Archive for December, 2010

Losing ground

This morning taking Leo to kindergarten, we heard a surprising sound in a city: COCK-A-DOODLE-DOO!

"What’s that Leo?"

Leo getting excited: "That’s a… That’s a…" He struggled to get the word out.

So I resorted to asking him in Chinese: "Zhe shi shenme?"

Right away in reply: "Gong ji!"

Leo’s English, I realize, is going to lose ground to his Chinese, fast! Where’s the backup plan for this little hitch? It’s great he’ll speak Chinese like a native, but not at the expense of his English!

Maybe we need to buy him the English Rosetta Stone…

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It’s who you know

One of JM’s students has an older brother. This is quite uncommon, and usually entails an extremely large fee paid to the government for the second child, something akin to a year’s salary from what we’ve been told.

Usually.

"Did your parents have to pay the fine?"

"They did, but only a little one."

"Why?"

"They know someone in the government."

And that’s how it works.

They start early

Our three year old goes to a Chinese kindergarten. What does he do there besides play, have snack time, sing songs, and take potty breaks? From the small smattering of materials he comes home with and short glimpses in the classroom, it seems he does considerably more. Botany lessons from growing seeds, counting exercises, socialization lessons from videos telling you not to bully other kids, and consistent partnering with ‘older brother’ from the higher class level (without siblings at home, you make do as best you can).

Doubtless there’s a lot more than even this. What’s great is Leo really enjoys it. We got him into a pretty selective kindergarten here in town. And let us tell you, if your three year old isn’t in a selective kindergarten, *tsk-tsk*, good luck with his entire future.

The funny thing today, though, is the flyer that came home from school with him. Chinese New Year affords a whole three weeks vacation for the students in January. A nice break, right? No! Wasted time! They’re offering a ‘winter school’ program for nine days of that vacation, for an additional fee.

This is classic Chinese educational culture. There’s very little in the way of free, unstructured time. If your kids aren’t busy with extra classes after school or on the weekends, you run the danger of falling behind. Good luck competing with all those other motivated students (i.e.- parents). China’s economy may be faring well, but the job market is just as fierce here as anywhere else in the world right now. Three years old is not too soon to start grooming for the realities of life ahead, in other words.

So will we send Leo to winter school? Umm.. probably not!

Darn kids!

The following dialogue took place in half English half Chinese:

Leo: Mom we saw some "blahblah trucks" on the way home from school!

Liz: What kind of trucks?

Leo: Xiaofangche

Liz: What kind?

Leo: Xiaofangche…

Liz: Hmmm… yep, still didn’t catch what kind of truck… can you say that one more time? Was it an ambulance?

Leo (unfazed by all this back and forth): Mom, just go ask Hao Ayi (our nanny), she’ll tell you.

After our nanny explained that a xiaofangche is a firetruck, the word made sense – it’s one I know by sight, but I’ve never said it or heard it said! Here’s to Leo for teaching me Chinese. I have a feeling we are in for more of this as his language takes off.