19 February 2014

Learning Chinese

I agree with Josh:  Chinese* dictation sucks.  But don’t tell him I said that.

When I was learning Chinese, I wasn’t having a grand old time doing it either.  I totally understand how Josh feels about it.  My friends and I were in the same boat.  Now many of us regret not learning it better when we had the chance (2 hours a day, Mon-Fri – for 12 years!).  I am glad that I learned Chinese, though, that I at least know some Chinese.  Enough to get by –enough to be able to read most items on the menu in Chinese restaurants, enough to be able to ask and give directions.  Enough to be able to carry a coherent conversation.  Enough to understand the gist of a newspaper article. 

I keep telling Josh that whatever dictation words that he has now on a bi-weekly basis (around 25 words/phrases) is nothing compared to what I had back then (short passages, not simply phrases).  That doesn’t really comfort him.  He can’t relate to that.  All he can think about is what a pain it is that we have to practice every day and how hard it is to learn all the different strokes for all the different characters.

Every week is the same old story, the same old process.  He starts with groaning and complaining about having to practice the characters.  Some days there are tears.  Then as the days progress, he grows more confident.  He ultimately comes home proud and smiling that got great marks for his dictation test that week.  Then the same process starts all over again.


Meanwhile, the process is less painful with Zoë.  She would tell me that she also finds Chinese challenging… BUT then she’d add, “But I will do my best, Mommy.”  And she does.  Without anybody asking, she would pull out what she needs to study / write and would get down to it as soon as she comes home from school.  She asks for help when she feels she needs it, but pretty much works independently.  Very self-motivated and very conscientious about learning (not only Chinese, but pretty much everything else).

Challenging as the process may be, I still want my children to learn Chinese.  I don’t expect them to be Chinese scholars and be able to spout Chinese poetry on command, but I do want them to be able to read and write to a fair degree.  I know that what they learn will become more challenging as they move up, but I do hope they persevere. 

My job?  To support them along the way and hopefully help them appreciate the beauty of the language, appreciate that learning another language gives them more options later on in life –not just career-wise, but so much more besides. 

How many languages do you speak?

*Putonghua (Mandarin).  We speak English at home and the children are exposed to Mandarin only in school, during their daily Chinese class.  Playground language at school and with their friends is English.


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