Growing up Mongolian in Jilin
Zhū Hǎijuān (朱海娟) is a native Mongolian speaker living in Songyuan, Jilin Province. She was born into a Mongolian speaking family and attended 1st through 3rd grade in Huanaoer Tun in one room with one teacher and all three grades mixed together, a total of about 15 students. All classes were taught in Mongolian. (Though of course as always, Chinese class is taught in Chinese.) Now the little school is no more.
It has been absorbed into Yángjiā Wéizi Cūn (杨家围子村) Primary School. This school, being in the main village, is bigger with one class per grade. Zhū Hǎijuān went to 4th through 6th grades here. All the classes were in Mongolian.
For middle school, she went into town to Chágānhuā (查干花) Mongolian Middle School for grades 6 to 8. There each grade had four classes, three of which (including the one Zhū Hǎijuān was in) were taught in Mongolian.
She attended high school in Songyuan City (the southern part, which is the Qian Gorlos Mongol Autonomous County seat) at Qiánguō (前郭) Mongolian High School, where each grade, 9-12, had four or five classes, but only one, her class, was taught completely in Mongolian.
There are no Mongolian colleges outside of Inner Mongolia (well, except in Outer Mongolia), so to continue her Mongolian language education, she had to go to Inner Mongolia University where she studied law. There each grade also had four or five classes with only one completely in Mongolian, but she was free to choose teachers, so she chose them based on their teaching quality and some of them happened to teach in Mandarin.
At the university, which draws Mongolian speakers from many different Mongolian communities across northern China, she said she at first had trouble with students’ accents, and even with some teachers’ accents, but after about a semester of exposure to a new accent, she had no trouble understanding them. She said that it was common for teachers to complain about essays in Mongolian being “too Chinese”.
After graduation, it was time to look for a job. The university had a job placement office, but they had some kind of a waiting list, so she had to wait a year before they found her a good job. They finally placed her at Songyuan Television where she has now been working for a few years.
I have seen cable news from Inner Mongolia and they have vertical subtitles (juxtatitiles?) flashing along very quickly. I remember how hard reading Chinese subtitles was for me in the beginning (and they still present problems mostly because I just don’t watch any TV), and asked her if she could keep up with them. She said she has trouble. She explained that there are no Mongolian books or other materials available in Songyuan, so it is really difficult for her to keep up with her written Mongolian. She still seems to be rather proficient though. I asked her to write a short introduction in Mongolian and to record herself reading it aloud.
Here is her reading the above (click on the triangle to play):
The recording is not clear (sorry about that). I should have asked Zhu Haijuan to translate what she wrote into Chinese for me, but I had forgotten. I sent the recording to a Mongolian (from “Outer” Mongolia) friend who sent it to another Mongolian friend to transcribe. This is what was sent back:
Миний нэр Zhu Haijuan 1986.1.16 -ны өдөр төрж, 2002 онд Өвөрмонголын их сургуулийн (хятад нэр хэлж байна) “Минжайн хадан” сургуулийг төгсчээ./төгссөн/ Одоо Өмнөд Голомт сонины Монгол үндэстний … /нэр/ телевиз хороонд ажиллаж байна
And the translation:
My name is Zhu Haijuan. I was born on 16 January 1986 and graduated from Inner Mongolian University “Ming Zhan Xia Da?”. Now I work at the television department of the Mongolian nationals’ Omnod Golomt (South Home?) newspaper.