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.
This is the biggest performance of our family band so far, playing mostly Mandarin pop songs. It is the fruition of the decision and hard work every one of us put in over the past 15 years! I am so proud of my girls!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.