Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Parents' Role in Educating Their Children

I am no parent; I'm single and currently I'm still seeking (or waiting) for my life-long partner. However, on the basis of my observation, I know what people called parents should do to prepare their children for the 'harshness' of the world, not to mention the fact that I have gone through a childhood phase.

First of all, people should know that bringing up children is no easy task. It requires a lot of effort, money, time, and so forth. I'd say parents have (almost) full responsibility for their children since they didn't choose to be born: they arrived because of their parents' will. So, for those who want to get married and have children, think about this carefully.

Next, every parent must realize that they and their children are different individuals. Many parents – I hope I'm wrong – push their children to be what they want them to be (perhaps, this is most common in Asian countries). Every child – everyone, essentially – mustn't be forced to do anything; they have their right to do anything they want. Are you out of your head? You might be asking.

From my personal standpoint, parents' responsibility toward their children is to let them "see the world as it is". They need to inform their children of the many options or choices available on the planet, together with their implications, good or bad. I'm not saying that parents should give their 3-year-old a knife, as it would likely hurt the cutie. Parents should always lead their children to good, that is, the survival of our species, and they need to know when their children can think well enough to make sensible decisions and give them freedom from that very moment on. I think this is an honorable act parents can do to their beloved ones.

It is a pity that many parents – again, I hope I am wrong – expect their children to be "money-printing machines". They regard them as "investments". And, this is such a terrible idea. I hope the suicide cases of adolescents worrying about passing exams are not a reflection of this sort of situation.

Then, what should parents do? As I've mentioned, parents ought to be something like a detective. They need to work together with their children and help them to figure out what the best future of their loved ones is, without insisting on them fulfilling their egocentric desire. So, it is a matter of being a "partner" rather than a "ruler".

Nevertheless, it makes sense that parents are not the only ones in charge this huge duty. This exciting job should be done in conjunction with schools. Why? Simply because schools are where they spend quite a considerable amount of their day, around one-third of it. So, schools, and especially teachers, also play an important role in creating a marvelous generation of people.

I was inspired to write this article thanks to an invitation to be one of the speakers on Profession Day – February 6, 2016 – at my junior high school. The content of my speech is roughly identical to the message of this writing, with a slightly different emphasis. If I were to summarize my talk that day in one word, that would be "passion". And I hope you will encourage your children by telling them a sentence like "Darling, follow your passion."
Continue reading..

Monday, February 15, 2016

Language Is an Illusion

Why is that?

To begin with, there is a short tale for you to heed. Steve Martin is a British man. He was born in London 35 years ago and raised by his parents, who are also of London origin. He has spent most of his life, playing, studying, and working in his home country. Needless to say, having in contact with British culture and language for most of his time, his English is unquestionably excellent.

Now let's use a lot of third conditionals here: what if Steve had been born in Vietnam, where the official language is Vietnamese, not English? What if he had been brought up by parents who came from Quang Ngai, not London? What if he had had to nod his head a little bit, instead of shaking hands, which is unusual in Vietnam, when meeting someone for the first time? Would he be the one he is now?

Of course not. He would be very fluent in Vietnamese and his English might not be as good as his now.

(You might be wondering why there is a cultural question there. The quick answer is because language and culture are inextricable. Check out this awesome TEDx Talk by Tim Doner, a hyperpolyglot from the U.S.A.)

Now let's move on to YOU. What if you had been born, not in your homeland, but in another country? What if you had been brought up by parents whose mother tongue is not your native language? What if you had grown up getting exposed to a culture that is so different from the one you are used to? Would you be YOU?

No, you wouldn't. You would speak "that" language better than your real first language. Basically, you would be "a new you".

Getting back to Steve, if he were with his real parents in London, would they understand what Steve said in Vietnamese? Probably not. Would Steve understand what his parents said in English at a fast rate? Probably not either.

Now imagine "the new you" is now with your real family members at a monthly gathering at your maternal grandmother's house. Would they understand what "the new you" talked about? Probably not. In an exactly the same situation, they wouldn't get what the heck you were talking about and vice versa because of the different languages.

So what is this all about? It means language is nothing but a medium, or a system, as I like to call it. Language is only meaningful when a group of people (perhaps a tribe or a nation) agree on the "effects" it can give – I recall my high school friend told me that language is "an agreement". Or, in other words, it is an illusion. To see my tips for learning English, click here – be sure to check part 2 as well.

Actually this is what made me realize that to learn a language successfully is not that hard as long as you want to adapt to the "system". Or, to put it more dramatically, you must (want to) be "reborn' or "born again", like Christians do.

What is more, this also rebuts the notion that you need to be talented to be successful in languages. When we are talking about talent, we are referring to a small number of people, right? Now, how many French people can't speak French fluently? How many Germans can't write German in an effortless fashion? I believe only an incredibly tiny fraction of a nation are not able to learn and use their native language and it must comprise those with sight and hearing impairments. In short, language proficiency is not linked to talent.
To end this article, I would like to quote Tim Doner at the end of his TEDx Talk presentation "Breaking the language barrier" (find the link above):

"You can translate words easily, but you can't quite translate meaning."
Continue reading..

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Natural Selection in the Human World

The longer I live, the more I discover the truth of the theory of evolution by means of natural selection, proposed by Charles Darwin, an English scientist whose 207th birthday was just celebrated – on 12 February.

Charles Darwin statue at a museum

How? You might be asking. It is simple: by looking at our own society.

Let's play a bit of a game. Ask yourself what you do for a living? Got your answer? Now ask why you do that. Got your answer again? Ask again: why? Do the same procedure over and over, and if you are "normal" – by "normal", I mean you are not a psychopath or that sort of thing – you will end up giving an answer that sounds more or less like "so that (modern) humans a.k.a. Homo sapiens will always survive." Yes, the keyword is "survive".

You might be a computer programmer, trying to make the most helpful applications for the world (including for yourself). Hopefully, humankind  (including you, who gets a salary) will benefit in some way because of your work or products. You might be a doctor, trying to heal sick people or patients in hope that the existence of the human race will go on and on. Whatever you are, if you think about it carefully and thoroughly, this should be your ultimate purpose.

Now we look at the "agonizing" part. How many people are poor? How many people are on the street, begging for money and food? How many people are suffering? How many people have died before their life expectancy? This is probably the result of their laziness, which is a quality that natural selection doesn't favor. Their unwillingness to develop or improve themselves in some way is what caused them to be so. However, many of the pitiful are in their states not because of their "faults", but by misfortune: an example would be children with AIDS, who inherited the disease from their mothers. Thankfully, some people are so kind that they help these "unfortunate" people to live as long as they can, by being volunteers or that kind of thing (again, for the continuity of our species). It is a shame that racism still exists in the world: black, yellow, brown and white people are different variations but they are the same species, aren't they?

On the other hand, we see "successful" people, those who seem to be happy and are likely to live longer than others. They have worked hard, increasing their skill to contribute to the world, and as a result, they reap what they have sown. They are also more likely to have more offspring that will be great representatives of the next generation of humans. And, on a larger scale, we all should learn from these people and foster the good attitudes that they have in order to ensure our future existence as one species.
Continue reading..