About Frelka Wąsowska

(Unfulfilled) writer, translator, mother of 2, polyglot in the making, blogger, constantly finding new ways of making my life harder (and to save mother Earth from humanity), eager to declutter and simplify many aspects of my life.

The epic fail

This is THE epic fail of my Chinese adventure. I have so many projects that have to be done ASAP that I barely can find 20 minutes a day to practice a bit of Chinese. I’m doing my best though! Now it’s about not getting too depressed about it.
I’m going to write more, soon… next week I hope.
Wish me luck! 🙂

Crisis management

Sometimes it’s great and sometimes it’s not. I bet you have all experienced this in your Chinese adventures!

Last month I published the package for lesson 13. I wanted to finish book 1 before the 7th of July. It’s the 19th right now and I haven’t even finished lesson 13 😦

What happened?
The usual bunch of things:

  • I was on holiday
  • Mum came to visit
  • I had work to do
  • I indulged myself – everybody needs a lazy day once in a while
  • I had to run regularly. Running is more important.
  • I’m sooooo tired!
  • party

It’s obvious. It’s all my decisions (apart from my mum’s visit – I couldn’t change it, but I didn’t want to!).

Family is important. My healthy lifestyle is important. Partying can also be important. Balance is important and there ARE things much more important that my Chinese.

But (and it is a big BUT): Chinese is a goal here. And the clock is ticking.
I don’t want to find myself in a year from now with no true knowledge of Chinese, now do I.

What went wrong?
I didn’t do my tasks daily. I stopped learning characters on-line. I didn’t listen and repeat the dialogues. I did not learn the construction of all characters. I tried to do things quickly. And I didn’t manage. My lesson review gave a terrible result of roughly 50% of correct answers. That is not enough if I want to speak fluent Chinese.

Chinese is not something you can do quickly. You can be fast, organised, you can have a good method and great memory. But unless you really spend some time with the material, you will forget it. I forgot it. I forgot 50% of it.

So what do I do now?
I don’t cry. I don’t get angry or depressed. I regret the lost time. And I work.
I got back to work on Tuesday and I will stop working today (my parents are coming and my cousin is getting married this weekend). But I will now use all my time and all my powers to finish lesson 13 by the 25th of July and the book by the 4th of August.

100%!

NPCR Lesson 13 – full package

Hello!

As promised, I am now publishing the materials for lesson 13. All the time I did study some words. Well, I could have been more effective. And I should have! But there’s no mercy when it comes to earning a living. How’s that? 🙂

NPCR 1.13.1 vocabulary
NPCR 1.13.1 writing
NPCR 1.13.1 vocab test

NPCR 1.13.2 vocabulary
NPCR 1.13.2 writing
NPCR 1.13.2 vocab test

NPCR 1.13.3 vocabulary
NPCR 1.13.3 writing
NPCR 1.13.3 vocab test

NPCR 1.13.4 vocabulary
NPCR 1.13.4 writing
NPCR 1.13.4 vocab test

NPCR 1.13.5 vocabulary
NPCR 1.13.5 writing
NPCR 1.13.5 vocab test

Review:
NPCR 1.13 word review
NPCR 1.13 word test

As usual, all of the “writing” materials have been created at Hanlexon Chinese.

My progress?

I’ve completed the word review and word test (lesson 12) today with the following results: 45/49 word review and 47/49 word test!

That’s good! 🙂

Tomorrow I will publish the materials for lesson 13. (Update: work, work, work and family, family, family. I bet you all experience that from time to time 😉 The fact is that I will publish the materials for lesson 13 on Friday, the 29th of June. I’m sorry to keep you waiting!

In the meantime I am reviewing the old materials and that is exactly my recommendation for you. In two weeks we will finish book 1 and the BIG TEST will be unavoidable. Get ready! 🙂 )

And I just wanted to let you know that the previous post on the 1 child policy (One equals Five) was published by one of the popular Polish websites naTemat.pl (in Polish of course :)). I’m glad that more people will learn about the policy and will be able to make their own mind about this aspect of life in China.

One equals Five – on the one child policy in China

Last week I was shocked at the news of the forced abortion conducted on a woman 7 month pregnant. I started to think about the one child policy. Why was it introduced? How does it really work? What are the regulations? And what are the effects – both for China and for us, in the West and all around the world?

