan after fifth grade. Then, I just started composing in Chinese through typing. Certainly my writings are not 100% “grammatically” correct but I think I convey decently well what I want to say.
Georgia and I watched a few Chinese TV drama series last year. After finishing up 女醫民明妃傳 of the Ming Dynasty early least year, we watched 那年花開月正圓, a late Ching Dynasty drama starring 孫儷. We then watched 延熙攻略 (Story of Yanxi Palace) in the fall, a super popular Ching dynasty last summer. It was a fantastic show and Georgia (and I !) got hooked the very first episode. We typically spend about 30-40 minutes watching Chinese TV drama after her evening studies.
Georgia loves Chinese TV shows depicting the infighting among the empress, consorts, and concubines of the Ching emperors. So, I pulled up some information from Wikipedia and have her read some of the following passages. I have another version with zhuyin added, since this is a difficult passage for her otherwise.
Georgia particularly loves information about the titles of the various consort and concubines.
Georgia is also familiar with the names of the various buildings that housed the consorts. So, I printed a map of the Forbidden City and we made sense of their living quarter arrangement.
延熙攻略 was excellent. After we finished watching it, Georgia wanted more. So, we are now watching an equally famous drama 後宮甄嬛傳 (Empresses in the Palace) from 2011, a fictional historical drama of the court of Ching’s Emperor Youngzheng. It also stars 孫儷.
With more time this year at my disposal, I have Georgia pick up her pace of traditional Chinese textbook reading. She finally finished reading (aloud, to fluency) the 5th grade Chinese Language Art textbook that we have at home. The following two passages were the last two chapters that we went over. Each passages takes about 40-60 minutes of practice to read aloud fluently, which we spread out over four days or so.
So, this is where we are right now. I am learning new stuff myself since I only went through 5th grade in Taiwan about 35 years ago. There are characters that I had either incorrectly pronounced before, mainly heteronym, or characters that I didn’t know how to pronounce previously. I hope that Georgia will finish 6th grade textbooks by the end of summer and then we can move onto junior high textbook in the fall.
As far as our family band is concerned, we are still performing and have two performances this month for the Chinese New Year celebration. I hope to write another blog entry on that later.
I was invited to give a presentation this weekend on heritage children in the US learning Chinese at a Southeast region Taiwanese American summer retreat in Georgia. Our band was also invited to play a few songs late afternoon. It was a great opportunity for every one of us to sharpen our public speaking and Chinese linguistic skill.
Our family band 「杜ㄧ無二」 performed four songs at the early evening music program: 周杰倫的「甜甜的」, 蘇慧倫的「檸檬樹」, 梁靜茹的「小手拉大手」, 四葉草的「好想你」. Here are short clips for two of the songs.
I will share details of my talk in time, after I have a chance to put it together in appropriate format.
At the mean time, below are two videos I showed at the presentation as well, the first one highlighting aspects of my family’s Chinese Language Ecosystem and the second one highlighting the Chinese proficiency of a few children whose parents are in my FB group [Raising Bilingual Children in Chinese & English], co-administered by Virginia Duan, including one ten-years-old girl who is of third generation and half-ethnic Chinese heritage. I hope you find their accomplishment as inspiring as I do.
Update: Since DD#1 is away for summer camp, I had to satisfy my zeal on the matter by instructing poor DD#2 instead! 可憐的小女兒 🤣！ She is a real champ and worked on it for several hours over three, four days. By the end, she was enthused with getting the reading right. (She did miss reading one character. Can you figure out which one she missed?!) I am very much certain that her Chinese proficiency will move up to the next level after doing similar read-alouds on ten similar short articles.
I found a relevant article in the free local Chinese newspaper for my 15 year old DD#1 to do read-aloud today. It is about Trump administration’s rescinding Obama era guidance on race in college admissions. So, we had a good discussion on both side of the arguments, including NYC mayor De Blasio’s proposal to change how students are admitted to eight of the city’s specialized high schools.
DD#1 and I often have intellectual conversation on various topics in Chinese. Though I do most of the talking, she does enjoy our discussions.
Nevertheless, she is less than thrilled to have to do Chinese read-aloud on more advanced topics, 🤣. There are obviously a number of vocabularies for her and it does take a little while to go through it with her. I will have her read the article to fluency in the next couple of days.
I never thought a few years back that we will get to listen to live Chinese pop band right at home! It’s out of this world! The three of us try to practice some every night this summer. I just bought a recording audio interface and ask DD#1 to record a short piece for me to try it out.
How cool is this, as part of our CLE (Chinese Language Ecosystem)?!