The Underling

“Men at some time are masters of their fates:
The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,
But in ourselves, that we are underlings. (1.2.135)”

It’s been a while since I’ve done a blog post, truth is, I haven’t much to talk about.  Actually, it’s the fact that I’ve been saving it up, since what I’m about to say may be deemed rebellious, insurgent, and perhaps disrespectful to the people I would address. I’ve never been a public speaker, nor a speaker in general, but I found myself talking, thinking to myself far too much for the past months, to the extent that there was no release but through words. After all, the only thing I was ever good at was expressing myself with words. English words.

I’ve been an English speaker for as long as I could remember, if anything, the first phrase I ever said as a child was  “It’s a tree” in English. It’s definitely my First Language, and I think most of my previous language teachers would agree. I’ve been in international school, hell, even international kindergarten. Never had I the chance, the privilege, to use Chinese. And I do mean Chinese — not Cantonese.

You see, there simply is a major misunderstanding, especially with foreigners, regarding the difference between Chinese and Cantonese. I may be fluent in Cantonese (which I am not, I have only up to the capacity to communicate and understand situations I encounter in everyday life), but complete crap in Chinese/Mandarin. I speak four languages: English, Cantonese, Chinese/Mandarin, and French. And I think I know what I’m saying when I claim that French and Spanish share many similarities. As a novice French speaker, I am immediately aware of the similarities between French and Spanish. The genders of nouns are the same (el la, le la), they have similar sentence structures, and they use genders (masculin et feminine) to classify their nouns. And, obviously, we see these two as two distinct languages. But the same could be said for Chinese and Cantonese. One is a dialect, another is a formal form of expression. Cantonese, in everyday life, is often used in conjunction with english words (friend, hi, etc), expressive tones (e.g. *sigh*), curse words, and perhaps the only relation it has with Chinese is its origins. First of all, let me say that you could easily decipher the spelling of an English word by the way its pronounced, if I said “fresh milk”, a novice english learner would perhaps spell “frash meelk”, but c’mon, that’s close enough, at least for a newbie. But you can’t do that in Chinese — oh right, you can, the awesome use of pinyin, the ONLY form of Chinese I had learnt in primary school, and the ONLY form of Chinese I was required to use to express myself in the language. I obviously was aware of existence of Chinese characters before that, the character of which you can impossibly predict how to write them based on the way they sound. It’s a flawed, difficult, and inefficient system, but I think that it adequately establishes the richness of the Chinese culture, and the history, and I have, or rather had, a strong belief that this is the fundamental reason why Chinese is such a well respected language in general. I could only wish I could ever fathom the concept of using them.

Then the opportunity came when I was in secondary school. Year 7. I was introduced to, you could say, an entire new language. New syntax, new characters, and a new way to express yourself. Starting with characters I am unfamiliar with. My teacher then, had reminded me that if I were to stay in Chinese A, I must work extremely hard, and I did just that due to the passion I had for this newfound knowledge. But slowly and slowly this interest diminished away, and it is only now, looking back, that I recognized that I was simply made a mistake that would be detrimental to my future.

But I continued to work hard. Even in Year 9, and Year 10. I give my best effort in Chinese. But in hindsight, I realized that this was ridiculous. I’ve worked my hardest, and could only “keep up” with the class while filling the gaps that I have missed in Primary School. I suppose it can be described as someone catching up with the economy, with the Inflation Rate rising 10% every year, and the wage increasing only 2%. That adequately describes my position. And it was only in Year 10 that I realized, damn, perhaps this isn’t the right subject for me.

And that’s when it started.

Chinese had been my passion all up until that point, and I realized I had no longer the interest, nor the time, to fill those gaps up. Perhaps this subject simply wasn’t for me. I was greatly interested in it, but I realized that while I am passionate about the subject, I have simply missed too much in Primary School to even be sub-par in class. It was like: I’ve learnt all the basics. I’ve experienced all the advanced stuff. But where’s the intermediate?! I made a huge drastic jump, and I thought I could overcome it, I really did. In fact, EVEN NOW, I am devoting double the amount of time on Chinese, compared to the aggregate total of the time I spend on my other subjects, combined. And while all my other subjects have a definite, significant correlation to the amount of time/effort I spent on the grades achieved, nothing could be said for Chinese.

In fact, my teacher claimed it was “unstable”. Which could be explained by the fact that my tutor, due to the abundance of mistakes I made, literally wrote more than half of my bring-home-assessments for me. I mean, she didn’t want to, but there was just so much wrong in it that her red ink literally covered more of the page than the black print. Then there’s the infinite time limit when you get to bring work home to do, compared to the actual time you get during examinations — the one’s that actually count, and could potentially make or break your grade. I mean, I *just* got 3/7 in my exams last time, and I think that the exams, which realistically simulate the final IB exams, are a perfect indicator of what I will achieve in the final exam.

And it was then, only did the thin sheet of paper condensed with the hard work time and effort I had spent on it, only did that separate me from the piercing red ink that marked my grade. And like most times in my life, I realized I was wrong, and perhaps at that moment I realized one of the hugest mistakes I ever made.

