The New Life of the Little Red Caboose

Jason Tyler Gong

P.O. Box 4794, Diamond Bar, CA 91765

January 9, 2009

Mr. Howard N. Lee

Chairman, State Board of Education

Raleigh, North Carolina, 27699


Dear Mr. Lee:
Thank you very much for your kind letter of December 23, 2008. As a commonly accepted doctrine, “… listen, speak, read and write … skills are developed together…,” is, indeed, the way of learning a second language. However, the learning process for the first language (the mother tongue) is different. Kids are learning the verbal language first without the distraction of the written part. In fact, almost everyone (including mentally impaired) is able to learn a mother tongue somewhat while the written language is significantly more difficult than its verbal part for all languages. Thus, the definition of the illiterate is one that is able to speak and to listen but unable to read or to write. Regardless of the highly developed education systems around the world, every country is still having a sizable population which is illiterate. In America, an alarming percentage (over 15%) of high school graduates cannot write a comprehensive essay in English.


Chinese written language is one of the most difficult languages in the world. Over one-half native Chinese high school graduates cannot write a short essay without some awkward sentences, and 99.999% of them cannot comprehend the classic writings. The steepness of Chinese written language can, often, not be overcome by the “I think I can… I know I can,” mental power, even for many native Chinese.


Your saying, “… so that students can use their learning in one area to help them advance in another. …,” is, indeed, a great key for learning language. For learning the mother tongue, the verbal language is an engine which is pulling the written language (seemingly a dead burden, as a little red caboose with its break pushed all the way down).


I am a student, not a teacher. I did not develop any new technique but learned one which transformed a dead burden into a powerful engine. Of course, I am very excited of sharing my learning experience with other young students. My experience of learning Chinese language can be summed up with the following equations.

  • Learning the mother tongue:
    1. The energy that is needed to learn the verbal part is 1 (one) eff (the energy unit of learning effort), the energy spent by an illiterate adult.
    2. The energy that is needed to learn the written part is, in general, 5 eff for most of languages.
    3. The energy for literacy of a first language is 1 + 5 = 6 eff.
  • Learning a second language:In general, learning a second language is about twice as hard as the first one. That is, the energy for literacy of a second language is 6 x 2 = 12 eff.
  • My experience of learning Chinese language:
    1. The little red caboose (Chinese written language, the dead burden) was transformed as a very powerful engine, and it needs only 1/100 (0.01) eff as it can be learned without a language environment, much simpler and easier than geometry or chemistry, as it can be learned by any fourth grader.
    2. The new verbal technique reduces the eff to half for the verbal part while without the help of the written part.
    3. With the written part as a super-engine, the eff for the verbal part was further reduced 500%. Thus, the total eff for learning the verbal part is 1/2 x 1/5 = 1/10 = 0.1 eff
    4. My eff of learning Chinese language is 0.1 + 0.01 = 0.11 eff
    5. Comparing with the old method (12 / 0.11 = 109), the old method requires 100 times more energy and effort than I did.

    Note: For the first language, 6 eff for literacy is by definition or by default, and then, how can any language be learned with a lesser eff? Indeed, only the second language can have a chance of using lesser eff if,

    • The first language did not become a habitual obstacle for the second language. That is, the second language must be learned as a knowledge, not a habit. Then, the first language becomes a help, not an obstacle for learning the second.
    • The only way to reduce the verbal eff from 1 (as it is the definition) is that it be learned with a big help externally. That is, the written language must be learned before the verbal.

My experience is not unique. It is testable and repeatable. My brother Henry (age 22) did better than I as he was able to read Chinese novel after only 60 days of study from an initial condition of not knowing a single Chinese word. My niece Gab’ (age 9) was able to copy every Chinese word (however complicate it is) after only studied 8.5 hours. Henry is now back to Virginia and Gab’ back to Kentucky. These cases can be easily examined for their validity. Although we are not teachers, we will be happy to give some demonstrations.


Sincerely yours,

Jason Tyler Gong