I finally succumbed to my tiger mom instincts and enrolled the kids in one of those preparatory Chinese classes. I thought it’d be good to expose them to an environment of Mandarin-speaking people and they’d get to sing some happy Chinese songs or learn some rhymey Chinese rhymes, dance around a little bit, that sort of thing.
The first week in, Truett came home with a list for 听写. Ok, so maybe they’re diving head first into the deep end but it can’t be so bad, right? Probably a few easy words like 人 or 天.
I took a look at the list and the first word was 跳舞. Really? 舞 has like 14 strokes, or ten thousand. I have difficulty just looking at 舞, it makes my head hurt. I’ve seen entire paragraphs in Sanskrit that looked easier to replicate than 舞.
Being the diligent and responsible parent that I am, I sat down with Truett and got him to write 跳舞 5 times. It took him 20 minutes. And then 5 more times. That took even longer.
At which point, he was grabbing his head and looking downright miserable so I covered up the word and told him to try writing it out from memory.
“Just try your best,” I said. “It’s ok if you get it wrong.”
He came up with an elaborate drawing of what looked like a rocket spaceship exploding into a house. Pretty close.
That 听写, he came home with 0 for 3 and he drew a sad face next to his piece of paper. My heart broke into a thousand tiny pieces because my little boy was trying so hard but he was made to feel like a failure by stupid Chinese words. I wanted to sucker punch the Chinese language in the face for being such an ass. I thought of pulling him out of the class to let him enjoy what was left of his pre-Primary carefree life. But the husband said maybe we should just let him soak in the environment of Chineseness for that 100 minutes every week. Even if he failed every 听写, so be it.
I took out the piece of 听写 paper with the big fat 0, cancelled out the sad face and drew a GINORMOUS HAPPY ONE. I drew the happiest face I could draw and told him that this guy was happy because he tried his best and that was something to be happy about. And then I drew a whole bunch of other happy faces because all these people were so damn proud of Mr Happy Face here.
This week was round 2 of 听写. His 3 words were 运动, 电脑 and 巴刹. After 3 days of practice, he could write 运动 entirely from memory, half of 电脑 and 巴刹 still looked like a bunch of random lines.
But it was progress. I’d take 1.5 of 3.
I’ve known it since I was a kid, that the Chinese language was designed to destroy me slowly and in the most painful way possible. I thought I escaped relatively unscathed after taking my final Chinese paper 14 years ago but here it is again, back to torment me. I think this calls for a dramatic sigh.