March updates with impending COVID-19 outbreak

I hope all of you (US) are getting prepared (or are prepared) for and educated on COVID-19.

For one thing, it has been good for the girls to be fluent in Chinese during China’s early battle against COVID-19, when much of the primary source of information were in Chinese.  Our whole family have been keeping tab on COVID-19 development on news commentary shows from Taiwan, like 關鍵時刻 and 年代向錢看, that provide daily analysis on weekdays, with the “real story” from China, Korea, Japan, and the rest of the world.  Armed with such information, we were able to start preparing early on (before price gouging on some items) and even saved some money by getting out of stock mutual fund before the stock market started crashing for our retirement account.  The girls also read a couple of Chinese newspaper clips on COVID-19.

CHINESE POP BAND: COVID-19 did force the cancellation of one of our band performances in February, which was just fine, since we already performed three times over the winter.  Our band’s next performance will be in May, for Mother’s Day, but that will likely be canceled with how things are going now.  So, the girls are primarily working on our own band songs now.

CHINESE DEBATE:  As a result of COVID-19, Debate Asia (亞洲盃中文辯論錦標賽) has not make announcement on its 6th annual competition, 六國封相. It was going to be held in China in late July but, obviously, this is now extremely unlikely to take place.  The coach is looking into an alternative competition in Taiwan in July, 蘇州盃高中職辯論錦標賽.  This competition was previously limited to high school teams in Taiwan, but is now open to international teams for the first time.  Though Taiwan has done an exceptional job so far in her battle against COVID-19, anything can happen between now and July.  By then, air travel and large gathering may still be risky and there may be travel restrictions to Taiwan from the US, at the rate this is going.  So, I am not optimistic that the girls will be able to compete this summer.  But, regardless, the team is still training and that’s what counts.  At this point, the team is working on “Should UBI (universal basic income) replace means-tested welfare programs?”

CHINESE READING: DD#2 is pretty done with 7th grade first semester CLA textbook from Taiwan.  The last lesson she practiced reading aloud was a 1925 essay “背影“ by 朱自親.  It was the second to the last chapter but I have her skip the last chapter since it was just a simple short story.

朱自清

我與父親不相見已二年餘了,我最不能忘記的是他的背影。那年冬天,祖母死了,父親的差使也交卸了,正是禍不單行的日子!我從北京到徐州,打算跟著父親奔喪回家。到徐州見著父親,看見滿院狼藉的東西,又想起祖母,不禁簌簌地流下眼淚。父親說:「事已如此,不必難過,好在天無絕人之路!」
回家變賣典質,父親還了虧空,又借錢辦了喪事。這些日子,家中光景很是慘澹,一半為了喪事,一半為了父親賦閒○8。喪事完畢,父親要到南京謀事,我也要回北京念書,我們便同行。
到南京時,有朋友約去遊逛,勾留了一日;第二日上午便須渡江到浦口,下午上車北去。父親因為事忙,本已說定不送我,叫旅館裡一個熟識的茶房陪我同去。他再三囑咐茶房,甚是仔細。但他終於不放心,怕茶房不妥帖,頗躊躇了一會。其實我那年已二十歲,北京已來往過兩三次,是沒有什麼要緊的了。他躊躇了一會,終於決定還是自己送我去。我兩三回勸他不必去,他只說:「不要緊,他們去不好!」
我們過了江,進了車站。我買票,他忙著照看行李。行李太多了,得向腳夫行些小費才可過去。他便又忙著和他們講價錢。我那時真是聰明過分,總覺他說話不大漂亮,非自己插嘴不可。但他終於講定了價錢,就送我上車。他給我揀定了靠車門的一張椅子,我將他給我做的紫毛大衣鋪好座位。他囑我路上小心,夜裡要警醒些,不要受涼;又囑託茶房好好照應我。我心裡暗笑他的迂,他們只認得錢,託他們直是白託!而且我這樣大年紀的人,難道還不能料理自己麼?唉!我現在想想,那時真是太聰明了!
我說道:「爸爸,您走吧!」他望車外看了看,說:「我買幾個橘子去,你就在此地不要走動。」我看那邊月臺的柵欄外,有幾個賣東西的等著顧客。走到那邊月臺,須穿過鐵道,須跳下去又爬上去。父親是一個胖子,走過去自然要費事些。我本來要去的,他不肯,只好讓他去。我看見他戴著黑布小帽,穿著黑布大馬褂,深青布棉袍,蹣跚地走到鐵道邊,慢慢探身下去,尚不大難。可是他穿過鐵道,要爬上那邊月臺,就不容易了。他用兩手攀著上面,兩腳再向上縮,他肥胖的身子向左微傾,顯出努力的樣子。這時我看見他的背影,我的淚很快地流下來了。我趕緊拭乾了淚,怕他看見,也怕別人看見。我再向外看時,他已抱了朱紅的橘子望回走了。過鐵道時,他先將橘子散放在地上,自己慢慢爬下,再抱起橘子走。到這邊時,我趕緊去攙他。他和我走到車上,將橘子一股腦兒放在我的皮大衣上。於是撲撲衣上的泥土,心裡很輕鬆似的。過一會說:「我走了,到那邊來信!」我望著他走出去。他走了幾步,回過頭看見我,說:「進去吧,裡邊沒人!」等他的背影混入來來往往的人裡,再找不著了,我便進來坐下,我的眼淚又來了。
近幾年來,父親和我都是東奔西走,家中光景是一日不如一日。我北來後,他寫了一封信給我,信中說道:「我身體平安,惟膀子疼痛得厲害,舉箸提筆,諸多不便,大約大去之期不遠矣!」我讀到此處,在晶瑩的淚光中,又看見那肥胖的青布棉袍、黑布馬褂的背影。唉!我不知何時再能與他相見!

