ABC我行,講中文也通——南加州中文學校

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1993 / 7月

文‧圖鄭元慶


在美國的華人,總希望兒女們多多接觸傳統的中華文化;但從子女的角度來看,他們總懷疑,在美國的社會學習中文及中國事物,是否確有必要?在此情形下,兩者想法無法形成交集,父母們經常不能達成願望。幸好從明年起,在高中受過中文教育的學生,皆可參加「中文成就測驗」,成績可供申請大學入學許可之用。這個誘因,或許能提升華人子女學習中文的意願。


六月,在美國加州橙縣爾灣中文學校的教室裡,老師問十八歲的夏彬:「中國古時候有位代父從軍的女子叫什麼名字?」她一時接不上來,幸好隔壁同學給她打「PASS」,她才答出「花木蘭」!

接著夏彬趕緊翻書查看這三個字的寫法,然後上台在黑板上歪歪扭扭地寫了出來。

夏彬的中文程度雖然不怎麼樣,但在她就讀的高中可是位風雲人物,中學平均成績高達四.一;每個科目都拿A。今年她在一萬三千名申請者中,成為進入西點軍校就讀的一千一百位錄取者之一,目前正接受為期六周的基本訓練。

不過這也說明,華人子女學不學中文,可能不太會影響他們的生活和在美國社會裡的成就。

而實際上,華人父母也不是不瞭解這個事實,但他們總是「不甘」,覺得既然身帶華人血統,就應接受中華文化的薰陶,所以經常利用課餘之暇,連哄帶騙地帶孩子們上中文學校。

課餘之暇學中文

在美國所謂的「中文學校」,有點像是「補習學校」。目前在華人聚集的加州南部及亞歷桑那州,共有九十二所這樣的學校,學生人數從百餘人到近千人。學校數目每年都在增加,去年共增設十三所。他們組成的「南加州中文學校聯合會」,是北美地區最大的中文教學組織。

聯合會是由該地區的中文學校所組成,所有成員都是義務擔任,為非營利機構,專門為各校解決問題,並爭取應有的權益。

會長許笑濃是五○年代從台灣赴美的留學生,主修生物,學成後在美國定居。

她指出,目前聯合會中各校的學生共有一萬七千多位。學校上課的時間有兩種:一是每天一般學校放學後的下午三點半上到六點,另一種是利用周六或周日上課。其中參加前項的學生僅佔一成半,多為雙親都在工作的孩子,性質類似「課後托育」,收費較高,傾向半專業化方式經營。後者佔大多數,多為義務性辦學。

除了少數由中華會館支持的學校(如在洛杉磯市中心的中華孔教學校),自己有校產之外,絕大多數的中文學校,都是借用當地學校的教室上課。而每到周末,上、下課的時間,這些地方總擠滿了接送小孩的家長,交通也為之阻塞。

中文學校租用教室上中文課,租金通常不貴,有些則免繳租金,但必須提供中文教學教材,供該校的中文選修課程使用。

學校運作靠家長

中文學校及聯合會的運作方式十分獨特,學校幹部全由學生家長擔任,而且大多為義工,一年一任,不支薪水。老師們少數由在台、港曾有過教學經驗的學生家長擔任,多數則屬非科班出身,僅拿金額很少的鐘點費,這些薪水均由學生繳的註冊費支付。

不過,課後托育式的學校及中華會館支持的學校,因需每天到校上班、教學,他們的行政人員領固定的薪水。

由於家長們希望兒女們多少接觸中華文化,若沒有中文學校,這個目的也就無法達成,因而維持學校的運作及「永續」經營,就成為大家共同努力的目標。為了達此目標,多數學校發展出一種服務性的「點數」。

爾灣中文學校校長楊鴻斌解釋,在一群人中,屬於十分投入和漠不關心兩種極端的人較少;「中間被動」的佔大多數,因此總會發現做事的老是那幾個熱心人。

為了使勞逸平均,帶動學生家長們的全面參與,校方規定學生註冊時,家長必須填寫志願服務項目表格;當校方需要人手幫忙時,立刻可以根據表格請家長支援。

服務的項目包括帶學生參加聯合會舉辦的各種活動,在教室協助老師照顧一、二年級的小學生,幫忙打掃教室、廁所等。目前義工服務點數,每學期大約為廿小時(其他學校約為十點)。若達不到點數,則必須用金錢補足。

