Keeping up with Chinese has been an uphill battle for Kate. She is doing Higher Mother Tongue and the standard is very high for kids who come from English speaking families.
She has been very diligent since P1, and tries her best to read her textbook, cover the words and test herself. However, her teacher has already hinted that I should either make time to tutor her myself or consider tuition.
I don’t mind getting her a tutor if I find a passionate educator willing to come to my house to teach her in creative ways, by doing craft or even baking, at a reasonable fee. Till then, adding a weekly chore of sending an 8-year old for Chinese tuition just to keep pace with her school work doesn’t make sense to me.
I have long come to terms with this, and know full well that it takes more than one or two periods a day in school to learn a whole new language. I am happy so long as she keeps at it, and gives it her best, and is able to converse with our elderly relatives.
Now, the problem is, week after week, she comes back with more than 20 words wrong for her ting xie, and I can see that she is wondering how she can do better.
I suggested she find one of her sisters as they may have some time to spare now that they are home a bit more.
Armed with her textbook, she eagerly seeked out a sister, and the latter was more than happy to give her a hand.
Kate had jotted down the han yu pin yin for the difficult words, and they went through the chapter together.
After learning all the words, her sister tested her. They did this for 3 consecutive days until she scored 100%!
She was exuberant and looking forward to going to school for ting xie!
After school, her sis checked in with her, and they were both confident that she would get 100% for the first time!
They patiently awaited the day when Kate would get it back.
The next week, Kate alighted from her school bus and looked absolutely dejected.
I asked her what had happened?
She blurted out something about her ting xie, about how she got it all wrong, how the words were wrong to begin with…
I couldn’t quite understand what she was going on about and had to slowly break it down and get the story straight.
As it turned out, she did write everything correctly as her sis had tested her. However, it was all wrong because the words were incorrectly learnt to begin with!
When her Chinese teacher taught them, Kate wrote down the han yu pin yin, but perhaps her teacher was teaching too fast, or she could not catch it properly, and wrote the wrong han yu pin yin!
She had mis-matched the words to the prounuciations!
Kate ended with a plea, “Mummy, can I please have a REAL tutor?”
I had to hold it in and not burst out laughing. Poor kid. I can imagine her great disappointment. In fact, she was much sadder than all those previous weeks when she didn’t put her heart and soul into learning her ting xie.
I told the older girls the story and we had a good laugh. And THAT sister guffawed and said, “I knew it! I had a feeling that something was not quite right. But I was pressed for time that day, and since she had it all written down nicely, I assumed she had copied it from the board. I’ve not had to read Chinese for many years!”
She had a good chat with Kate, and promised her that for the next round, they would double check the words with google translate.
In fact, Kate didn’t want to chance it, and brought up her own dictionary!
Let’s see what happens when she gets her paper back next week! 😉
Michelle Choy is an Occupational Therapist by day and mum of 6 by night. Besides the already very demanding job of managing 5 teenagers and one 7-turning-17 tween, she is also co-Founder of The Little Executive, a nurturing centre to develop children in areas like resilience and executive function. She conducts small group parenting courses to help parents navigate this challenging journey, and has been featured on national TV, radio and print media.