If there were a List somewhere of Unsolved Mysteries No One Cares About this would be right up there…
My cellphone rings…
Rockstar’s Putonghua Tuition Center: Mrs Lai, we wanted to check if Rockstar is learning traditional or simplified Chinese at school?
Me: Um… simplified I think.
PTC: Yes, ESF right? Far as we know it’s simplified. (They usually offer support to potato parents like me who are worried we can’t support any revision or schoolwork in Chinese. ESF being mandated to offer English education to Cat 1s i.e. those who cannot access the local system, you can imagine I’m not going to be the only potato parent using a tutor or tuition center because she so has no confidence in her ability to support any Chinese work I often see ESF school uniforms when picking Rockstar up from the center)
Me: Is anything the matter?
PTC: Our tutor wanted to confirm, because it appears your son can recognize Traditional Chinese better than Simplified.
Me: He can read Chinese meh? (Haha kidding – what I really replied was -) Um… he’s changed tutors so many times in the past; maybe one of them taught him the traditional? (But the last time he was doing reading or writing in Chinese before this class was easily a year or more ago, even longer re any personal tutor, so frankly I have no idea…)
When Rockstar comes home…
Me: Your PTC tutor called. (Rockstar looks worried.) She wanted to know why you could read traditional Chinese when you have been attending simplified Chinese classes (where he couldn’t read words with the same meanings.)
Rockstar: <relaxes> Oh yeah yeah I could read more (traditional Chinese) words than the others… (Uh, it being a simplified chinese class!!)
Me: Was that from <the only tutor I finally remember 2 years ago neither Kings nor I had checked was teaching traditional or simplified>?
(Btw I never checked because she also really didn’t last long before Rockstar absolutely refused to cooperate – he was speaking English as long as he knew he could be understood in English. So back then I warned her never to respond when he speaks to her in English because then he would never speak Chinese. Couple lessons later I come home to a bilingual conversation, her chirpily chatting in Putonghua and he responding completely in English.)
So I come in and say (in English, obviously) “Rockstar, remember I told you (tutor) doesn’t understand English?” And (tutor) chips in in Putonghua, “Yes ah, auntie doesn’t understand English ah,” and Rockstar gives me the biggest Are You Freaking Kidding Me This Is What You Expect Me To Work With Look. After that it was impossible for her to get him to respond in Putonghua. Something about her methods must also have rubbed him the wrong way because towards the end he was “I’m not going to speak to you at all. I’m going to watch tv.” Politely, mind you <roll eyes>.)
Rockstar: <shrugs> Don’t know. Don’t remember. What’s (the difference)?
Me: There are two kinds of Chinese used here (in Hong Kong), I wanted you to practice the one your school uses. Also cos that’s what a lot of other places like Singapore use, and- You’re not really paying attention, are you?
Me: So I can actually tell you I am adding (even more) Chinese classes and because you’re not really paying attention you will just nod and go along with it?
Rockstar: Nope. I’m not paying that little attention.
Me: So how come you can read the Chinese you weren’t taught in tuition class recently?
Rockstar: I have no idea.