2019 Updates

Happy Chinese New Year!

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.

皇后一人
皇貴妃一人,皇貴妃及以下可用寓意吉祥或美德之字作為徽號,如誠貴妃、惠妃、如貴人。皇貴妃可用二字徽號,其餘妃嬪僅一字。
貴妃二人
妃四人。
嬪六人。
貴人無定數。
常在無定數。
答應無定數。
官女子無定數。亦作宮女子,有清一朝只有妃嬪被貶為官女子,並沒有包衣女子被冊封成官女子的,可見並非後宮名號。

皇后之下的妃嬪可以分為高、中、低三等:
高階:皇貴妃、貴妃
中階:妃、嬪(中階以上嬪妃可獨享一座宮院(又稱主位娘娘)
低階:貴人、常在、答應(地位低微,常在、答應需和中階以上妃嬪同居一座寢宮)
官女子:與宮女無異

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.

第十四課:我們住在地球村

你有沒有想過:當你正興高采烈的和同學玩耍時,地球另ㄧ端的小朋友還在夢鄉中沉睡呢!當你在炎夏的海邊游泳時,地球上有些小朋友卻正忙著打雪仗,堆雪人呢!雖然我們居住的國家不同,膚色,語言,穿著打扮,生活習慣也各異其趣,但是所有的人都有ㄧ個共同點: 我們都生活在這個地球上。

地球上不同國家有各自的生活習慣與禮儀,我們能經由便利的交通工具到當地體驗,或是透過通信科技,獲得相關資訊。例如:在吃的方面,美國人常吃熱狗,漢堡和甜甜圈等速食。法國人最愛吃起司; 韓國人則是三餐都離不開泡菜。在生活習慣方面,日本習慣用鞠躬表示敬意,一位日本服務員說,他一天要鞠躬超過兩千次; 泰國人則認為外人不能隨便摸頭,因為頭是高貴的象徵,所以在理髮前,都會聽到一聲「對不起」。這些各具特色的風俗習慣,使這個世界更為繽紛多彩,不僅擴充了我們的國際視野,也增廣了我們的見聞。

科技的發展雖然使我們的生活變得舒適便利,各國間的溝通也變得暢通無阻; 可是卻有全球暖化, 環境污染, 疾病蔓延等新生問題正威脅著我們的生存,這些事件促使各國間的合作更加緊密。大家都了解到:一個國家發生的事件可能影響到全球。像內蒙古的沙塵暴可能影響整個歐亞大陸; 像禽流感的擴散, 將引起全球性的疾病蔓延。所以,當一個國家有困難時,其他國家或民間組織都應全力協助,進行人道救援。

在新的世紀,我們有了新的進步,也面臨了新的問題。身為地球村的一員,我們應以開闊的胸襟多認識異國文化,學習國際禮儀,培養兼容並蓄的世界觀; 更要秉持「人飢己飢,人溺己溺」的精神,讓地球成為更適合人類居住的樂土。

(This is decent reading but can be better.  I am letting it go right now to pick up our pace but we will come back to it later.)

第六課:父親與我

念中學時,因為學校位於屏東內埔,而我家在美濃笠山下,學校離家遙遠,加上交通不便,只好寄居親友家。

初次利用假日返鄉,時值深秋。田野裡,打穀機不停的響著;樹梢間,蟬兒也正唱得高興。路過父親做事的代書處,同事說他身體不適,已經好幾天沒有上班了,聽到這種情形,讓我很不安。

父親因病不能過於勞動,在多年前便辭掉了中學教師的職務。後來弟妹次第出生,食指漸繁,為了家計,他只得到美濃小鎮的土地代書處上班,每天辛苦的騎著腳踏車,往返十幾公里曲折的山路。

我自小體弱多病,個性又懶散,總愛耍點小聰明,考不上附近的中學,只有遠到屏東念書,這更增加了家庭的負擔。我的性格和身體一直是父親最擔心的,他每次教訓,總要我踏實學習,但是,這次我離家求學,他的提醒卻是「健康第一,學問盡力」。他說:「我跟你的母親就像煤塊,不斷的燃燒著,讓你們盡可能的跑遠一點!等我們變成煤渣,想幫你們也不可能了。」沒想到隔年暑假,父親的光熱便已燃盡,在他不得不放手時,正是生命最璀璨、 創作最多的時候。此後,年年蟬聲高唱的時節,我總是特別想念他,也感到格外的遺憾!

