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Bilingual Feature: From Zhengzhou to Cambridge, Following the Rule of Talent 从郑州到剑桥,遵从天赋的规则

Several days ago, I saw a video of a piano player. He was improvising by playing a ton of octave jumps. The jumps were so clear, powerful and brisk that I was shocked by his extraordinary talent. In an instant, I sent this video to my mum. Just some background information: My mum is a very typical Asian style ‘Tiger Mum’. She used to have great faith in my musical talent and hoped vehemently that I would become a professional pianist. Unfortunately, I never liked playing the piano so I quit it at the age of 15. I clearly have let my mum down and shamed her by doing a PhD at Cambridge. Nah, I’m just kidding. She is still very proud of me. 几天前,我在网上看到了一个人即兴弹钢琴的视频:他弹了很多八度大跳,弹得清脆有力。震惊于其高超的琴技和不同凡响的天赋,我把这段视频发给了我的妈妈。(这里需要补充一点背景信息:我妈是非常典型的亚洲式“虎妈”。从小她就对我的音乐天赋信心十足,一直致力于把我培养成专业的钢琴家。然而,弹琴对我来说始终都是件比较痛苦的事情,所以我15岁的时候就彻底放弃了我的钢琴生涯。我没有成为钢琴家却成为了一名剑桥大学的博士学生这个事实显然让我妈大失所望,甚至让她蒙羞。没有啦,开个玩笑。我妈还是很为我感到自豪的。


I told my Mum, “Check out this dude’s amazing octave jumps. He is a real talent, unlike me. I couldn’t help making mistakes while I was doing large jumps as a kid.” She answered, as expected, “No, I think you were indeed very talented. But you were just very fickle and lazy when it came to practice. If you had had more patience, just as the way you treat your research studies, you could have also played beautiful large jumps.” 然后我告诉她:“你看人家八度大跳弹得多好。这才是真正有钢琴天赋的人啊!不像我,真的很缺乏弹琴的天赋。小时候只要弹大跳必碰错音。”她回答道:“没有啊,我一直都觉得你还是很有天赋的。只是你在练琴这件事上是真的很浮躁,也很懒。如果你能拿出你搞学术一半精神搞钢琴的话,你肯定也能弹得很不错的。”嘿!我猜她就会这么说。

She was partially right. I have never devoted myself to piano. I never had the patience. However, this still means I wasn’t talented enough, even though I had decent taste in music and had the perfect hands for (being pretty decent at) piano. My failure in piano playing had always made me certain about one thing: whether you have an aptitude for piano is not only determined by your musical vibes or the sizes of your hands or the dexterity of your fingers, but also by whether you have the abilities to always being able to figure out efficient ways to improve your skills, as well as the abilities to be patient with dull practices. 只能说我妈说对了一半吧。我的确从来都没有在钢琴上特别上过心。我也从来都没有那份耐心去练琴。然而,这依然能够说明我的确不怎么有弹琴的天赋,即使我的乐感还不错、手也很大很适合弹琴。我在钢琴方面败走麦城的事迹使我坚定了一件事:弹琴的天赋不仅取决于乐感、亦或是手的大小、亦或是手指的灵活度,其实也体现在对待弹琴这件事有没有充足的耐心、悟性等等这些细碎的习惯上。

This rule also applies to other fields. It helps you understand in which areas your real talents fall. I personally call it the ‘Rule of Talent’. 这一规则同样也适用于其他领域。它能够帮助你知道你真正的天赋到底在哪里。我管这叫“天赋的规则”。

Luckily, I realised this as a teenager, and firmly decided to transfer the focus of my life from piano to academic studies. Even when I was a child in primary school, I started to notice the infinite delight that studying would bring me. As far as I can remember, going to lectures, doing homework, and even attending examinations was paradise for me. Even in high school when I had to work extremely hard, I had never experienced a single feeling of dullness when it came to my academic studies. Following my personal “Rule of Talent”, I started to paint the blueprint of myself becoming a researcher. 很幸运的是,我在青少年时期就已经对这件事大彻大悟了。所以我才会坚定地抛弃琴童的身份,而去扎扎实实地做一名好学生。即使当我还是一个什么都不懂的小学生时,我就已经充分意识到学习可以给我带来的无穷欢乐。从我记事起,任何和学习相关的事情,包括但不限于上课、写作业、甚至是参加考试,都是我的伊甸园。即使在高中我不得不玩命学习的时候,我都从未感到一丝一毫的乏味。遵从着天赋的规则,我开始给自己勾画起成为学者的蓝图。


