I’m an ABC. For those who aren’t familiar with this acronym, “ABC” in the Chinese community means “American Born Chinese.” My husband and my kids are also ABCs. So, it’s a challenge for my whole family to teach, learn, and retain the Chinese language since we live in the USA.
The thing is… I know first-hand what it feels like to be an ABC kid growing up in America, arguing and fighting with my parents about not wanting to go to Chinese school. Because Chinese school SUCKED. It really sucked. I fought with my mom every night about doing Chinese school homework. I put up such a good fight, that after a few weeks, she waved the white flag. I was allowed to quit Chinese school! It was a glorious triumph for me.
“Aiya!” said my mom (in Mandarin), “Fine. You can learn to write Chinese later on in life when you really want to do it yourself.” I thought I had won the battle. But really, it was my mom who had won. In her wisdom, she knew it was futile to force me to do something that I so desperately hated to do. Forcing me to continue would only push me farther away. She was taking a gamble – because she didn’t know if I’d ever want to learn Chinese characters on my own volition. But to her credit, I did. In university, I finally saw the utility of being literate in Chinese, and the beauty of my heritage.
I took three years of Chinese courses in university. “Aiya!” said my mom, “Chinese school was so much cheaper than university, you wait until university to make me pay higher tuition to learn Chinese?!” Well, at least we were able to laugh about it. I think she was just happy that I finally wanted to learn.
Fast forward to today. I’m a mother of two young children, and trying to walk the fine line of teaching Chinese literacy to my kids without causing them to hate it and revolt. So far, so good. Remembering how I felt as a child, I try to use my own experiences to help my kids learn Chinese. I mean, I can’t say they LOVE practicing how to write Chinese characters. But they don’t hate it. We don’t have fights over it (not yet, at least). I’m learning and improving my methods as I go, and would like to share what’s worked (or not worked) for me. Thanks for reading my blog and joining me along the way!