 

Instead of having DD#2 move unto 7th grade second semester textbook, I now just ask her to do readings on the AP Chinese study guide (and typing).  I figure she might as well get it started and take the AP exam either in 9th grade or 10th grade.  DD#1 ended up not being able to take the AP Chinese exam this year (11th grade) since the schools that offer it locally (not available at her own school) ran out of spots early.  It might as well be that way since she would have to take her AP Bio exam in the morning and then get to another school for afternoon’s AP Chinese exam.  That may end up to be too much of a rush.  Oh well….

 

CHINESE TV SERIES:

DD#2 finished watching 皓蘭傳, a 2019’s historical fictional TV series, which was loosely based on the life story of the 趙姬, the mother of 秦始王 (Qin Shi-Huang), who was the “first” emperor of China at around 200 BC.  So, DD#2 learned about 呂不韋 of 呂氏春秋, 長平之戰 in which Qin buried 200,000 surrendered soldiers alive, and how 秦始王 came about.

 

 

Now, we shifted back to 金庸’s work, 鹿鼎記, which will provide DD#2 with the historical background surrounding the first phase of the Qing dynasty in the 17th century.  For those of you who know this novel, you won’t find it surprising that my DD#2 is having a blast watching 偉小寶!  We are watching the 2014 TV series.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

第五屆亞洲盃 美國東南區亞特蘭大聯隊 資格賽 (Qualifier debate for SE US Atlanta Team)

It was an incredible journey for the Southeast US Atlanta Team.  Our team members have various Chinese proficiency levels.  Truly, one’s language proficiency (or lack of) affects the ability to listen, comprehend, organize, and express various parts of the debate.  Shawn Yen, our excellent and most devoted coach, was able to utilize the best qualities of each debater and put each in the best line-up position.  The team went through so much in the last few months and we are ecstatic over their accomplishment (one win, one tie, one loss). In addition, my DD#1 was voted as the Best Debater for our second debate and our second chair debater was voted as the Best Debater for the first debate. Go Team USA!

 

Changing direction – social studies textbook

DD#2, “Georgia”, almost 13 now, is finishing up reading aloud to fluency the first semester Chinese Language Art (CLA) textbook from Taiwan. My original plan was to move onto six grade second semester textbook, which would be the natural progression. But, now that she recently joined the newly organized Chinese debate team, I am changing our plan.

Debate Asia, the organization that runs the Chinese debate competition, frequently uses as debate topics subjects that are of concern to the United Nation. There are, therefore, much use of social studies terminology and language, in Chinese of course.  Regular CLA textbooks would not be efficient in providing such subject languages exposure. 

The following two pictures are from a 7th grade second semester CLA textbook that I prepared for my DDs before. 

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Compare the above with the following images from an 8th grade second semester social studies textbook.

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As you can clearly see, the social studies textbook provides excellent and efficient exposure to relevant Chinese terminology and language.  It is also fitting that these materials overlap with Georgia’s English based social studies course material at school, which makes learning via scaffold reading experience (SRE) possible.

Yes, it is more boring to read these social studies textbook aloud, but I hope she can appreciate the language knowledge soon, when her debate competition gets closer and closer.  We will see how it goes!

(There are videos online which go over much of materials presented in the textbook, but some narrators kind of just read the slide content off the screen, which is boring.  Their pronunciation could be “better” also.)