Chinese in the teen years and beyond

There have been recent discussions in the FB group “Raising Bilingual Children in Chinese and English” that my co-administrator Virginia and I manage regarding the extreme difficulty many parents have in getting their children to learn Chinese in their teen years, living in areas where Chinese is a minority language.

Yes, it is all true.  It is extremely difficult.

It requires tremendous or unusual effort, time, “intelligence”, opportunity, money, or some such combination.

You probably understand very well all the above factors but may find it disconcerting that I include “intelligence”.  Please refer to the end of this entry for a brief discussion on this matter.  As far as the relationship between intelligence and “foreign language learning”, you can find some discussions on the matter in this site.  According to this one paper, “Taken together, the findings of the study are compatible with the conceptualization of language aptitude according to a hierarchical model which subsumes specific abilities of importance in the language classroom under a more encompassing general ability, or general intelligence.”

The point I want to get across is, learning Chinese in this kind of setting is more like learning a foreign language and less like a first language, and such ability correlates with our “general intelligence”, which typical IQ tests try to assess.  This type of “general intelligence” has little correlation to anthropologists’ idea of intelligence, which some consider as the global capacity to adapt to one’s environment and to exploit it to one’s advantage.

Basically, a “smarter” child in the sense of IQ test typically learn things faster, things in the usual academic sense.  So, a “smarter” child can pick up Chinese faster and with less committed resources.  When the kids approach and reach middle and high schools, there are simply tons of worthy pursuits other than Chinese and the opportunity cost to learn Chinese shoots up, typically in the sense of college application.  So,  children and their parents may find it much more appealing to hold off or slow down Chinese learning to pursue other worthy subjects.

This is the reason that, in my Letter to Parents in 2015, I wrote: “Lastly, given the immense effort required to achieve level 3 or above proficiency by mid-teens, I don’t think it is realistic and “necessary” for most heritage families to do so.  I think it is perfectly fine to achieve level 1-2 proficiency by the end of middle school.  For those students who really want to excel in Chinese in high school, college, or beyond, intensive studies then will typically be more efficient and less frustrating.  The difficult part for high school students is time constraint, due to the various academic and extracurricular demands.   However, in college and beyond, a couple of years of living abroad and intensive studying will be all it takes to achieve level 3 to 4 proficiency.”

Four years later, I maintain the same sentiment.  I do, however, want to provide you some real-life examples to assuage your anxiety.

As you may know, my family and I moved from a relatively rural NC community, where my daughters grew up, to metro Atlanta almost two years ago.  Here, I meet middle-aged professionals who immigrated to the states at a young age (say, 3 – 7) and speak Chinese pretty well now (ILR level 3.5-4).  One thing they have in common is their large Chinese speaking clientele.  They had good basics and relearned and picked up much Chinese due to their professional needs.  (I don’t know their reading comprehension proficiency.)

Recently, I met up with two couple friends, who immigrated from Taiwan in their mid 20s and one of their American born and raised daughters.  Their DD was able to speak fair Chinese by the end of high school (ILR ~2) but had limited Chinese reading comprehension.  She is smart, but likely not “crazy” smart.  If I remember correctly, she scored about 98-99th percentile in SAT and ACT with little preparation.  After taking two years of Chinese coursework in college, enough for a minor, I would say her Chinese speaking proficiency is now ILR level 3.  Her writing (typing, of course) and composition picked up tremendously with her course work.  The following is one of her college essays on 程蝶衣 in the 1993 movie, 霸王別姬 (Farewell My Concubine).

Some of the requirements for the essay are as follows.  “The length requirement for all essays is 600-800 Chinese characters. Provide the Chinese character count at the end of each essay…..  You are encouraged to use the dictionary for this assignment, but the use of translation tool is not allowed! You are also encouraged to use grammar and vocabulary beyond what you have learned in class, but you should be able to identify and know the meaning of the new words you used. You may not have a native speaker of Chinese help you write or correct your homework assignments.”