I did some research, I read blogs and the New England Journal of Medicine, I visited Wikipedia and the CIA World Factbook. Here are some of the results of my brief investigation of the subject.

1. When and why did it start?
The one child policy was introduced in 1979 in order to ensure economic stabilisation of the country. Rapid growth of the population would have led to overpopulation, malnutrition, spreading of disease, unemployment and other massive problems. It is however very interesting that even before the one child policy there was a slogan of “late, long, few”. It meant – have children later, take more time between pregnancies, have fewer children. Nothing was enforced over people, there were no fines etc and the rate of children per family fell from 5.9 in 1970 to 2.9 in 1979. After the one child policy was introduced in 1979 the ratio fell to around 1.4. The nominal change was twice as big in the no-enforcement period of 10 years that in the strict policy period of 32 years!

Many people argue that the downfall in the birth rate was only partially achieved by the one child policy. Many countries around the world and in the region experienced the same phenomenon in that period. This is a natural effect of development, education, industrialisation and globalisation.

2. Is it really a ONE child policy?
NO! The strict 1 child rule only applies to a minority of Chinese citizens – around 35%. The rest of the Chinese people is subject to numerous exceptions:

  • In rural areas people are generally allowed to have 2 children. In some provinces the second child is allowed only if the first one is a girl. This is motivated by the fact, that sons are helpful in agriculture, whereas girls cannot work that hard. There is, however, a limitation to this rule – a couple has to wait several years (varies) between the pregnancies.
  • Parents of disabled and mentally retarded children are allowed to have 2 children.
  • Disabled parents are allowed to have 2 children, so that one of the children takes care of the parents.
  • Parents with no siblings are allowed to have 2 children.
  • Minorities are allowed to have 2 or even 3 children.
  • People who want to have more children can also do that if they pay a fine based on their income (often a year’s income).

As 70% of the Chinese live in rural areas most of the people are allowed at least 2 children. Therefore the name of the policy is a little radical when compared with the actual figures.

3. How is it implemented?
The policy is implemented on a local and regional level and this causes many inequalities. Some local governments are extremely strict and perform unexpected medical tests in villages. Other remain calm and don’t focus on the topic. This depends hugely on the population rate of a province.

The implementation of the one child policy would not be possible without massive use of contraception methods. The most popular methods are long-term. According to the New England Journal of Medicine male sterilisation amounted to 8% in 2001, female sterilisation to 37%, intrauterine devices to 46%. Condoms were only used in 6% of the cases and oral contraceptive pills in 3%. I assume that the male and female sterilisation is performed mostly on couples that already have the maximum number of children allowed in their situation and do not want to risk the choice – either lose the savings of your life or go for an abortion.

All this is accompanied by a relatively low number of abortions! According to the New England Journal of Medicine only 25% of women of reproductive age have had at least one abortion in China. The same number amounts to 43% in the United States of America!

Unfortunately there are still cases of forced abortions that are murder, not abortions – I mean those conducted on 6, 7, 8 and even 9 month pregnancies. Though these fatal situations happen they don’t seem to be a general rule – many women are allowed to give birth if the pay a fine or agree to sterilisation after the child is born. Many children are also confiscated by the local authorities and sent to orphanages (often adopted by infertile Chinese couples and foreigners).

4. How does this impact the demographic situation?
This is a tough one. Though some claim that this is a very important factor, others find the one child policy only one of the intertwined factors of natural global or regional trends. But what are the trends?

  • The falling rate of the population growth. Yes, it is falling, but it does remain growth, not decline. Not for long. Many researchers point out that around 2015 the demographics will probably change and soon the Chinese nation can begin to shrink. It is also said that in 2013 the “demographic dividend” (the growing share of working-age adults) will stop growing.
  • To make a long story short – the Chinese society is aging. This may become a very important factor for the economy. Whereas overpopulation causes destabilisation of the economy, underpopulation, and especially the lack of working-age adults may cause stagnation, less effectiveness, less creativity and openness to new trends. This can put the giant dragon of the Chinese economy at a halt.
  • The high male to female ratio. In the age group of under 15 yearl old it is: 1.17 male(s)/female. This means that 117 boys are born for every 100 girls. This may not be a radical number but if you count the actual numbers for the whole chinese society it turns out that milions of young men would never be able to find wives. This will probably lead to frustration, mental problems, agression, kidnapping women (which already is popular: see a short video here) and spreading of diseases such as AIDS due to massive development of sex services. This however is not only a Chinese problem and it had already been present in China before the one child policy had been introduced. The Chinese culture promotes boys and only social campaign aimed at promoting the value of girl will prevent people from gender-based abortions (forbidden by the CHinese law but still popular) and abandoning girls. (This, again, may sound a little bit worse that it is. The New England Journal of Medicine states: “A 1995 household survey carried out in three provinces found a normal sex ratio in the under-14 age group, with the actual number of girls exceeding the number registered by 22 per- cent.” This shows that many girls are neither aborted nor abandoned but hidden from the authorities).

