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Saturday, January 7, 2012

The Americanization of ongoing process

My daughter the ballerina

My daughter the cyclist

My daughter the quarterback. After a bit of bicycle riding on the Dongfong Bicycle Trail 東豐自行車綠廊 this afternoon, I introduced Amber to some of the finer points of football, American-style. Using a colorful Nerf ball that she received as a stocking stuffer a couple of Christmases ago, I showed my daughter some aspects of the gridiron game (aka That Which Is Not Soccer) - hiking, punting, passing and scoring touchdowns. This evening, I played for her some highlights on YouTube from recent college and NFL games. Next week, when we'll be back in the United States on a visit, she said she wants to watch some playoff games on TV with me.

Is this what happens when a father wishes for a son instead of a daughter? Hardly. When my wife was pregnant, it was Pamela who was hoping the baby would be a boy - my wish came true when it turned out our child was going to be a girl. No, exposing my daughter to the game of football is part of the continuing process to promote an American identity within Amber. Being a bi-cultural child (yes, it's PC, but the term is much preferable to the "mixed" moniker which still prevails here in Taiwan), my little girl is going to draw from two different worlds as she develops as a person. As long as we reside in Taiwan, the Asian half of her background will naturally dominate. Though her English is very good, Amber is still a better speaker when it comes to conversing in Mandarin Chinese. Going to a regular kindergarten, as opposed to a bilingual school such as the one I teach at on weekday mornings and afternoons, ensures that a lot of Taiwanese cultural values are being instilled into her. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it's still important that she is equally exposed to American things, so that she doesn't feel like a stranger in a strange land when me make our annual visits back to Washington state. 

Football is but a small part of the process (as is baseball, at least as it's played in the Major Leagues). Every morning while eating breakfast, Amber will watch a DVD from the U.S. Some of her favorite shows include Elmo's World (from Sesame Street), Dora the Explorer, The Backyardigans and Curious George (and breakfast itself usually features foods such as English muffins and waffles, and the occasional bowl of cereal). When she wants to play computer games, web sites such as Nick Jr. and PBS Kids are the preferred sites. In this manner, Amber is constantly exposed to the same naturally-spoken English that American kids hear coming out of their TV sets and computer speakers (before I'm accused of cultural imperialism, my daughter is also a big fan of The Wiggles, and has no problem with their Australian accents and expressions - anything age-appropriate is fine, as long as the English is natural). One rule that has been strictly followed in our household is that if a program originates from an English-speaking country, our daughter can only watch it in the original language - no episodes of Dora or Thomas the Tank Engine dubbed into Chinese for our young one.

Music is another area where I've tried to get Amber comfortable in English. On YouTube I've created a playlist of famous American folk songs, ranging from This Land is Your Land to Yankee Doodle, as well more contemporary favorites like Puff the Magic Dragon and classic early Beach Boys numbers. When we're in the car, we keep the radio tuned to ICRT, Taiwan's only English-language radio station. The music is generally generic Top 40 stuff, but Amber enjoys singing along, and is developing a repertoire of favorite pop songs. We're also working on her reading skills, and she recently went through a book of Dick and Jane short stories, just as her old man did when he was around six years old.

Speaking of elementary school, Amber will begin first grade this September. Although we've considered private, bilingual (Chinese-English) schools, at this point it looks as though we'll enroll her in a local public school. If that happens, I intend to rearrange my work schedules so that I'll be free in the afternoons to go over with her what she will have learned that day at school, but doing so in English, of course. I'd also like to teach her other subjects, such as U.S. history - Founding Fathers, the American Revolution, Lincoln, slavery and the Civil War and so on - as well as work on her grammar, reading and writing skills.

That's the plan, anyway. September is still months' away, and the best-laid plans have a way of being altered by forces not under our control. For the immediate future, as in the second half of this month, Amber will be in the USA, spending time with her grandparents and her aunt, watching cartoons on TV, eating at Denny's and IHOP, and perhaps getting a chance to play in the snow or see a star-filled night sky.

Unfortunately, we'll be back in Taiwan when Super Bowl Sunday rolls around.

Fengyuan 豐原 in the late afternoon


  1. I admire your decision to place your daughter in a local public school. I think I would do the same, but I would be very concerned about the excessive and unproductive use of tests, rote learning, and homework, and lack of opportunities just to play and have fun (perhaps these aren't issues in elementary school, and only become important in junior high?). How do you plan to deal with them?

  2. I'm concerned about those things as well. From what I understand, it's from the fourth grade of elementary school when students' lives are basically taken away from them by the school system, so we have a few years before that would become a concern. In our research, we discovered an alternative public elementary school in the Dakeng area of Taichung that appears to place less stress on testing and learning by rote, and more emphasis on things such as outdoor activities and nature appreciation. And there are always the options of home schooling, or sending my daughter to the U.S. to go to school there.

  3. Can Amber throw a spiral?

    Have fun during your trip to the US!

  4. Not yet, but she can make some good feints!