程蝶衣的各種感情

在《霸王別姬》裡,人物的相互關係反映在文化改革的中國社會情況裡面。這部電影隨著程蝶衣的故事,從他小時候呈現在戲班子的生活到他長大以後面對的關於各種關係的挑戰。程蝶衣的故事表達了古時候個人的關係,也讓觀眾看出他的性格怎麼影響他在那個社會的生活。

在電影的前幾分鐘,程蝶衣的媽媽,一位妓女,帶著一個小小的程蝶衣去戲班子,因為她沒辦法在妓院照顧他了。那時候程蝶衣被叫做小豆子,遇到了另外一個男孩,小石頭,開始他在生活中最重要的關係。因為兩個孩子還有其他的科班孩子從他們的師傅受到了非常大的壓力和挨打,所以他們得互相依賴才能繼續練習,繼續長大。小豆子是個年輕貌美的男孩,師傅指定他在戲裡扮演旦,然後小石頭扮演淨,兩個在同台演情侶的情況下一起長大。由於程蝶衣把自己投入到他的扮演角色,他就開始真正的愛上段曉樓。程蝶衣的性格其實很簡單,他很容易愛上他身邊的事,比如說,一開始他不愛戲,可是他沒有別的選擇,為了生活只好學戲,然後慢慢地喜歡上它。段曉樓跟戲一樣,讓程蝶衣有安全感,也天天跟他在一起,因為這個原因程蝶衣才會喜歡段曉樓。

第二個人物關係是戲班子的師傅和程蝶衣。在科班的時候,為了訓練學生,讓他們背腳本背歌詞,師傅以打為主,不管學生說得對說的錯,師傅還是打他們。雖然師傅在孩子的眼睛裡是他們得最尊重的人,但是在社會裡,他的地位其實是很低的,跟妓女的地位差不多。 其實師傅打他們是愛他們的,是為了他們好,也是愛他們的,因為如果這些學生沒有學好戲,那他們根本就沒有機會在傳統的社會裡生活。到程蝶衣長大以後,他變成一位明星了,還是跟段曉樓一起回去科班找他們的師傅,三十歲的時候被師傅打還是能忍受,因為師傅收養了他們,給他們機會。

第三個人物關係是程蝶衣和菊仙複雜的關係。由於菊仙嫁給段曉樓,程蝶衣他從一開始就恨她,她也恨程蝶衣。菊仙本來也是一位妓女,地位也沒比程蝶衣的高,可是程蝶衣心愛的段曉樓愛上了菊仙,沒有愛上他。他的性格比較冷漠,對別人的關係不感興趣,所以其他人如果沒有跟戲有關係,那程蝶衣就不管,他就狠心地不接受菊仙。不過,幾年以後,程蝶衣還是慢慢地容忍菊仙,因為程蝶衣非常愛段曉樓,還有他吸鴉片上癮的時候也收到菊仙的幫忙,到最後為了配合他的好友,就對菊仙好一點,但是在他的心裡還有一些不甘心。

程蝶衣並不是一個有愛的人,可是他很珍惜他和他尊重的人的關係。由於他兩個最愛就是京戲和段曉樓,他最重要的人物關係就跟著兩件事有關。在電影裡,這些不同的關係表達了各種的愛,讓觀眾受到深深的感動。

Here is the simplified Chinese version:

程蝶衣的各种感情

在《霸王别姬》里,人物的相互关系反映在文化改革的中国社会情况里面。这部电影随着程蝶衣的故事,从他小时候呈现在戏班子的生活到他长大以后面对的关于各种关系的挑战。程蝶衣的故事表达了古时候个人的关系,也让观众看出他的性格怎么影响他在那个社会的生活。

在电影的前几分钟,程蝶衣的妈妈,一位妓女,带着一个小小的程蝶衣去戏班子,因为她没办法在妓院照顾他了。那时候程蝶衣被叫做小豆子,遇到了另外一个男孩,小石头,开始他在生活中最重要的关系。因为两个孩子还有其他的科班孩子从他们的师傅受到了非常大的压力和挨打,所以他们得互相依赖才能继续练习,继续长大。小豆子是个年轻貌美的男孩,师傅指定他在戏里扮演旦,然后小石头扮演净,两个在同台演情侣的情况下一起长大。由于程蝶衣把自己投入到他的扮演角色,他就开始真正的爱上段晓楼。程蝶衣的性格其实很简单,他很容易爱上他身边的事,比如说,一开始他不爱戏,可是他没有别的选择,为了生活只好学戏,然后慢慢地喜欢上它。段晓楼跟戏一样,让程蝶衣有安全感,也天天跟他在一起,因为这个原因程蝶衣才会喜欢段晓楼。