5. The future?
The one child policy had been introduced as a temporary means of dealing with demographic problems. The Chinese authorities made it clear that the policy will not be abandoned at least until 2015, however more and more exceptions are being introduced on the provincial level (such as allowing parents with no sibling to have 2 children). The authorities now experience a growing pressure of scientists and the people. The first inform about pessimistic socio-demographic prognoses for the future. The latter have more and more access to the resources of the whole world and see the anachronisms of the one child policy.

The government is still afraid that abandoning the strict policy will cause a huge shift in the structure of families. However an increasing number of surveys show that the development of the country together with social changes and the governmental policy have changed the culture of the Chinese people into a small-family one. A increasing number of people declares that a perfect family has one or two children. Also the preference of the sexes changes and girls are becoming widely accepted as satisfactory offspring (especially in urban areas).

6. What about us?
We like to be very humanitarian in Europe. We criticise the one child policy as inhumane. But we also love to be green. And combining these 2 is a huge problem. The Chinese economy needs and uses methods that are banned or limited in Western countries. The Chinese emission of pollution into the atmosphere and water is massive. If somebody right now is really working for the greenhouse effect, it is the Chinese who do that. Now let’s stop for a while and imagine, that 300 m more people live on that piece of land, in that poor country. And those additional 300 m people need heat and electricity just as we do. They also need work. And that heavy industry becomes even bigger than it is now… let’s be honest, there’s no other way. All of our economies have passed that stage in their development. Now we can be green because we’ve gone past the smoke period.

Is it all right for the people to live at the expense of the Earth? Is it all right to protect the Earth at the expense of the people? No easy answers to these questions. But next time, before you exclaim “that’s inhumane!” or “that’s against the planet!” – just stop and think. It’s not that easy.

One more problem to finish with, and and explanation of the title at the same time. Why does One equal Five?

The one child policy led China to a family model quite popular in European countries. 4 grandparents, 2 parents, 1 child. This is called the 4:2:1 phenomenon in China.

One child in a family equals 5 people that have to be sustained by one couple. Yes, it’s normal in aging societies. Yes, we will support our parents and grandparents in the future but one thing is very easy to miss while looking at things from our perspective. The social insurance system is extremely weak in China. People pay for healthcare and for education. And very little of them will ever have access to pensions. Sustaining all those people will really mean sustaining – not buying a holiday trip once in a while or taking to birthday dinners but feeding, clothing and providing access to medicine – this will be the responsibility of the children and grandchildren – them alone, with no siblings.

Luckily, the Chinese government has already started to address this problem. But I don’t believe it would cause visible changes anytime soon.

Sources (and some interesting reading at the same time):
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/One-child_policy
http://factsanddetails.com/china.php?itemid=128&catid=4&subcatid=15
http://www.allgirlsallowed.org/category/topics/one-child-policy-china
http://www.economist.com/node/18651512 – The most surprising demographic crisis
https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/ch.html
http://www.starmass.com/china_review/demographic_data/china_population_trends.htm
http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMhpr051833 The Effect of China’s One-Child Family Policy after 25 Years

Chinese to go – NPCR lesson 12 – whole package

Here is all that I use to master lesson 12 (apart from Skritter that I’ll never stop recommending, as long as you can afford a graphic tablet. Otherwise – don’t try it with your mouse. It just ended poorly for my right hand:/)

