Last year, I described my daughter Kayla’s back-and-forth decision-making process when she needed to select the language she would study in high school. She’s an eight-month veteran of the ninth grade now but, because the school is a little unusual and organizes classes in a semester format, she only started her study of Chinese (Mandarin) in January.
Kayla’s an independent learner and she rarely turns to me for help with homework, so I have enjoyed sitting with her to go over Chinese vocabulary. She has learned a lot already, and she sounds great! We also review the dialogues, which, like many that are typical of beginner textbooks, can be entertaining. (Such as the one in which a student tries to entice a friend to join her in an activity, only to discover that the “friend” doesn’t like going to the movies, watching TV, going to restaurants, or anything else, until finally, “Suanle!” — forget about it, I’ll go out with someone else. What a loser that friend turned out to be!)
My vocabulary has dwindled a bit over the years: I sometimes need the textbook to refresh my memory, and I find myself relying on the pinyin (Romanization) to be sure my “tones” are nice and sharp. My own linguistic shortcomings aside, it’s very satisfying to observe her as she expands her knowledge of the world by learning a new language.
There’s another month or so when we can “yiqi xue Zhongwen” — study Chinese together — and then I’ll look forward to her second-year class. When it came time to put together her 2009-2010 schedule, Kayla surprised me again, this time by adding Arabic to her linguistic plans. That’s a subject with which I’ll be no help at all!
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