第二个人物关系是戏班子的师傅和程蝶衣。在科班的时候,为了训练学生,让他们背脚本背歌词,师傅以打为主,不管学生说得对说的错,师傅还是打他们。虽然师傅在孩子的眼睛里是他们得最尊重的人,但是在社会里,他的地位其实是很低的,跟妓女的地位差不多。其实师傅打他们是爱他们的,是为了他们好,也是爱他们的,因为如果这些学生没有学好戏,那他们根本就没有机会在传统的社会里生活。到程蝶衣长大以后,他变成一位明星了,还是跟段晓楼一起回去科班找他们的师傅,三十岁的时候被师傅打还是能忍受,因为师傅收养了他们,给他们机会。

第三个人物关系是程蝶衣和菊仙复杂的关系。由于菊仙嫁给段晓楼,程蝶衣他从一开始就恨她,她也恨程蝶衣。菊仙本来也是一位妓女,地位也没比程蝶衣的高,可是程蝶衣心爱的段晓楼爱上了菊仙,没有爱上他。他的性格比较冷漠,对别人的关系不感兴趣,所以其他人如果没有跟戏有关系,那程蝶衣就不管,他就狠心地不接受菊仙。不过,几年以后,程蝶衣还是慢慢地容忍菊仙,因为程蝶衣非常爱段晓楼,还有他吸鸦片上瘾的时候也收到菊仙的帮忙,到最后为了配合他的好友,就对菊仙好一点,但是在他的心里还有一些不甘心。

程蝶衣并不是一个有爱的人,可是他很珍惜他和他尊重的人的关系。由于他两个最爱就是京戏和段晓楼,他最重要的人物关系就跟着两件事有关。在电影里,这些不同的关系表达了​​各种的爱,让观众受到深深的感动。

How about that?!!!!  Reflecting back on my own daughters, I now understand why, shortly after turning 13 a few years ago, having read quite a few teenage American novels in Chinese edition, my elder DD was able to compose the following, which could be the beginning of a short story or novella:

下課的鐘終於響了。  我馬上把所有的課本和習作塞進書包裡和跑出教室。  春假開始了。  我得快點敢回家。  我走到許阿姨的麵包店,買了哥哥最喜歡吃的新鮮奶油吐司。  我進家門時突然感到頭暈, 然後正常。  我慢慢的走進客廳,看到哥哥和另一位我不認識的男孩子的背影。  哥哥轉向我而開始微笑。  我給了他一個大擁抱後,把麵包給了他。  哥哥接過了麵包後便給我介紹他旁邊的男孩。

“凱雅, 這是我的朋友維斯。” 哥哥說。  維斯有一雙鑽石藍的眼睛和深咖啡色的頭髮。  他穿著休閑褲子和一件白色的上衣。

“妳好。“ 維斯說。

”你好。“ 我回答。

”維斯跟我是在大學認識的。  因爲他春假沒事所以帶他來。“ 哥哥解釋。

我怎麼覺得維斯好像不太對勁。  每次靠近他時,我的頭越來越暈。  在吃飯時, 我故意坐和他最遠的坐位。  維斯總是令爸媽和哥哥笑而他很有禮貌。  可是我還是覺得他不太對勁。

半夜, 我起來去拿一杯水喝。  當我回來時, 快經過哥哥房間時,聽到他和維斯在悄悄的說話。

”你確定?“ 哥哥問。

”你妹是。“ 維斯回答。

”我妹是我們在尋找的天使?”

“是。”

“你確定?”

“安靜, 有人來了。” 維斯說。

我停下了腳步。

“那是凱莉。” 哥哥說。

我還是站在走廊中間。  為什麼他們在三更半夜講那麽奇怪的話?

