So, got hope. Heh!
15 very long Chinese Compositions is actually a lot to memorize given that when he started off, he knew only about half the words in one composition. He was so brave. It took him 7 hours to memorize the first composition but he stuck with it. It got easier and faster by the time the 5th composition came around. By the 15th composition, he could do it in 2 and a half hours.
I was so proud of him... for his determination and persistence.
We started this experiment in the last week of November, and proceeded at a rate of 3 compositions a week for 5 weeks. Then, Little Boy took 1 week off at X'mas and New Year to play, play and play.
Little Boy also wrote one Chinese Picture Essay a week over the 5 weeks. Grandma noted that the quality of his Chinese Picture Essays improved from week to week on 2 points
- He was using very nice "cheng yu" (Chinese descriptive proverbs).
- The structure of his Chinese Picture Essay became tighter and more coherent.
That too was encouraging. It was important to keep evaluating this process because it takes so much effort. I was anxious to know if it had any chance of working.
School has started for Little Boy and he has been attending Higher Chinese classes regularly. He bounced into the car in Week 1 and reported that he found reading and understanding in Higher Chinese class much easier... and that this made Higher Chinese quite a bit less boring than it used to be.
That was good.
In Week 2, Little Boy climbed pensively into the car and explained that merely reciting was not pushing the learning far enough because he wouldn't be able to write the words he could recognise. This meant that he was slow at writing in Higher Chinese class. I was really pleased that he had had the sense to evaluate his own study process and suggest an improvement. I praised him for his wisdom at requesting to consolidate some of the more useful and evocative words... and learn to write them.
So, Little Boy set to work. He consolidated what I termed "yummy vocabulary", and gave himself "ting xie" (spelling) by using hanyu pinyin. It was a long effort. There were so many words in each composition to learn. And since Chinese words cannot be spelled using phonics, each word is a picture that must be committed to memory. I tried to make the task easier by limiting him to 5 phrases from each one of the 15 compositions he had memorized.
He still found it tough... because "Mommy, every word is useful" he said.
"I know, but you don't have to learn them all", I responded. "Learn some and others you will learn when you encounter them again later, in other compositions. It's only Chinese. I don't wish you to die learning it" I added.
"But... but... it's hard to choose" he said.
"No buts... You have to choose" I decided.
And so it was that Little Boy completed the consolidation of the lists. He felt very proud of himself. We still don't know if all this will translate into good grades at the next Chinese exam but we will continue to hope. Whatever it is, this whole process has shown me the temper of the steel in my son.