Patience helps new words grow
(China Daily)
Updated: 2006-11-18 06:00

Wise men say it is better to fulfill a task step by step rather than rushing
in like a fool. No matter what kind of work you are doing, one needs a solid
foundation and this takes time to build. It doesn't happen overnight.

"A 1,000 mile journey starts with one step." (Qian li zhi xing, shi yu zu
xia )

This age-old principle is suitable for most things in our daily lives,
especially for learning Chinese.

Older people might find patience easier to attain, however, for younger
learners, it might be difficult. Anyhow, they had better follow a right way
if they want to have better results.

The practice of patience has proved successful for countless people
throughout history.

Confucius, the most well known scholar in China, once said: "Do not intend
to be too quick. And do not fix eyes on small benefits. Intending to be
quicker, you won't get where you want. Fixing your eyes on small benefits,
you won't be able to handle a big task."
(Wu yu su, wu jian xiao li. Yu su
ze bu da, jian xiao li ze da shi bu cheng. ,, ;.)

This Confucian idea is repeatedly quoted by Chinese school teachers to
encourage young learners. But in reality, many parents want their children
to master everything as soon as possible.

The best follower of Confucius, Mencius, or Meng Zi, once told a story with
a similar theme.

A farmer worried that his seedlings were not growing fast enough. So one
day, he pulled up the seedlings to make them look taller. Returning home
looking very tired, the farmer told his family what he did. His son ran
immediately to the field to find all the seedlings had withered. (Song ren
you min qi miao bu zhang zhe, mang mang ran gui, wei qi ren yue: "jin ri
bing yi, yu zhu miao zhang yi." Qi zi qu er wang shi zhi, miao ze gao yi.
",." ,.)

Mencius then comments: "There are so many people who are doing the same
thing as the farmer did. Some people considered it hopeless and gave up
attending to the seedlings totally. Others still try to help the seedlings
to grow quicker, but they are actually killing the seedlings." (Tian xia zhi
bu zhu miao zhang zhe gua yi. Yi wei wu yi er she zhi zhe, bu yun miao zhe
ye; zhu zhi zhang zhe, ya miao zhe ye; fei tu wu yi, er you hai zhi. , ,;.)

This famous story has been turned into an idiom: pulling the seedlings to
help them grow (ba miao zhu zhang ) instead of allowing nature to take its
course. The farmer can add more fertilizer, regularly hoe the weeds,
irrigate and do other things. However, this farmer neglected the natural
rules. Even his little son knew he made a mistake.

It is a pity that many young learners of Chinese or other areas of studies
have not paid enough attention to advice of these old scholars. They
continue their own ways of "fast" learning.

In Chinese, this habit would be called: "zi yi wei shi" . They think they
are right, but in reality, this is not always true.

There are others who do not continue learning. They often forget what they
have learned when new lessons start. This can be compared to rowing a boat
upstream; if you are not going forward, then you will be pushed downstream.
(Ni shui xing zhou, bu jin ze tui. ,)

Confucius put much emphasis on reviewing what one had learned. He told his
students: "Isn't it a happy thing to review what you have learned from time
to time?" (Xue er shi xi zhi, bu yi le hu? ,?)

He also said: "Those who review what they have learnt will know something
new, and they can be teachers." (Wen gu er zhi xin, ke yi wei shi yi. ,.)
Here, Confucius suggested that one should often review what have learned
before forgetting.

Unfortunately there are many young learners who follow this wisdom. Mencius
once described such people as "having grasses blocking the heart."

He once talked to one of his students named Gao Zi: "There are paths among
mountains. They become roads if people often walk on them. If the paths are
not often used, wild grasses will block it. Now your heart has been blocked
by these grasses." (Meng Zi wei Gao Zi yue: "Shan jing zhixi jian, jie ran
yong zhi er cheng lu; wei jian bu yong, ze mao se zhi yi. Jin mao se zi zhi
xin yi." : ",; ,..")

The process of learning Chinese is a process of character development.

These ancient scholars are long gone, but many of their ideas are valuable
food for thought.

(China Daily 11/18/2006 page10)