“凱莉。  你三更半夜在家裡走來走去幹嘛?“ 哥哥問。

”你們幹嘛三更半夜在講一些奇怪有的沒的?“ 我問。

哥哥把頭探出門外而說, ”妳還沒回答我的問題。“

”你也還沒回答我問你的話。“

“妳先回答我的問題。“ 哥哥又說。

”你們兩個不要吵了。“ 維斯說。

“明天再講吧。  我要睡覺。” 我說便回了房間。

********

(睡夢中……)

太陽的光照射在石門上的圖案。  那些圖案是為了封閉門後面的靈魂。  我拍一拍我雪白的翅膀而降落在門的正前方。從門裡的一些小縫隙我能看到靈魂淡藍色的光。  傑克也在門前降落。

  “妳準備好了嗎?他問。  我點了頭。  我從口袋裡拿出一把銀色的鑰匙然後解開了門上的鎖。  古老的石門慢慢的打開。

********

有人在門上一直敲門。  我看了床頭櫃上的鬧鐘。  現在早上7:45。

“幹嘛?  今天禮拜六。” 我問。

“我們跟你哥哥和維斯要出外爬山。  妳要去嗎?” 媽媽回答。

“不用了。”

“好, 傍晚見喔。”  我聽到大家穿鞋和門上鎖的聲音。  幾分鐘後, 我走進哥哥的房間。  在他的床上有一本很厚的書本。  書的封面是用深色的牛皮所做的而且上面沒有字。我把書拿起來便把它拿回我房間去看。  前幾頁記載著一個神話故事:

她的使命, 是守護他的靈魂。  他為了人類跟地獄的鬼魂爭鬥而喪命。  她答應了湯姆斯她會盡所有能力保護他。  幾百年過去了。  湯姆斯還是沒有回來。  她的答應,也跟著那些年一天天的消失。  直到那天使死了, 他還是沒有回來。 

真是一個悲慘的故事。  我才不會那麽耐心地去等一個永遠沒回來的人。  這個天使也真是的。我再翻了一頁。  這一頁上面寫了不同人的名字。

So, as you can tell, all is not lost for you parents out there!  There is great hope!  I would say your children’s Chinese can improve by leaps and bounds in college and beyond, if they apply themselves later,  with the basics that you painstakingly provide in their youth.  If you have to put Chinese on hold in their teens, just trying to maintain their level of proficiency would be more than fine.

Good luck and good journey!

Oliver

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Like many things in the field of IQ, there is more than enough controversy: “No anthropologist believes that IQ tests measure intelligence. At best he believes that IQ tests measure only a small part of intelligence, and by far the least important part. This is because the anthropologist does not use the word intelligence in the same way as the psychometrician uses it. The anthropologist thinks of intelligence as the individual’s global capacity to adapt to his environment and to exploit it to his, and his group’s, advantage. To the anthropologist, any nonphysical ability possessed by man but not possessed by animals, or possessed in only a rudimentary way by animals, is a legitimate manifestation of intelligence. An individual’s ability to sing, dance, create art, see visions, or fashion tools is as much a part of man’s intelligence as his ability to do geometry or argue philosophy. IQ tests are good estimates of the latter, but have little correlation with the former, and in the context of man’s evolutionary history, the anthropologist considers these non-IQ attributes to be the more important. There can be little wonder, then, that anthropologists regard IQ tests with skepticism. IQ tests are not measures of general adaptability……..  When intelligence tests are factor analyzed, there are normally seven factors extracted: verbal meaning, verbal fluency, reasoning, number, space, memory, and perceptual speed. But all of these factors correlate, or overlap with one another to such a degree that what is common to all of them accounts for most of the variance in test scores. This common property is itself a factor, the general factor, and has been given the symbol g.  All of these factors now have the status of hypothetical constructs, but g is by far the most important of them.  A test is an intelligence test only insofar as it is saturated with gPsychometricians make a conceptual distinction between intelligence and g, but for all practical purposes they treat both terms as interchangeable………. The two with the highest g loadings are the verbal and reasoning factors.

 

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.

The psychology of “Crazy Rich Asian” on children learning Chinese

It’s such an exciting time to be an Asian American kid these days! New possibilities and slow but growing acceptance! Of course, the new movie “Crazy Rich Asians” is the all the buzz recently.  DD#1 read the book back in March (though I did buy her the book back in 2016) and loves it.  Our whole family watched the movie today and we all loved it! 