But in which discipline might lie my true talents? While me and my friends were choosing between the Science and Humanities pathways at high school, most of us were inevitably influenced by waves of thoughts that ‘Smarter Students Learn Science’ and ‘Science Students Find Better Jobs’. These may still be ongoing waves of thoughts in China at the moment … My parents were certainly influenced by them and considered studying science subjects. Again, following my Rule of Talent, I let them down by choosing Humanities, as I found my efficiency of learning humanities subjects considerably better than that of science subjects. This rule further guided me to do a BA degree in English Literature and later determined by decision to become a second language educationist in my MPhil and doctoral studies at Cambridge. 然而学科那么多,到底什么才是真正适合我的呢?在高中文理分科时,我和诸多好友都被当年非常流行的一些思想所影响:比如大家普遍认为“聪明的孩子就要学理科”、“学理科好找工作”。这些想法可能现在在国内都还十分盛行。当年我的父母也曾被这样单一的想法所荼毒,认为我就应该理所当然地去学理科。然而我再一次大胆地让他们失望了。遵循着我自己的规则,我毅然决然地选择了文科,因为我知道我在学习文科科目时要更高效、也能把文科知识学得更透彻。高中毕业后,我依然根据自己的天赋所在在本科阶段学习了英语语言文学,进而在后续的硕士、博士的求学道路中开启了我的二语教育研究生涯。


Along my academic journey, I have always been considered as the ‘lucky child, for I was always able to perform well without exhausting myself. However, only I myself know that it was actually because I have always made right choices based on the “Rule of Talent” and chose the path that catered to my aptitude. It’s very common that I usually don’t get everyone’s support, for I have made some ‘weird choices’ from many people’s perspectives. However, I have always been firm about my own choices, as I know my strengths better than anyone else. 学海无涯,而我总被人认为是“上天眷顾的孩子”。在他人看来,我好像总能不费吹灰之力就达成理想的成就。然而,只有我自己知道,这全都是因为,我在人生的许多关键节点都根据自己的天赋做出了对自己最有利的选择。由于我的选择时常与大家普遍认为的好的发展道路大相径庭,在成长过程中我并不会获得许多人的理解和支持。然而,我始终十分坚定自己的选择,因为我比任何人都要更了解自己的长处所在。


You may still be very young and may think that diligence means everything. It is indeed a very important thing to keep working hard. However, it is also extremely important to figure out what your talents are and make wise choices based on that. In this way, you may find your life so much happier and easier! 你现在可能还十分年轻,也可能认为勤奋就是一切。的确,坚持刻苦努力是必须的。但发现自己的天赋并由此做出明智的抉择也十分中重要。这样的话,你可能就会发现,原来求学的道路还可以如此快乐轻松!


Iris is a PhD Candidate at the Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge. Her doctoral study focuses on language teacher identity under native-speakerism. She has been a second language acquisition researcher for several years and has been interested in anything related to English language teaching and learning. Apart from her academic life, Iris spends much time dancing, choreographing, playing board games and sleeping. Iris是剑桥大学教育系的一位博士候选人。她的博士研究主要关于母语者主义下的语言教师的身份认同。作为一名二语习得研究者,她对一切和英语教学和学习相关的内容都很感兴趣。日常生活中,Iris会花大把的时间跳舞、编舞、玩桌游以及睡觉。


If you are a multilingual student aged 18-28 and would like to share your reflections on life studying, living and/or traveling overseas with the aim of inspiring younger students to do the same, please submit a title, scope of article contents, and a 50 word (bilingual) biography to olivia@oleaeducation.com and we will get back to you!

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