My daughter is in Primary 4 in a Chinese School. Recently, she told me that her teacher had singled out the Chinese Essay she had written during her mid term exams as the best in the class. She was very excited to tell me about it.
Friday, June 22, 2012
"Mom, teacher even remembered how many marks I received when she was telling the class and she knew exactly what I wrote, mom!"
The teacher had informed everyone that she comes from a home where her parents do not understand nor speak Chinese. Teacher said
"If she can do it, you all can too!"
I'm really happy for her. It is mostly her own effort. We do not send her for any tuition. When she was in Primary 1, we did get one of her kindergarten teacher to come in to converse to her in Mandarin. This was to ease her transition to school so that she would understand what the teacher was talking about. We instructed the teacher NOT to give any written homework. The 'tuition' was on conversational Chinese and a little bit of reading because we did not want to burden her. The teacher would sometimes give her 'assignments' like "go and make two new friends today and find out their names for me for the next lesson. Then they would talk about what happened in school ... in Mandarin. No English is to be used during the class accept a little for explanation if my girl did not understand. However, the teacher was not punctual and always cancelling classes so eventually we stopped after half a year.
We decided to let my girl go for the school tuition in Std 3. She would stay back in school for 2 hours once a week. However, we found that it only added to her homework burden with an extra workbook and additional hours spent in school. There was no value added, only time wasted so we stopped that after half a year too.
I must say that deciding to stop was very hard. Always on my mind was, what if. What if I made a mistake. What if she needed extra help and there is no one to give it to her. What if?
We went ahead and stopped the tuition classes and I am glad we did. She is still burdened with lots of homework but we saved 2 hours a week.
I started learning Chinese along with my kids when they started kindergarten. I was able to guide them along by studying along with them using an electronic dictionary. However, I am able to do this up to Std 2 and a little Std 3 Level. The Std 4 Level is beyond me now. So many difficult words, phrases and idioms to learn. So my girl has to rely on herself now.
During Parents Teacher's Day last year, her teacher advised us to let her copy a lot of essays. "It's okay if she does not understand the words yet, let her copy as many as she can to learn. Get her essay books to read." The teacher has been doing this as well. My girl has to go to school early twice a week to write 2 essays. She said she used idioms and tried to incorporate everything teacher thought into her 'winning' essay. I'm really proud of her. She did it on her own without help from us. Every time she comes to me for help, I have to say "I'm sorry, this is too hard for me." It is really tough not being able to help your child because of the language barrier. I try my best to help her using my trusted electronic dictionary. Sometimes I am able to but most of the time she has to do it herself.
I hate this idea of rote learning, of copying essays but perhaps her teacher is right and this is the way to learn Chinese? First familiarize yourself with the terms and the way of writing and then later on you will be able to write on your own. Anyone has any thoughts on this, feel free to share. By sharing, we learn from each other.