A while ago, I gave my students the writing prompt, “When I am 90…”. The responses pretty much fell into two camps. Some people wrote a lovey-dovey tearjerker about growing old with the one they loved. The others wrote about how the world ended in 2012, so by the time they’re 90, humans don’t exist.
One student, Bob, had some different ideas. I’ve included his speedwriting assignment here, unedited.
New Life in 2080
China is a developed, immensely powerful country and other countries can not attac her. Chinese are respected by all over the world. Taiwan is our sacred territory and nobody can be suspicious of it. Japan and China re in harmony and the world war dies out forever!
Our country’ athletes are still the best in the world at that time, ping pong is no longer an Olympic game but still popular, my great-grandson is one player of China’s national basketball team and plays basketball in the NBA now, what I more, the event we are most proud of is that our football team won the World Cup in 2078 and no wonder became “Touched by China” in that year.
Space travel Is not a dream any more, my son and his family went to the Mars 3 years ago for my great-grandson’s birthday, I can not go there because the Space travel age limit is 60
As the proverb goes: “Morning starts at noon in face.” Maybe I can start my new life from 90!
The nationalism in Bob’s first paragraph is fairly common in my students’ writing. They are very proud to be Chinese, and have great hopes for China’s future. (They are big on the “Taiwan is part of China” line, too.) Most of them harbor some sort of deep seeded resentment towards Japan and the Japanese, based on past atrocities (Nanjing Massacre/Nanjing Incident), as well as ongoing disputes (Diaoyu/Senaku Islands). I think that they were indoctrinated to believe this from school or older people, because it seems like many students say that they dislike Japan, but have no reason why. (They all seem to love Japanese food and manga!) It’s heartening to see that Bob thinks that world peace will exist!
I love how he says that China’s athletes are “still the best” and then immediately mentions ping pong. It kind of feeds into the stereotype, but people here take their ping pong pretty seriously. Likewise, Chinese male teenagers seem to be obsessed with the NBA, and Yao Ming is a huge source of pride. I have students named Iverson, Wade, Anthony, and Michael (all named after past & present NBA stars). Football (aka soccer for you Americans) is also popular, and students follow the English Premier League. I’ve heard Chinese soccer games broadcast on the radio, and apparently there is a stadium not too far from Dalian. I think it’d be fun to watch a game sometime.
I’m not sure about the saying that Bob uses at the end of his speedwrite, but I do know that my students love to use idioms. Part of their college entrance exam is deciphering four-character idiomatic expressions known as cheng yu (成语). I think maybe there’s a typo, and he means morning starts at noon, meaning that the best times of your life start in middle age.
Sometimes I think I should try to do the assignments that I assign my students. Maybe as an extra challenge, I could try writing my response in Chinese! Right now, I’m trying to study for the HSK, a Chinese proficiency test for foreigners. There are three parts: listening, reading and writing. The writing section will definitely be the hardest for me, because I rely on a dictionary way too much when I’m writing. Those crazy characters can be a pain to remember!