This learning blog is dedicated to the memories and teachings of my late mother and father.
Mom & Dad:
After all those years of giving you grief about learning Chinese (among other things), you’d never guess that I’m trying to teach it now. It is difficult, but I have the cutest study buddies, and they’re kicking my butt.
Wish you could see us now! Your granddaughter 老大 (lǎodà / oldest child) is almost 4, and your grandson 老二 (lǎo èr / second child) just turned 1. Your son-in-law is an amazing father and the best husband I could ever ask for, and we live in a small town in California.
I still love to teach, and I’m now a pediatrician in the e-learning industry. You know how much I loved to teach piano and tutor organic chemistry! But for the first time, I am teaching something that I am embarrassingly not good at.
When 老大 was around age 2, I awkwardly began to speak to her in my broken Chinese. Within a couple of months, she mastered the limits of my vocabulary and wanted to learn more. She sparked a fire within me, and I have been ablaze with determination to relearn Chinese so that she and her brother have a fighting chance to learn it, too.
I literally spend half of the day looking up words in the dictionary, and I hardly sleep because my mind is busy brainstorming Chinese activities for 老大 and 老二!
Of course, this process would have been much easier if I had just paid attention to everything that you told me growing up.
Instead, since we were the only Chinese family in our school district, I felt ashamed about who we were. I replied to you in English when you spoke to me in Chinese.
I would wince when you called me 宝宝 (bǎobǎo / darling) and felt relief when you addressed me as Betty.
Well, you were right that I would finally understand when I became a parent. I never considered that my rebellion may have hurt and disrespected you. I finally appreciate your bravery and sacrifice of immigrating here, especially at a time when assimilation occurred in the face of racism and at the cost of heritage. I am sorry for my adolescent ignorance.
Now I know that teaching your grandchildren Chinese is the thread that connects our generations. And that giving them a chance at even some proficiency is a window to the world beyond our little town.
I tell your grandchildren that 外公 (wàigōng / grandpa) and 外婆 (wàipó / grandma) love them, that you immigrated here for our future. I tell them even though they won’t get to meet you in this life, someday when we’re all reunited in Heaven, maybe we’ll catch up in Chinese!
In the meantime, here is a video of 老大 reading.
She started reading about half a year ago, and we are gradually learning new characters and building reading stamina. It takes 老大 a couple of pages to build momentum, but I’m proud of her progress. Hopefully, she hasn’t picked up too many tonal inaccuracies from me, but we’ll keep practicing.
I’m also excited to share that 老二 already says a bunch of words in English, Chinese, and Korean! 宝宝，喝奶 (hē nǎi / drink milk), and 抱抱 (bàobào / hug) are some of his first Chinese words, and he also says 阿门 (Āmén / Amen) when we pray.
So, I am dedicating this website to you, Mom and Dad! Your light is shining bright into the next generation!