學校幹部則投入得更多,通常暑假前會完成下一學年的註冊。學生人數、班級都統計出來後,校方就得設計課程、尋找老師、制定行事曆等。當學生們高興地去渡假時,還有一群人整個假期都在忙著。

在中文學校裡,一切事情都需自己動手。下次目睹爾灣中文學校裡具博士頭銜的訓導主任秦茂榮拿著搖鈴,在上、下課時繞著校園邊跑邊搖時,就不會覺得奇怪了。

從自我認同教起

為了鼓勵親子同時參與,有些學校也為父母們成立社團。當孩子們在教室上中文時,父母們則在社團活動,也可多交朋友。留在學校最大的好處是,因此更瞭解學校、對校務也更投入。

中文學校位於社區內,自然應與社區融合,像亞凱迪亞中文學校就準備許多富中國味的節目,經常應社區之邀請參加演出。

在教學上,多數中文學校僅止於培養學生認識中華文化,及認同自己是華裔的事實。對學生的中文程度,則不敢要求太高。

老實說,要做到這一點已經不太容易了。從小在美國環境中長大的小孩,常質疑為什麼要學中國的東西?五千年的中國歷史,曾雄霸亞非的輝煌績業,已經離他們很遠,孩子們耳聞眼觀的也只是鴉片戰爭以後,中國的積弱不振。

中文學校就是要幫學生「定位」。許笑濃指出,最有效的方式是告訴小朋友,身為華裔美人,並不是恥辱;當別人見他是黃皮膚,詢問有關中國事物,卻一問三不知時,才會被人看輕。

努力已見成果

她認為,從中國歷史和美國目前社會現況中,尋找共同的主題切入,和小朋友的經驗較能重疊,才能引起他們學習的興趣。

她在去年的中文學校夏令營裡,從最近美國毒品泛濫,學校到處都有「向毒品說不」的廣告這件事為例,帶入近代中國鴉片戰爭後喪權辱國的歷史,並且以「林則徐傳」為輔助教材,結果同學們都聽得津津有味。再從那時回溯漢唐盛世講古,反應居然不錯。

學生們在上中文課之外,還有課外活動,像亞凱迪亞中文學校,就有扯鈴等項目,使學生更能瞭解傳統的民俗活動。

經過學生家長和老師們多年的努力爭取,目前南加州已經有廿二所中文學校通過當地教育機構的審核,明令學生們修習的中文課程,可以併入他們正規高中的學分。這對中文學校的師生而言,更是莫大鼓勵,可直接助長學習之風。

此外,從明年開始,高中生也可參加中文成就測驗,這對學生們更是個好消息。

有正面鼓勵作用

這項制度的改變,是否會使更多的華人子女進入中文學校呢?從去年增加十三所學校這項紀錄來看,答案是肯定的,而且學生學習中文可能變得更積極。

這個新的制度決定實行後,一般中文學校的學生們反應都很好。他們大概都像聖瑪利諾的林敬恆一樣,直覺地認為「多了一種選擇機會!」

對於以中文為母語的華裔學生而言,當語言因素使他們的自然和歷史學科,沒法和美國同學競爭時,中文測驗即成最佳的選擇。聖瑪利諾的麻競存則想得較遠,他認為這是對中國人尊重的一種表現,顯示美國社會正認真地從多元文化的角度,來考慮到這一群人的需求。

而多數的老師和校長則表示,這對中文教育在美國的推廣,的確打了一劑強心針。

〔圖片說明〕

P.116

比比看,誰的字漂亮?大體而言,海外華人子弟因不常寫中文,字體都不甚工整。

P.117

因應學生的中文程度,南加州中文學校聯合會費心編纂合適的補充教材。

P.118

學習中文電腦是個熱門的課程。

P.119

訓導主任兼敲鐘,在中文學校裡,家長扮演重要角色。

P.119

幾乎每個中文學校都有與中華文化相關的課外活動。

P.120

每到周末,中文學校裡總擠滿了上學的小朋友。

P.121

應家長要求,學校成立許多社團,讓家長們也能到校聯誼,並更能參與校務運作。

P.121

放學時分,父母們開車接送小孩,使學校附近的交通為之阻塞。

相關文章

近期文章

EN

Teaching the Mother Tongue in a Foreign Land: Chinese Schools in Southern California

Cheng Yuan-ching /photos courtesy of Cheng Yuan-ching /tr. by Jonathan Barnard

Chinese Americans are always hoping that their children can have greater contact with traditional Chinese culture, but the children wonder if it's necessary to study Chinese language and culture in American society. On this question, there's no common ground, and the parents' hopes are often unrealized.

