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Sunday, May 5, 2013

Talk to Parents: Singapore Centre of Chinese Language

Potato Chinese (R) got some air time at an event organised by the Singapore Centre of Chinese Language. It felt quite awkward at first to be amongst speakers and organisers who were fully fluent in speaking, reading and writing Chinese. I suppose I was there as something of an oddity... a parent illiterate in Chinese who still managed to help her son pass Higher Chinese Language at the PSLE (sans tuition nor enrichment). I spoke on...

How To Motivate a Child to Do Potato Chinese(R).

Quite by chance this morning, Little Boy spoke to me wistfully about his classmates who have been exempted from Chinese. I could tell that he would have appreciated an exemption if only it meant that he could have more play time to himself.

I didn't attempt to get an exemption for him because I grew up as Chinese who can't speak and write Chinese. I don't like that feeling. Most people around me, even if they are poor in Chinese, can read some words. I can read nothing at all. It's not a good feeling. You feel ignorant and stupid in a country where even Indians and Malays can read Chinese (plus their own mother tongue).

I felt the lack like a hidden handicap.

Then Little Boy went on to comment on the irony that little P is fully Indian and is good at Chinese... and little M is Malay and quite good in Chinese. Meanwhile little M and little D and little L (all Chinese) are exempted from Chinese because the first had lived abroad for too long, the second is dyslexic and the 3rd ... well... Little Boy couldn't remember the reason for exemption.

Perhaps Little Boy will never thank me for stubbornly persisting in thinking that Chinese is a non-negotiable part of his education, for he will never keenly feel a handicap he does not have. Most people are not grateful for what they have because they've always had it. Even if you know a little Chinese you are better than Petunia who knows nothing at all. Even if you're not good at Chinese, you at least know some.

It's better than feeling ignorant everywhere you go or feeling inferior when you're with intelligent people who speak Chinese as a first language, whom you would like to be friends with but cannot ... because you cannot articulate the intelligent thoughts you have in a language that speaks to their hearts.

Maybe Little Boy will never know. But I, his mother... I do know.


Hearty Bakes said...

Hi Petunia, I was at the talk and enjoyed throughout your session. It's nice to meet you upclose and put the face to this blog I have been reading. You are such an inspiration ;)

Petunia Lee said...

Hearty Bakes --- Wow! I love your bakes!!