1999 / 10月
曾以 GMAT 世界第一高分被封為「英文小魔女」的鮑佳欣，現已自美國哈佛大學學成歸來，在麥肯錫顧問公司任職外，還在TVBS電視台、台北之音電台主持英語節目。她的厲害英語是怎樣學來的？在她學英語的過程中讀過什麼英語雜誌，對她有什麼幫助？
Jackie Chen /photos courtesy of Hsueh Chi-kuang /tr. by Scott Williams
Nicknamed the "English whiz" when she received a perfect score on the GMAT, Jenny Pao has returned to Taiwan after completing her studies at Harvard University. Now, in addition to working for McKinsey and Co. Consulting, she hosts English language programs on TVBS and Voice of Taipei. How did she acquire such outstanding English? How did reading English-language magazines help her in her English studies?
Most people believe that the outstanding English of the Pao family's two daughters, Joy and Jenny, must be the result of natural talent, but their mother disagrees. Mrs. Pao emphatically states, "It's not natural talent. Their English, particularly Jenny's, is entirely the result of hard work."
"The key to learning English is proper pronunciation," opines Mrs. Pao. Beginning when they were children, Mrs. Pao strove to provide her daughters with an English-language environment. She took advantage of the light workload in the first two years of primary school in Taiwan to send her daughters to the US for schooling. The girls used their winter- and summer-vacation trips back home to catch up on the Taiwanese course-work they had missed. When they reached the more difficult third grade, Mrs. Pao changed her approach, putting the girls in school in Taiwan and sending them to the US on their vacations. In addition, each semester Mrs. Pao bought the English textbooks used in the American curriculum, and hired a tutor to go through them with the girls. Mrs. Pao herself would go through these texts with a dictionary to create daily vocabulary lists for daughters. The next day, she would test them on the new vocabulary, checking their knowledge of the definitions and ability to use the words correctly in sentences.
Mrs. Pao also sought ways to ensure her daughters would not be shy or reserved. For example, she took the girls to Western restaurants with bands where she then encouraged the girls to get up on stage and sing in English. And if she happened to spot a foreigner at an adjacent table during dinner, she would push the girls to go chat, thus improving their listening comprehension and ability to speak colloquially.
When the girls began middle school, she began training them for English-language speech competitions. If a guest happened to visit before such a competition, the girls would practice their speeches on him. Not only did the girls win a number of awards, they also became comfortable speaking on topics relevant to a number of fields of graduate study.
Encouragement the best medicine
In spite of the seemingly Spartan nature of the girls' educational regimen, they didn't rebel. Smiling, their mother attributes this to her "strategy of love." She explains that she always showered the girls with hugs and kisses, and praised them for how good their English was. "Sometimes I would even act a little silly with them. For example, when I gave them some extra vocabulary to learn, I might tell them, 'Oops! I wrote a few extra by accident!'"
In addition to providing the girls with American textbooks, Mrs. Pao also took them to the US to buy books, letting them choose whatever interested them. Mrs. Pao says, "They'd only read what they chose for themselves," so they grew up with stories, novels and magazines. They'd often secretly stay up half the night reading, never for a moment thinking they were "studying" English. But their English improved.
Based on her years of choosing books for herself, Jenny Pao recommends letting children choose their own books. If they already have a foundation in English, she suggests letting them choose novels, which have a great deal of vocabulary and interesting plots. She also recommends letting kids get subscriptions to magazines which interest them. Pao says that when she was in middle school and high school, she read Teen magazine, which features articles on things teenage girls love-clothes and make-up. For boys who enjoy sports, Baseball and Basketball are now available in Taiwan. Naturally, some of Taiwan's own English-language magazines are also good. "You've got to consider whether it ties into their lives and is something they can use." Pao says that these are her own criteria when choosing teaching materials for her TV program.
In addition to magazines, kids learning English need some audio input-tapes or CD-ROMs. Mrs. Pao reflects that when her daughters were young, they loved to listen to the story of Cinderella. Before long, they not only had the story memorized, but liked to perform it as well.
But what can ordinary families do? Most don't have the resources or English ability to follow Mrs. Pao's program exactly.
Mrs. Pao says that a parent's own English abilities are not that important. Instead, the key is showing the children that they care for them-spending time with them when they study English. She says, "Joy and Jenny also studied French and German. I can't speak French or German, but I encouraged them to study and asked them to speak to me in these languages. I let them know that I really thought the languages sounded nice. As a result, they studied even harder."
Ultimately, the "English whiz's" tricks to learning English are nothing more than interest in the subject and hard work. Parents, then, should strive to develop their children's interest in the subject and encourage diligence. Do you want your child to be an English pro? Perhaps you can take a page from the Pao family's book.
When the Pao sisters were in primary school, their amother also began doing her own homework, making up lists of vocabulary and definitions for the girls to memorize.
When "English whiz" Jenny Pao was five, she used to call her mother a witch for pushing her to study English. Now she and her sister Joy, a graduate of Taiwan University Medical School, can appreciate what they gained from this early study of English, and return the favor, correcting their mother's English pronunciation.