In my opinion, the movie ties in with the psychological aspect of empowering children of Chinese cultural heritage in their willingness to learn the Chinese language and culture.  It is uplifting for kids like my own and makes them feel that being of Chinese cultural heritage in an Anglophone country can still be cool, which can make them more willing to learn the language.  This psychological part is just as important as the Chinese language instruction itself, particularly as the children get into the tween and definitely teen years and their willingness to continue more intensive Chinese language learning wanes or simply drops off the cliff.  

 

Fellow members of my FB group on “Raising bilingual children in Chinese & English” asked DD#1 to write her thoughts or insights on the movie.  The following is her quick thought on the movie:

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As an Asian American, I think that Crazy Rich Asians is a must watch, being the first movie in over 20 years to feature an all Asian cast.  The movie’s plot actually follows the book pretty well, and everything, from the outrageous style to the expensive cars to the extreme spending habits in the film really illustrates the posh and glamorous lifestyle of the characters from the book.

Even though Crazy Rich Asians only focuses on the life of the exceptionally wealthy in Asia, I think the overall Asian representation in the movie is something to be proud of, since it was almost unheard of to have an Asian actor/actress as the main lead in a Western film until now.  After finishing the movie, I felt empowered by the progress that the Asian community has made in America, and hopefully in the future more is to come.  As a kid, it was always thrilling to have an Asian actor/actress featured in a Western film, even though in action movies they were still the first ones to die/be killed off.  Another point is that finally, Asians were not stereotyped as being the nerdy, quiet, or shy character in Crazy Rich Asians; instead, they were loud, they were lively, and they were crazy.

How much can one feel connected to a culture/ethnic group without speaking the language?

Do most second or third generation Indian American children attend special schools for one of their parents’ mother language?

Reflecting on Indian and Indian American attitude toward English and their regional language

 

Why India Must Move Beyond English

2014

A couple of weeks ago, a major (though seemingly contrived) controversy broke out in India over the increased use of the Hindi language on social media. Language is a contentious issue in India, and has been since Article 343 of the Indian Constitution declared “Hindi in the Devanagari script” the official language of India in 1949. English, which was official during the British Raj, has remained co-official with Hindi, despite efforts to phase it out.

English remains entrenched in India and is widely used by India’s elite, bureaucracy, and companies. It is particularly important in its written form, as the official versions of most documents use English. Most pan-Indian written communication as well as many major media outlets use English. However, at the spoken level, English is much less prevalent and Indian languages are more widely used, with Hindi serving as a lingua franca for most of the country except the its northeast and the deep south.  It should be noted that English is spoken or understood by about 150 million Indians, or about 10 percent of the population. This means that around 90 percent of Indians do not understand or speak English.

English’s association with the elite and corridors of power and its status as the language of documents and serious literature has led to a craze for English-medium schools across India. Proponents of the English language in India argue that English will serve as the vehicle of India’s economic growth and lead to the empowerment of hundreds of millions of individuals. Nothing, however, could be more incorrect. India’s obsession with English holds back both its economic development and the quality of its education.

(Click link above for the rest of the article)

Here is a Quora entry I found:

Why do Indians prefer to send their children to English medium rather than Hindi medium school?

2016

Gopalkrishna Vishwanath

Let’s face it. The bitter truth (sweet for some) is that English has conquered all the other languages of the world.

Even those countries that were traditionally hostile to English and shielded their people from gaining knowledge of English have started opening out to English and accepting it as a language that one must learn and know to survive and make progress in the world.

Traditional rivals of the English, like the French and the Germans are learning English, while most Englishmen and Americans are not learning German or French. The former realise it is necessary. The latter don’t feel knowing French or German is necessary. The same is true in China. More Chinese people are learning English than English speaking people are learning Chinese.

It is not just Hindi speakers in India who prefer an English Medium education in India.

This is the situation in every state in India. Those who study in regional language schools do so because they could not get admission in English medium schools or could not afford it. Given a choice every parent will like to admit his child into an English medium school.