I spoke to my teacher initially, who, to current date, has been teaching me for 3-4 years. She agreed I should take a lower-level class, an opportunity to help me fill these gaps in, and perhaps redevelop my interest in Chinese. She even insistently rejected the idea that *continuing* to take the course I am in right now would be the worst idea, she even agreed, on the recommendation sheet, that I should take ANYTHING but my current course. I spoke to my parents next. They insisted I should stay, with the intention that it would be beneficial to me in 2 years later when I’m taking my Diploma. I explained my situation, my mother was on my side, my father, being the ignorant, and bordering selfish man, claimed I should stay as “it would provide me with an advantage when I do drop to B in Year 12”. And obviously, I realize he was looking out for my best interest, and I realize he’s only trying to pave the path for my future, and I truly appreciate that, and so at that moment, I was convinced. Crap, I was wrong yet again: for believing that what he said had the faintest hint of truth.

And, finally, the Inflation had caught up with me and left me bankrupt. My father realized he made a huge mistake, and truly regrets his ignorance. But that doesn’t matter. I’ve made this mistake of being persuaded by the false hope my parents had given me, my teachers encouragement believing that I have the potential, it was all a lie. And at a point, I actually believed in myself, that I could do it. I simply underestimated the huge gap I had when I made a greedy leap from Primary to Secondary, and there had always been a time where I had to find an opportunity to fill this emptiness, but I never did. It was a castle of poker cards balanced on two edges, and sure enough, as more and more are stacked on top, it would eventually collapse. After all, the only thing these cards had ever been held by — something stronger than gravity: my motivation and passion for Chinese — has already diminished into nothingness. I no longer liked the subject, simply. I have destroyed the one thing I truly loved because of the pressure, or rather, the mistake I had made initially, while silent, had always been undulating in the background, and most certainly, one day I must pay the price for consolidating a fortress on top of a mudslide.

And now this. The original plan — me dropping to Chinese B, having an advantage, was all nonsense. The false, misguiding grades. The boost of confidence that I heard oh so many times. The thing is, I DONT MIND GETTING A 5, I am more than happy because it certainly was, IS, the highest I could ever hope  for given the situation I am in. But the thing is that I honestly doubt I’d keep it at that. Without talking about grades, my foundation of Chinese is so weak that I struggle to understand even the overall language when the teacher talks, yet they expect me to write a commentary on the overall, deeper meaning and understanding of a text. Without talking about grades, I have no idea how to progress with my Chinese without filling up the gaps, and the only way to do that is to return, back to the intermediate stage I had missed, that in Chinese B, and hopefully, just hopefully, I’ll be able to find where I had left off, where I had lost the interest I once had in the subject. And even if we were talking about grades, just ignoring all my other grades *but* the semester grades (to ignore the times where my tutor wrote my entire essay, where my presentations were done in Cantonese — again, not Chinese), its obvious that I am a borderline 4 student, and this is further supported by ALL the grades I had been getting since I came to this school, since Year 7, since I was a naive kid who once was interested in Chinese, who once was excited every-time I opened the door to class. I swear, I found myself wishing too many times in the past years if only my Chinese was half as good as my English, because in exchange I’d give up half of my English for Chinese, just to experience the moment again when I actually had an interest in the subject that once used to be my favorite. Really I would.

But the world doesn’t work like that. Truth is, I’ve learnt it the hard way, more than most people my age, that this world is never anything you expect it to be. It had all been a scam, and a part of me even scammed myself, there’s no one else to blame but myself. The fault is not in our stars, but in myself. In myself for not standing up for myself, in myself for being greedy, for being the dog who saw a reflection of the bone in the pond, and dropped his own to pick it up. It’s noone fault but mine. Really.

Because at the end of the day, who am I to make a difference. I am simply a statistic. A number written on your report, a single percentile boosting up the IB Bilingual Diploma Grade for our school. Hell it’s obvious what the true intentions are, I’ve posted a forum here, been informed by an IB teacher who had been teaching for 7 years, and also multiple IB students from other schools — and none have ever heard of a rule preventing students from dropping to A to B. Students have the right to choose their subjects and this school simply does not allow that. Good for them. Good for the numbers. Good for the stats.

And I am, just that: a stat. I’m a pawn in the centre of your chessboard and YOU are the one controlling its fate. Whether he’ll be living under a bridge of under a cardboard box; or whether he’ll be able to feed his wife, his children, hell, even himself — he has no say. At the end of the day, its the print of ink of the statistic that really counts — not his university choice, not his future, not whether he lives or dies. Life’s a game, and its a game of Chess with the pieces under your control. You’ll be betrayed, scammed, and you’ll often find yourself asking which tile you’re on: the black or the white.

Because at the end of the day, what else could I do but write up a blog which no one would probably read; a voice no one ever answers. I’ve nowhere go to, but resort to myself expressing these thoughts which have polluted my mind these past years up here. These unanswered questions and concerns, hovering my mind and hurting my heart, and when I was writing this all up, what was I hoping to find but closure? After all, the only thing I was ever good at was expressing myself with words — and I suppose society took that away from me.

Please reconsider your choice. Let this be the last good thing you’ll do before leaving this school.

“Men at some time are masters of their fates:
The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,
But in ourselves, that we are underlings. (1.2.135)”


~ by 11leec2 on May 17, 2012.

5 Responses to “The Underling”

  1. Kinda poetic mate, I like it

  2. I dislike the amount of complexity society forcefully impost on life, disrupting life’s simplicity

  3. A very entertaining post 😀 *Thumbs UP*

  4. Wow That sucks if Im u I’ll protest lmfao. The schools just a selfish cunt wanting some recognition for most bilingual students by the way.

    U have my full support.

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