Chinese schools of yesteryear versus Chinese schools of today

As a Chinese-American born and raised here, I endured some pretty sufferable Saturday mornings.  Instead of watching good ol' Saturday morning cartoons like my friends did, I- along with my brother and cousins- went to Chinese school. Did anyone here do the same? If so, I’d be interested in hearing about your experiences. It could be fun to trade stories and reminisce together.

I don’t know about you but for us, every class had the same routine.  We first turned in our homework, pages of columns of Chinese characters we feverishly wrote out on Friday night, and then we would have a quiz on the list of Chinese characters we learned the previous week.  The quiz always had the same format as well.  The teacher would call out a character and we would write it down.  After the quiz, our teacher would ever so slowly go over a paragraph in the book that would contain new characters for us to learn how to read and write.  Each lesson didn't really have a specific focus or topic.  Mainly, it seemed that each new lesson served to increase our abilities to read and write more characters.  There were no activities or games past the kindergarten level.

Needless to say, this manner of learning Chinese was pretty boring, and I was a bit bitter to have to spend my Saturday mornings memorizing characters.  At the time, it seemed like students of other Chinese schools had similar experiences. Unfortunately, my first experience of learning Chinese didn't last very long, and I am a little ashamed to admit that I became a 4th grade dropout of Chinese.

I was over at my cousin’s house the other day and we got to talking about the past- including our times at Chinese school. As it turns out, my cousin’s son just started going to Chinese school (the cycle continues!). I was going to express my sympathies towards the kid, but it seems that learning Chinese has changed in many ways and for the better. First of all, Chinese textbooks are way cooler and kid-friendly these days. Instead of memorizing a random assortment of characters, lessons are oriented around actual topics of conversation. And thanks to technology, he can view animated stories, listen to songs, and do interactive exercises and homework online. It’s great that learning Chinese has come a long way and become a lot more fun and interesting. Who knows? I may even give it another go!


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