State Government politicians pay lip service to the regional language and pretend to be in favour of the local languages as medium of instruction at the primary school level but their own children go to English medium schools.They know the standard of education in regional language schools is not up to the mark.

English medium education gives you a status in society that you don’t get when you study in regional languages. The regional language is studied in addition to English not instead of English.

The standard of Education in English medium schools in India is vastly superior to the quality of education in the majority of schools that teach in the local languages.

English medium education facilitates entry into the elite sections of society. You are taken more seriously, when you are dressed in a pant and shirt and speak English rather than in a Dhoti and speak the local language. Those who speak English well do better in job interviews.They find it easier to do well abroad.

Nearly all the people who matter in India speak, read and write English as their first language.

The middle classes know this. Some grudgingly admit it. Others unconvincingly deny it.

Only in politics, arts, religion & culture and during elections are the local languages more important because you need to have mass contact, which is not possible if you speak to the masses in English.

 

Debjit Banerjee

My take:
1. ) There is not an iota of doubt that English is the global language when it comes to the professional world. So proficiency in English gives an edge when it comes to career.
2. ) The only language that binds India is English. Especially, it has been very successful in bridging the great South and the North India divide. So today a north Indian can communicate effectively with a south Indian without knowing any south Indian language and vice-versa. And in today’s fast developing India, our kids are not restricted to her or his own state. I have been living and working very comfortably in southern India for 9 years now without knowing any south Indian language.
3. ) Some may disagree but we still have hangover from the British rule. Many parents still think that knowledge of English makes their kids look smarter and more presentable to others.


Nandha Kumar

You don’t have to investigate deep into this to find an answer.

That English is the preferred language of progressive Indians is well established though not all will agree on this. English is nowadays considered as much Indian as Gujarati, Tamil or Telugu, and more importantly it helps to find good jobs all over the world.

Competing languages like Hindi especially is artificially propped up by the central government in India to give advantage to north Indians over south Indians. This makes English unpopular outside the southern states. More over, those unable to acquire even a working knowledge in English wish to pull down others to the same level to make it easy for them to compete in the job market, but seldom succeeds.

Having realized that English is the future of India, Indians prefer English because it a language suited best for communication within the country and at international level as well.

In short we can summarize that Indians prefer English over Hindi because it gives them special position over native language speakers and parents want this advantage for their children.

 


Yash Agrawal

Because they think that Hindi medium schools will not teach English properly. They know the importance of English, but they don’t know the importance of education in one’s mother tongue, that it is more effective for their children. It is also that English is not taught in a good way in some Hindi medium schools but this is not so in all the Hindi medium schools.

 

Do second and third generation Indian Americans take interest in learning any Indian language?

 

Dead Poet Society

 

The girls and I watched “Dead Poet Society” over the weekend.  It was one of my favorite films almost thirty years ago.  “Charlotte”, who is 15 and a rising sophomore, really liked the film.  Before her bedtime, I engage her in an half hour discussion, in Chinese, on some of the themes in the movie, on parenting, passion, individuality, pursuit of happiness, etc..  I am glad we’ve got to enjoy watching this movie together.

As is written in the second clip, “Thank you, Robin, for making us laugh, for making us cry, for touching our souls.”  RIP.

 

做好榜樣 Setting a good example

This post is, for a change, about me!  We moved to Georgia last summer and I was recently invited to give a 30 minutes presentation on chronic kidney disease to the general Chinese speaking public in the area.  All in Chinese, with a few English medical terminologies allowed in between.  As a youth immigrant, I learned everything from middle school and up in English, including everything in medical school and medical residency of course.  To my Chinese-speaking friends, family, and the few Chinese-speaking patients that I have had so far, I can say a few sentences about their medical issues in Chinese with little problem.  But to give a 30 minutes talk in Chinese about a medical subject, well, that’s a completely different ball game.  Besides it being a good community service and promotion for my medical practice, I figure that it would be a good way to let my girls see how knowing Chinese well can be a good way to connect with the local Chinese speaking community, even for youth immigrants like myself.  This talk would also be a good way to force myself to improve my own Chinese.