NPCR 1.12.1 vocab test
NPCR 1.12.1 writing
NPCR 1.12.1 vocab test

NPCR 1.12.2 vocabulary
NPCR 1.12.2 writing
NPCR 1.12.2 vocab test

NPCR 1.12.3 vocabulary
NPCR 1.12.3 writing
NPCR 1.12.3 vocab test

NPCR 1.12.4 vocabulary
NPCR 1.12.4 writing
NPCR 1.12.4 vocab test

NPCR 1.12.5 vocabulary
NPCR 1.12.5 writing
NPCR 1.12.5 vocab test

Review:
NPCR 1.12 word review

NPCR 1.12 word test

As soon as I get tired of learning new words I’ll try to write a line or two about the one child policy in China. It’s been criticized a lot in the last few years. So I am quite interested both in its history and origins, and in its possible future.

Forced abortion – the worst face of China

In the last 2 day I have been wondering about the case of a forced abortion conducted in China on a woman 7 months pregnant. In fact, according to European standards, it was conducted on the woman and her child. As a 7-months-long pregnancy is no longer a child-to-be. It is a human being.

It is a known fact that China has the 1 child policy and that forced abortions do occur. But how strict can the law be when it comes to life? How strict should it be? Personally I am against forcing anyone to abortion. But taking into consideration the situation, the law, the culture etc. I can put myself in the governments position. But, and I want to stress this, to an extent.

Aborting a child is no longer an abortion. It is killing a person.

I such moments I keep wondering – should I continue learning Chinese? Do I really want to spend 6 months in that country? Should I translate from that language and facilitate its expansion? We can say – of course, they will change. But how long will it take? Never before did I think that learning a language can be political. Now I am sure that it can be so. I never intended to learn a language for political reasons but when I tell my friends about this passion and their response is about the forced abortion – my new hobby becomes political, whether I want it or not.

I love one thing – the rage that followed this ill-natured action in China. The Chinese people do not agree. I want to quote a person quoted by the China Daily Mail:

“This is what they say the Japanese devils and Nazis did. But it’s happening in reality and it is by no means the only case… They (the officials) should be executed.”

 

I don’t want them to be executed but I do want them do change.

The article: Forced Abortion… (China Daily Mail)

I know that’s nothing much…

but I have just finished lesson 11.

My word review (Chinese to pinyin and English) gave me 48 points out of 50.
The test sheet (English to pinyin and Chinese) was a little worse :/ 40 out of 50 were entirely correct.

I’m getting excited because I’m getting closer and closer to my milestone – finishing book 1 of the New Practical Chinese Reader. What next? The big step! I am going to TALK!

I am very afraid. I suppose nobody would understand me. And as I intend to talk with people via Skype it won’t be any easier! Because those people are going to be English learners :)) I hope I’ll manage to find a person with quite good English to begin with. Otherwise it might get messy…

Of course I am going to continue with NPCR. I am already looking for volume 2 in the Warsaw bookshops. I hope I’ll find it soon.

To be honest, I can’t wait. It’s always sooo rewarding to go past your milestone and watch it disappear in the distance behind you. But, getticng back to reality, you can expect materials for lesson 12 tomorrow.

 

Chinese to go – NPCR lesson 11 – the whole package

Hi there! Sorry for not writing for a while. I am in Krakow. Life is very interesting when you come to a new city. I practise every day on Skritter but I’ve had a little less time to prepare the printable sheet.

But here they are, with one change. The “vocabulary” sheets will not include sentences for a while. I can’t speak Chinese and it’s been too stressful. And I don’t want to copy the phrases form the book. If you’re using these resources, you do have the book, so you can always use the dialogues. I hope I’ll come back to the sentences when my Chinese get’s better (or when I get a private teacher) 🙂

NPCR 1.11.1 vocabulary
NPCR 1.11.1 writing
NPCR 1.11.1 vocab test

NPCR 1.11.2 vocabulary
NPCR 1.11.2 writing
NPCR 1.11.2 vocab test

NPCR 1.11.3 vocabulary
NPCR 1.11.3 writing
NPCR 1.11.3 vocab test

NPCR 1.11.4 vocabulary
NPCR 1.11.4 writing
NPCR 1.11.4 vocab test

NPCR 1.11.5 vocabulary
NPCR 1.11.5 writing

NPCR 1.11.5 vocab test

Review:
NPCR 1.11 word review
NPCR 1.11 word test

Writing sheets and the word review prepared at Hanlexon Chinese.