Sunday, 6 January 2013


There. I've just struck terror into the heart of any Taiwanese person reading this. Yes, it's nearly the end of the first semester and test time is upon us again. Next week, in fact. So homework has been increased (further!) and the pressure is on.

Testing plays a large role in education in Taiwan. The intensity varies from school to school and teacher to teacher, but it's a rare teacher that doesn't test her students weekly, and daily testing of  6-year-olds is common. We're in the very lucky position of not having to get too stressed about it all. My son does care, and he does try, but he knows that he still isn't on a par with his peers in Chinese. It's only in the last few months that his overall language acquisition has really picked up, so that he's operating more in direct Chinese for reading and writing, and less in translations to and from English.

Being a foreigner doesn't excuse him from having to do the same work as the other children, though, and nor would I want it to. So we've been seeing a lot of this lately:

He's actually doing English homework here. He attends a weekly Elementary writing class for native English-speaking children, here, so he's a busy boy.

The standard method for introducing new characters is through a weekly story. These are short tales for children, using already-known characters plus 14 - 20 new characters or phrases. The themes are generally along the lines of family relationships, home/school life or nature. They're usually prose, but occasionally there's a poem. There are a few schemes for the school to choose from and if you want to buy additional practice tests the shopkeeper needs to know which school your child attends, so that you don't give him tests on characters he hasn't covered yet.

Here's one half of one story.

As you can see, my son also adds his own illustrations! But the teacher doesn't seem to mind too much.

And here's a practice test he did.

He can do them with some help from the book and my phone (which translates from the phonetic script bopomofo into characters.) At the moment he can do about half off the top of his head.

I'd like to also record for posterity the size of his dictionary.

As Lola would say, it's also very, extremely heavy! The paper inside is very thin too.

So studying has taken up a large part of my son's free time recently. We did manage a short exploration of a mountain very near to us that we'd only just got around to visiting. This place is only 15 minutes from us on the MRT.

A growing boy needs a little fresh air and exercise after all!

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