Starting next year, those who studied Chinese in high school will be able take an achievement test in the subject. Since three such tests are required for admittance to most universities and colleges, this development should raise the willingness of young Chinese Americans to study Chinese.


In June at the Irvine Chinese School of Orange County, California, a teacher asks Susan Hsia, "In ancient times, what was the name of the daughter who fought on behalf of her father?" She hesitates for a moment, listening for benevolent whispering from a neighbor, before saying "Hua Mu-lan."

After flipping through her book to find out how to write out these three characters, she goes up and scrawls them on the blackboard.

Hsia is 18, and though her Chinese isn't impressive, she was an excellent student in high school, with a grade point average of 4.1. From among some 13,000 applicants, she is one of only 1100 students to enroll for the freshman class next fall at West Point. Now she is taking a six-week basic training course.

But this just goes to show how knowledge of Chinese has little bearing on the success of young ethnic Chinese in American society.

In fact, it isn't that Chinese American parents don't understand this reality; it's just that they feel that since their children have Chinese blood flowing through their veins, they shouldn't be ignorant of Chinese culture, and hence they coax their children to go to Chinese schools in addition to their normal schools.

Studying Chinese on holidays:

In the United States, the so-called "Chinese schools" are like the pushihbans (private cram schools or foreign language schools) in Taiwan.

Currently in southern California and Arizona, two places with high concentrations of ethnic Chinese, there are a total of 92 such schools, with enrollments running from a little over a hundred to nearly 1000. Their numbers are increasing every year, with 13 established last year alone. The Southern Caliornia Council of Chinese Schools, organized by these schools, is the largest organization of Chinese schools in North America.

All of those working for the council are volunteers, and the council is a non-profit institution focusing on solving the problems of all of its members and fighting for their rights.

President Theresa H. Chao left Taiwan to go study in America in the sixties, majoring in biology. After earning her degree, she settled down in the States.

She points out that the schools collectively enroll 17,000 students. The schools either hold classes after regular school from 330 to 6:00 or hold them on the weekends. Only about 15 percent of the students study under the former method, and most of these come from families where both parents work. This is a kind of after-school care. The fees are higher and the schools managed more professionally. Most of the students go to the weekend schools, which are largely staffed by volunteers.

Except for those sponsored by other Chinese institutions, such as the Chinese Confucius Temple of Los Angeles, the vast majority of Chinese schools make use of the classrooms in their local schools. On the weekends, the roads thereabout get jammed with parents driving by to let their kids off or pick them up.

It's not expensive to rent out classrooms for Chinese class. Sometimes they're even rent free, but it's necessary to provide teaching materials for the school's own program in Chinese.

Relying on the parents:

The method of operation of these Chinese schools is rather unusual. The schools' staffs are entirely made up of the parents, and in most cases one volunteers for a year without salary. A few of the teachers are parents who have had experience teaching in Taiwan or Hong Kong, but most are from outside of the teaching profession and take only small hourly wages, which come from the registration fees of the students.

But in the Chinese schools that hold class in the afternoons or are supported by institutions, the teachers receive regular salaries since they go to teach every day.

Parents view attending schools as the one way to give their children some contact with Chinese culture, and so they all work hard to keep them going. To this end, most of the schools have developed a system of service points.

Bin H. Yang, the president of the Irvine Chinese school, explains that among any group of people those at the extremes who take the initiative to get involved themselves or who are completely unwilling to work are very few--most occupy "a middle ground" of being willing to work if pushed to action. Left to their own devices, those doing the work will be just a small group of enthusiasts.

