Quiq Quiq wished he had been born Korean. Korean children only have twenty-four characters to memorize. Or English kids got just twenty-six characters. They can sing their ABC Song in less than a minute.
‘Chinese has got over 48,000 characters. I’d like to see some dumb English kid try and sing the Moon-Sun-Earth Song. ABC Song’s got just twenty-six lyrics: A-B-C-D-E, I’m already half done. English kids are so lucky, and ignorant. Only twenty-six! I’m twelve, and I started singing the Moon-Sun-Earth Song six years ago, and I’m still not halfway through. I’ll be singing this song forever! I will never learn it!’
Shangfing could see his pupil’s eyes wandering. He clapped once loudly smack in front of Quiq Quiq’s nose. “Wake up!” Quiq Quiq came back into focus. “What is this character?” Shangfing held up a simple looking character made up of two simple strokes. Quiq Quiq couldn’t place it.
“Apricot.” Quiq Quiq said strongly. He hoped the strength of his voice would hide his insecurity with his answer.
Shangfing smacked his pupil in the back of the head with an open palm. “No! Remember! Use all your strength!”
Then it came to him, “Strength!” Quiq Quiq remembered.
“Yes. Next.” Shangfing flashed another card. By Shangfing’s count, they were 23,999 flash cards from finishing the 48,000 characters Shangfing had to teach, Quiq Quiq. Quiq Quiq’s parents were dedicated to getting their only son to read all the characters in their beautiful language.
Quiq Quiq thought this two hours a day spent on memorizing characters were a waste, seeing as he was the only one among all his friends and classmates forced to do this.
‘Xiling’s parents are happy if he knows fifty!’
Another clap brought him out of his jealous daydreams.
“Focus!” his teacher hollered at him.
“I can’t take any more! I know more than anybody I know, more than my teachers!” Quiq Quiq begged. He got another swift palm to the back of his head.
“You think you know more than your teachers, you insolent little brat? You don’t know more than me and I am your teacher!”
“Sorry, sir, no disrespect to you, sir, I meant my teachers at school.” He got another smack to the head.
“You know nothing! You know less than nothing! You are the worst kind of ignorance, the ignorance that thinks it knows something. You didn’t even know, ‘strength’ and you see it every day.”
“No, I don’t, sir.”
Shangfing resisted smacking the boy again. He could see that hitting wasn’t working. He tried talking softly, “What’s this?” the teacher asked the student after flashing a new card.
“Man,” Quiq Quiq tried unsuccessfully to hide his contempt at being asked such an easy one.
“Right, and what character is this?” Shangfing pointed to the top character that made up the word.
“Right, and what character is this?” Shanfing pointed to the bottom character that held up the field.
“Strength,” Quiq Quiq said, blushing at having missed it before. Men work with strength in the field, it is right there in the composition of, ‘man’.
“24,000 down, 24,000 to go. By this rate you’ll be ready for university,” Shangfing thought of the bonus Quiq Quiq’s parents had promised if he could get their son ready by then.
Quiq Quiq was only concerned with the amount of time that would exhaust. He knew it meant never having time to join the soccer team. “Why can’t that be enough? 24,000, half, pretty good. Most know only a 5000, and I’m only twelve! I’m the smartest twelve year old I’ve ever met!”
Shangfing knew no matter how much he taught, nothing would work unless Quiq Quiq wanted to learn. “Do you want to be only half as smart as you can be? How can you expect to be able to use your full mind if you don’t know your full language? Do you want to be a halfwit or a fullwit?”
“A fullwit,” Quiq Quiq lamented, knowing the halfwits got soccer.
“Good. So, let’s celebrate reaching 24,000 by singing the Moon-Sun-Earth Song to the point you know.”
“It’ll take me till next week! I’m hungry, teacher, please!”
“You’ll eat as soon as you’re done. Let’s hear you: Moon-Sun-Earth-Sky…”
Quiq Quiq picked up where his teacher had left off. Two days later when he finished the song, he had forgotten all the metaphor of the language and remembered only ‘people’ meant people and ‘dream’ meant dream, never learning that their combination meant they were pathetic. Quiq Quiq refused to learn that, because to him the dreams of people were more than the sum of their parts.