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Chinese is my Second language

March 26, 2010
"Chinese is my Second language!"  that’s what was drilled into my head since secondary school.  The country stopped Chinese school anyway and called them top eight schools or something of that sort.  We only knew we had to take Chinese as a 2nd language in ‘O’ level and later in ‘A’ level.  Some students in other schools still continue take Chinese at a first language level but as Gan Eng Send School students, we thought they’re probably "chinese helicopters" (slang for Chinese educated students) who never want to give up.

During those gruesome lessons, I did not realise that Chinese is a very "rich" language.  We heard the Chinese teacher said it many times and it seemed that anything Chinese is shrinking.  Less people are speaking in, Chinese newspaper readership is dropping, etc.  After my ‘A’ level, I thought I’ll never have to touch Chinese again.  At least not academically.  But I still find myself reading "联合晚报" every night because it’s there my 六姑 bought one every night (not she migrated to NZ, I wonder if she missed 晚报).  And I still pick up "武侠小说" (Chinese kung fu story books) and often got stuck to it until I finished it and I’ll read some 文艺小说 but at least those I could easily put down took me longer to finish.  When I finally went to Canada (and eventually US) for schools, I find myself writing in Chinese to my granny instead of English.  My granny is illiterate anyway, somebody had to read my letter to her.  I just find Chinese a more powerful and appropriate language to relate to her.

Fast forward twenty years, I now find Chinese a beautiful language.  Now that internet is readily available, I continue to read "散文" (short stories/essays in Chinese) and blogs (博客).  I never knew I will be in touch with this language or use this seemingly "hopeless" language for myself.

I started learning basic Japanese 102 in 1996 and continue on my own practicing whenever I have the time (and if I don’t have to  spend a cent).  I read and re-read some of the books I had.  But now I have tons of material online I can learn from my books are collecting dust.  Last year, I went running with my MP3 player and every "song" is a Learn Japanese podcast.  But all those Japanese learning were from English website.  They’re all "learning japanese from English".  Then I chance upon this NHK website and it has learn Japanese from several other languages.  I chose Chinese.  And since then, my jogging are podcast of learning Japanese from Chinese.

What I found was, learning Japanese from Chinese is less wishy-washy.  The explanation were clear concise and direct.  Why not, the two languages share many common cultures.  One doesn’t have to explain why japanese bow, or how to use chopstick which is a frequent digression when you learn Japanese in a western language.  And besides  kanji are just mere Chinese.  Why didn’t I think of this when I started?  Through I saw another value of Chinese.

But if ever meet any Singaporean, I’ll still say "Chinese is my Second language".  And my favorite answer to any mainland Chinese asking if I read/write or speak Chinese is still "马马虎虎啦" which literally means "tiger, tiger, horse, horse (lah)".


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  1. Vicky permalink

    Funny you should mention this in your blog. Chinese is now taught as \’Mother Tongue\’ in Singapore, although MOE may be considering teaching it as a \’foreign language\’, which uses a different teaching method.

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