In order to spread out the work more evenly and to move the parents to get fully involved, when the students register the school asks parents to fill out forms of preferred service, so that the school can immediately find support from the parents when in need. Currently, each parent has to work about 20 hours per term. (Other schools have requirements of about 10 hours). If one does not meet the quota, one makes up the difference with cash. The officers of the school have to do a lot more. Usually before summer vacation, they will complete registration for the next year. After the number of students and classes are all figured out, the school will plan its curriculum, find teachers and make the school calendar. While students are happily on vacation, there is a bunch of people hard at work.

The Chinese school is a do-it-yourself kind of place. If you're at the Irvine Chinese School, don't be surprised to find Maw-Ron Chin, the doctorate holding proctor of the school, running around shaking a hand-held bell to announce the beginning and end of class.

Starting from self-recognition:

To get parents and children to participate together, some schools have established groups for the parents. While the children are in class studying Chinese, the parents are participating in these groups' activities and making new friends. The best thing about these groups is that they encourage better understanding of the school and more active participation in it.

Situated in communities, these Chinese schools naturally ought to build bridges to the community. Take the Arcadia Chinese School, for instance, which prepares lots of activities and is often invited to perform for the community.

As for their attitude about teaching, most Chinese schools aim to cultivate in their students an understanding of Chinese culture and acknowledgment of their own Chinese. They don't place high demands on language proficiency.

Truthfully speaking, to do even this is no easy task. Children that grow up in the American environment frequently have doubts about the value of studying things Chinese. China's five thousand years of history and once preeminent position in Asia are far removed from these children. What they hear about and see are the weakness and decrepitude of China after the Opium War.

Chinese schools want to help students bolster their self-esteem about being Chinese. Theresa H. Chao says it's best to teach the students that they shouldn't be ashamed of being Chinese Americans. They'll only be looked down upon if they have nothing to say when others look at their yellow skin and ask about things Chinese.

The fruits of their labor:

She believes that drawing comparisons between Chinese history and the current social situation in America so as to make it overlap with the children's experience is the best way to attract the students' interest.

Last year, during the school's summer camp, there were posters all over the school proclaiming "Say No to Drugs." From a discussion about rampant drug abuse in the United States, she delved into modern Chinese history, examining how China lost power and was humiliated after the Opium War. Using a biography of Lin Tze-hsu as supplementary educational material, she was able to capture the students' interest. Then the class turned its gaze back to the greatness of China during the Han and the Tang Dynasties. The results were surprisingly good. Besides studying Chinese, the students also have extracurricular activities. In the Arcadia Chinese School, for instance, they engage in such traditional Chinese folk activities as playing with a diabol.

After many years of hard work by parents and teachers, currently 22Chinese school in southern California have been accredited by the local educational authorities to award actual high school credits. This accreditation has greatly encouraged the students and teachers at these Chinese schools and directly helped to promote the study of Chinese

Direct encouragement:

What's more beginning next year, high school students can take the achievement, test in Chinese.

Will these institutional changes cause more Chinese American students to enter Chinese schools? Judging from the 13such schools established just last year, the answer is affirmative. And students may become more active in their pursuit of a mastery of the language.

After the decision was made to implement these changes, the reaction of most students at Chinese schools was good. They were probably all like San Marino's Lin Ching-heng, feeling that they have greater options available to them.

Students whose first language Chinese are at a linguistic disadvantage when taking achievement tests in history or natural science, and so the Chinese achievement test has become the ideal choice for them.

San Marino's Ma Ching-tsun looks at the decision from the larger perspective of greater respect for Chinese saying that it demonstrates that American society is really considering their needs.

And most teachers and principals think that the test is a shot in the arm for Chinese instruction in America.

[Picture Caption]

p.116

Whose characters are prettier? Generally speaking, young Chinese abroad don't often write Chinese, and so their characters aren't very neat.

p.117

To meet the level of the students' Chinese, the Southern California Council of Chinese Schools spends great energy in finding suitable supplementary teaching materials.

p.118

"Chinese Computers" is a popular course.

p.119

The school proctor rings the bell. In these Chinese schools, parents play major roles.

p.119

Virtually every Chinese school has extracurricular activities relating to Chinese culture.

p.120

As soon as the weekend rolls around, the Chinese schools are jam packed with Chinese kids.

p.121

To meet parents' needs,the schools have established many groups that give parents a way to make friends and get them involved in the operation of the schools.

p.121

When children are being driven to or from these Chinese schools, the traffic can jam neighboring streets

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