Sunday, November 13, 2005

Old School Learning Trick: Chinese Language

During a conversation on late Friday night, we talked about our secondary school life. I excel in my academic achievement throughout my entire school education years, where everyone assume I must have high IQ and talented. Somehow, I neither felt intelligent nor talented. I believe I am hard working, and I work in some smart way specifically tailored to help me achieved exactly what I wanted.

I am from a Chinese primary school, where I have good results in the Chinese subject until Standard 5. Suddenly I felt that I am no longer good at it, and having great difficulties to score an A. I scored a B in Chinese essay in UPSR, thus not able to skip Remove class (quite a dissapointment at that time). I still have Chinese subject in Secondary school, and I still suck at it. I found many people around me who are extremely good or talented at the Chinese subject, a level which I couldn’t possibly reach due to my weak foundation. I acknowledge my weakness, and somehow found a way around it. I start working and studying in a very systematic way, thinking of strategies to counter the examination marking system.

I know I am weak in Chinese, especially essay, thus I must choose a specific type of essay which may still bear hope for a weak student like me. Among the options of Story Telling, Fact Telling, Letter and etc, I selected to specialise in Story Telling, and only Story Telling. Why? Because Story Telling can score some points in creativity, required just simple language skill and less vocabulary. At the same time, I started reading Chinese novel to improve my story writing skill, and fall in love with Jing Yong World of Kung Fu (金庸武侠小说) series. I start jotting down some useful word of wisdom, proverbs, famous sayings and etc into an exercise book, so that I can use them in my essay writing to score some points.

In the exam there shall be 5 choices for essay writing, while I would only select Story Telling (in fact, I must, I had put all my eggs in one basket). Most people would start writing almost immediately, while I would spend at least 10 minutes to think of the plot of the story. My aim is to think of something out of the ordinary, perhaps something funny or strange. Imagine the teacher would have to mark through probably hundreds or thousands of essays, and my story must stand out and have not been told by others before. After I have a great story, I would start jotting down those “giddies” phrases (from my little exercise book, I had memorised vaguely about 100 of them) to be used in my story, to somehow prove I am knowledgeable and can apply them well in my writings. I will try to use as much of the phrases being jotted down, as I believe they would score me some impression points. I would try not to write a very long story, as it consume more time and would have more mistakes. I make it short, simple and interesting. My strategy earned me an A in my PMR and SPM, not bad for someone who is weak in Chinese and has no talent what so ever. I feel proud with my achievement, and I can still smile while thinking back. It feels so good to excel in something which I am weak at. It took me about 3 years to pick up my Chinese and refine my strategy, and I have a few good and supportive teachers as well.

With no talent, we will have to do with a lot of hard work, in a smart way. We need to admit we suck at it, and do something about it so that we don’t suck anymore. Tuition will help, but you would need more than that. My friends were very surprised with my techniques, and would probably shrug at disagreement with what I had done. Sometimes drastic time calls for drastic measure, and I am in a drastic situation, as everyone is aiming to compete with me in every possible subjects. Though it does not make me a person who is good in Chinese at the end (a little better, perhaps), but at least it make me a good problem solver and perhaps a little wiser and more experienced.

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