Learn Chinese or STEM?

Few months ago we took advantage of being able to vote early on a Saturday. Went to the local public library and boy oh boy was it a learning experience! We first presented our credentials 😉 and after our identity was verified we got a blank sheet with some code about the ward# and the like at the bottom of the sheet and an envelope. The line for voting was quite long and was growing longer by the minute. We just beat the rush crowd as quite a few people were trooping in few minutes later after a college game. The real learning began in the line 🙂 On the way to the polling machine, on top of one of the small shelves (~ 3 feet in height), saw some books and comic strips. All had the library stamp/sticker on them. My first thought was some library patron waiting in line must have borrowed and just placed it while waiting to vote. It wasn’t the case as the line moved but not the books. My second thought was “Looks like the library has thoughtfully kept some books and comic books for entertaining people waiting for their turn to vote”. A nice gesture indeed as the line was moving slowly. The book at the near corner had “Reading and Writing Chinese” printed in bold on the cover. My third thought was “Chinese language on the go like Chinese food on the go! Kewl!”. As we edged closer to the shelf I saw the smaller print on the cover. It read “The 1,725 most frequently used characters” 😀 I rubbed my eyes in disbelief and looked again. Yes, it did say “1,725 most frequently used characters” 🙂 The # 1725 and “most frequently used” did seem an odd combination. For someone used to 26 alphabets in English it seemed 1,700 too many 😀 I didn’t even care to see if the book mentioned Mandarin or Cantonese. After recovering from the initial shock the question in my mind was “If Chinese Lite is 1,725 characters what is the real deal like?” Luckily I did not have to even flip a page. Right on the cover it said “2,633 characters”. I decided maybe another day, not today. As we reached the far end of the table I saw another book. The title read “Chinese for Dummies”. Couldn’t be more appropriate 😀 After looking at the 1,700+ and 2,600+ characters in the serious book seemed natural any starter would graduate to more realistic “Chinese for Dummies” level. As we neared the polling machine I had an eureka moment! Always wondered how the Chinese kids are so smart in STEM. Well, all the parents have to do is whisper into an infant’s ear “Chinese language mastery or STEM mastery” and the choice would be a no-brainer for most 😉 If I were learning Chinese language I would still be struggling at 100th character 🙂

Author: Rajaram 'Raj' Gopalan

Hi All, Welcome to my home in cyberspace! You can call me Raj. Feel free to explore, discuss, comment and most importantly have a good time!

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