How long does it take to learn zhuyin?

One of the things that annoys Baba is my insistence in reading a movie review before I watch a movie.  I like to at least get a general idea of what’s going to happen, rather than a surprise.  At home, watching a movie, I will fast forward to the end first to make sure the main character isn’t going to die, before going back to enjoy the rest of the movie.

When it comes to the kids, I’m often the same way.  “How long does it take to normalize a classroom?” “When do kids potty train?” “When do they how to walk/talk/run/tie shoelaces, etc etc etc”.  I really really hate it when people says, “it all depends on the child”, even though I know it’s true.  I just want a general time frame dag nabbit!

So I’ve been recently wondering, “How long does it take to learn zhuyin?”  I asked both friends and teacher friends I knew.  The answer is kind of obvious but I hadn’t thought of it.  However long it takes kids to learn to read in English, it probably takes just as long in Chinese.  Supposing a child comes into kindergarten and doesn’t know how to read.  I believe between K-2, it is expected they will be working on reading.  Of course if you learned to read in preschool, you would read much earlier.   I vaguely remember now someone mentioning that by the end of Kindergarten, the children have been introduced to all of the alphabet, and are working on sounding simple words out.  That’s not that fast at all.

I somehow had it in my head that you can learn zhuyin in 3 months because I know teachers teach it the first few months of first grade and then the kids move on to learning characters and reading zhuyin.  I hadn’t realized that that’s just the teachers teaching zhuyin characters in 3 months.  The kids then need to practice reading.  And that’s probably daily zhuyin practice.  So it would take even longer in the US?

I had a long talk with a teacher friend tonight.  Now I’m thinking it’ll take me probably 3 months to introduce all of zhuyin to Astroboy, and then we’ll need to spend this upcoming year to learn to blend and read words and sentences.  I imagine it takes even longer in preschool since they’re just not as developmentally ready.  My friend told me that it doesn’t quite matter if the child knows English or not already.  Though of course it’ll help them learn to sound things out faster. Because the flip side of knowing English is that zhuyin is a foreign/second language to them.   So there’s the added learning curve of learning a second language.

To her, the important thing is the effort I spend reviewing with Astroboy outside of school time.  Totally true.  I see the progress he’s making with the homework he has to do.  Because our class is 3 days a week, we end up doing homework pretty much daily, on top of reviewing and relearning in class.   In a way, we’re doing about 2-2.5 hours of zhuyin-related work 3 times a week, and 0.5-1 hour the other 2 days.  I feel like the frequency is definitely making a difference.  Of course, Astroboy is only 5, so he is not getting it as fast as the older kids.

Still, thinking it may take 6 months to a year plus makes it feel soooooo long.  By then he’ll be 6!   Sigh.  Sometimes knowing doesn’t help me stop being impatient.


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