父親熱愛文學,他將全副心力都放在寫作上。我也喜愛文學,每次私自讀父親的手稿, 那種真實親切的感覺總讓我心靈悸動。然而,父親寄予厚望的作品卻一次次被退稿,似乎所 有的努力都是白費。在飽嘗挫折之後,他再三交代我,將來農、工、商業都可以選,就是不要再走文學創作的路。

可是父親對文學的執著態度,及父親的作品給我的感動,再加上初生之犢的勇氣,讓我毅然決然拾起父親的筆,繼續父親未完成的創作遺願。可惜我既沒有父親的才華,也缺少他的堅持,幾十年來雖然寫了幾本書,總覺得像是狗尾續貂,實在愧對先人。不過甚感安慰的是:社會大眾終於接納了父親的作品,並且給予最高的肯定,他的小說和散文也因而廣為流傳。在他生活、寫作的家鄉—-美濃,有文友們為他設立的「鍾理和紀念館」,我想這絕對 是父親始料未及的榮譽吧!

每當站在父親辛勤耕耘的土地上,回想這些年來的生活點滴,依稀有父親在身旁陪著我。他時而雙眉深鎖,時而淡淡一笑,那意味好深長……

 

So this week, we move onto 6th grade textbook.  The first chapter is short and took about 40 minutes of practice.

第一課  漁歌子

漁歌子    張志和

西塞山前白鷺飛,

桃花流水鱖魚肥。

青箬笠,綠蓑衣,

斜風細雨不須歸。

語譯

西塞山前,一群白鷺展翅飛翔。飄落的桃花隨著溪水漂流,肥美的鱖魚在水中穿梭著。頭戴青色斗笠、身穿綠色蓑衣的漁夫,即使在斜風細雨中也不急著回去。

賞析

張志和曾在京城做官,因為受他人連累,於是辭官歸隱,長期生活在江邊,把自己的情感寄託於山水之間,與自然美景為友,不再過問國家大事。這首詞是他在西塞山前,望著如畫的春景所寫下的作品。

詞中描寫江南水鄉春季的情景,以鮮明的山光水色和作者恬淡自得的形象,構成一幅美好的山水畫。

首句「西塞山前白鷺飛」描述在青翠的西塞山前,一群白鷺在藍天中自在飛翔。次句「桃花流水鱖魚肥」以桃紅和綠水相映,呈現西塞山前的湖光山色;水中穿梭的無數肥美鱖魚,讓漁夫得以自給自足,這正是作者所嚮往的悠閒而自由的生活。

「青箬笠,綠蓑衣,斜風細雨不須歸」兩句,描寫漁夫戴著斗笠、穿著蓑衣,即使斜風細雨依舊垂釣江邊。這種怡然自得,樂在其中,捨不得離去的感覺,反映出作者的心境。

張志和藉著詞中漁夫的逍遙自在,寫出漁家生活的情趣與自己嚮往的恬淡生活。因此,在閱讀這作品時,我們不但能欣賞優美的景致,也能領會出作者的安閒自得。

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.

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:

*****************************

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?

 

演講和演出 Presentation and band performance

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.

 

 

讀報紙 Reading newspaper

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.

歐巴馬政府曾發布「平權」指引,建立大學在審核入學申請時,考慮種族因素,以促進校園多元化環境。美國很多頂級名校,為了防止亞裔學生比例過高,一直在悄悄限制亞裔比例,表面的平權政策,成了事實上的「種族歧視」。

這種持續多年的不公平現象,現在得到川普政府的正視。美國司法部部長塞申斯7月3日宣布,廢除歐巴馬政府的這個指南。司法部和教育部,將同時公布新的準則。川普政府官員表示,歐巴馬政府發布的指南,超越了最高法院對該問題的判決,並且誤導了學校。

紐約中華總商會執行長于金山,7月4日說,川普政府撤銷歐巴馬執政期間的「平權」指引,對華人社區是很好的鼓勵。任何學校的錄取,不看膚色,而是根據學業成績,這才是真正的平權。聯邦司法部,廢除大學招生考慮種族的平權入學的指導方針,這是正確的道路。

他舉例說明,亞裔學生上大學問題上,遭受的不公。在實行「平權法」的一個州,競爭同一所大學的錄取線,亞裔學生的SAT考試成績,必須達到1540, 白人需要1400分,而非裔需要1090分,就能被錄取。亞裔學生的成績就算是A-,也可能不被錄取,而非裔的B-成績,就可以夠格了。同樣成績,非裔被醫學院錄取的機會則是亞裔的三倍。

這是歧視性「平權」,于金山說。按照民權運動領袖,馬丁-路德-金,五十多年前的代表性演講,「我有一個夢想」,其中最重要的精神是:他夢想有一天,他的孩子不會因為他的膚色被評價,而是他的人格與內在。
現在按族裔給入學配額,與「白人優先」有什麼不同?如果你是黑皮膚,棕色皮膚,你就優先?完全不對。這不是公平、公正、公義的做法。

 

 

 

 

華語流行歌樂團 (Chinese pop band)

幾年前從未想過在美國自家可聽到現場的華語流行歌樂團!簡直是什麼的什麼啊!我們父女三人趁暑假儘量每晚練些,她們把樂團稱為「杜ㄧ無二」。我剛買了錄音器來玩玩,請大女兒彈ㄧ段來試試。

這樣來加強中文生態環境有夠酷吧!

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)?!