After getting all my slides done (in Chinese mostly), it took me more than 10 hours just to practice delivering this talk in Chinese.  Like any talks, I have to add in some jokes and interesting things to liven it up a little, in Chinese of course.  I also added a couple of Chinese idioms, proverbs, and a reference to an ancient Chinese medical story.  Public speaking was never my thing and my girls helped out, providing critiques during parts of my practice.  DD#1 “Charlotte” is a natural in public speaking and wrote several PAGES of notes for me.  She even suggested more suitable Chinese words for me to use, can you believe it?!  (She can compose in Chinese better than I can.)  DD#2 “Georgia” was just laughing her heads off, jotting down more than a hundred of my “uh…uh….” in just a few minutes of my initial practice runs!  I was starting to get very annoyed at her, LOL!  Since I had a busy work week, I stayed up till 4AM the day of my talk (Sunday) to practice.  In the morning, I practice two more times and felt fairly confident by the time we left the house.

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I was a little nervous waiting for my turn as I was to deliver the latter of the two talks.  An adult immigrant China and US trained physician delivered the first talk on cancer screening and treatment.  Well, my talk went very well, I am so relieved to say.  No more “uh….uh….”, LOL.  The audience asked many questions and a number of them asked me for my business card afterward.  My wife was very proud of me that I asked her “所以,妳認我是妳的先生了?!“ (So, you would now acknowledge that I am your husband?!)   LOL.  It took me a whole hour afterward just to feel all that stress leave me.

My girls were very proud of me too!  Mission accomplished!

 

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Question on assimilation and Chinese language learning

One parent asked on my FB group: I noticed many other parents have voiced concerns about social isolation in the quest for CLE (Chinese Language Ecosystem)……..  I am curious to hear from parents or parents of kids who are happily assimilated without compromising Chinese language/culture. Is this utopia possible for us in small town USA?

My answer:  It is entirely feasible. My girls (11 & 14 now) grew up in a small city of 35,000 in rural eastern North Carolina. Though there are some new immigrant Chinese families in the restaurant and poultry industry, we travel in completely different circles as we immigrated here several decades ago and are in the medical field.  Except for ~20 months of homeschooling, my daughters attended all English small private schools (class of 9 students for dd#2 and ~ 16 for dd#1 initially then another school with each class of ~ 60 students, ~90% white). Our CLE is conducted at home and through summer sojourns in Taiwan, comprising ~2/3 of their waking hours as school is only ~ 25% of their waking hours.  Except for a few Asian/Indian/Pakistani American classmates and friends amongst their two classes, all their friends are white.  These friends are not the most popular queen bee types, just nice southern girls.

For many years, I was very frustrated that we couldn’t find any Chinese speaking playmates for them. Then, as their Chinese got better by mid-elementary school, I grew more confident and decided along the way that my DDs don’t really need Chinese speaking playmates anymore.  They have each other.  Besides their summer sojourn abroad, we watched many Chinese movies, cartoons, and TV shows, which they enjoy tremendously.  They read Chinese poems, literature, a few classic Chinese pieces, comics, and many Chinese books (many translated edition of English books).  They listen to Chinese pop songs by Jay Chou, S.H.E., and others and sang some karaoke.  Their Chinese language proficiency and cultural awareness are almost certainly much stronger than most heritage children.

At the same time, over the past few years, I strongly encourage them to develop and maintain friendships with their white classmates. Their best girlfriends are all white and they are a lovely bunch. They have play dates, sleepovers, birthday parties, and pool parties on occasion. DD#1 had several white guy friends in middle school also. My DDs enjoy watching some popular American TV shows and listen to English pop music also.  All their extracurricular activities are taught by white instructors (that’s pretty much all we have here really…).  DD#1 played middle school  JV tennis with all white teammates. Here in our small relatively rural southern city, I feel that they are able to be somewhat of a “chameleon”.

So, yeah, it is absolutely possible in small town USA to be happily assimilated without compromising Chinese language/culture.  In fact, it is probably easier to assimilate in small town USA, as cultural cliques can readily develop in large metro cities with larger Asian population.  This rural city didn’t stop them from developing relatively strong Chinese language/cultural proficiency and our CLE didn’t stop them from assimilation.  The two are parallel ecosystems, “happily coexisting”.

I hope this helps.