The New Primary School Chinese Composition (Part 1)

This morning while catching up on all the news over the long weekend, this article (2-point concession to Higher Mother Tongue students unfair) caught my eye.

I must admit that I have not read a single volume from our late Minister Mentor and so I was quite taken a back, not to mention disheartened, to see him being quoted on the topic about mastering languages.

Is there really no way out for those of us who are just not proficient with the language?

Let's take a quick look at what is meant by the term "proficient with a language". In the US, the State Department came up with a measuring scale.

  • Level 1 - Elementary - Can fulfil the basic needs in a language, such as ordering meals, asking time and asking for directions.
  • Level 2 - Limited Working Proficiency - Can fulfil routine social demands, such as small talk about one's self, one's family and current events.
  • Level 3 - Professional Working Proficiency - Can discuss a variety of topics with ease and almost completely understand what others are saying.
  • Level 4 - Full Professional Proficiency - Can participate in all manners of conversations with ease and only rarely makes grammatical mistakes.
  • Level 5 - Native or Bilingual Proficiency - Can use the language the way an educated native speaker of the language would.

The truth be told, I am comfortably at Level 2 despite ten years of formal Chinese education from local schools. This made me wonder if that was the actual goal of our education system - just enough to be understood when some old relative asked you about your family. Sorry, still in Chinese New Year visiting mode.

Some time in the beginning of last year, I have started to take learning Chinese a bit more seriously. As mentioned in my earlier post, it is insufficient to rely solely on Chinese textbooks to learn the language. Not to mention taking Higher Chinese which my princess insists on year after year. Since I am a firm believer of karma, I think all these are happening because I had not reached my quota for studying.

After bumbling around for a year, with many trials and errors on the way to improve our princess's Chinese, I realised that I had went round the mulberry bush only to come back to the tried and tested method of just reading Chinese story books. I am sure this is the worst kept secret but yet nobody takes it seriously.

There are many parents out there who recommends memorising Chinese compositions  so as to pick up some good phrases which a student can then just patch it in to their own compositions to pick up some marks for expression. When I first heard this, I was astonished that there are people doing that. It then turned into horror when princess came home from tuition with a few, supposedly expressive and colourful, paragraphs of some model composition which her tutor had asked her to memorise and patch into her next composition. Since when writing composition became a patchwork job?


The new Chinese Composition

I refuse to believe that this is the fate that our children are doomed to follow. There must be a way out of this and we are just not looking at the right places or asking ourselves the right questions.

A Chinese parenting book (好妈妈胜过好老师) I bought some time back, mentioned that reading (阅读) is probably the only and best way to improve student's standard of Chinese. And after reading about this, I thought I might as well give it a shot. What do I have to lose except a few minutes a day. 

Lo and behold! After finishing 1 Chinese novel/story book, consisting of about 186 pages, I realised that my daily reading really helps with word recognition. Not to mention that I am now able to use more Chinese phrases in my daily conversations at home. Now I cannot wait to finish another book and see where this path will lead me to.    


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