Monday, June 18, 2007

I Dream of Kanji

Chinese was easily one of the subjects I dreaded most in grade school and high school. It wasn't because of the difficulty but rather learning the language seemed so alien, so unnatural. My classmates would tell each other reasons not to learn it: 1) We never spoke mandarin outside of Chinese class, 2) We were already studying English and Filipino, why add a third language to our curriculum, and 3) We'd have translators when we needed to talk to someone in Chinese. Of course this was all rationalization on our part, an excuse for our inability to grasp the lessons that was being taught to us for the past thirteen years.

We had Chinese class every single day, averaging at 45 minutes a day. What was chilling about the class was its monotony, at how the teacher would talk to us in a language we never understood yet expected us to pass the exams. For thirteen years, me and my classmates passed the subject through sheer short-term memory, memorizing what was needed to pass the current exam and then discarding it once we were done. Our brains were like those 1.44 MB diskettes--reformatted every so often to make space for new data.

One of the lessons that stuck to me was vocabulary class. The school year was divided into four quarters and in each quarter, we'd have at least two sets of vocabulary to memorize. Each vocabulary exercise was composed of ten new words so theoretically, we'd have learned eighty new words every school year. Unfortunately, the fact of the matter is, I was fortunate if I retained a dozen of those vocabulary words in my memory. And even then, I wouldn't get the pronunciation right.

Occasionally, I'd have dreams of being in school once more (actually, even when I was student, I was already having dreams of being in class). One of the pseudo-nightmares was being in Chinese class once more and the teacher was lecturing us on vocabulary. The dream I just had, I think we were being made to memorize thirty vocabulary words, thirty words that I was unfamiliar with and had an upcoming test with.

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