Practice IS Perfect

Dam Flotsam Twigs RESIZED_13 AUG 2019

It’s no easy thing learning another language, perhaps especially when that “other language” happens to be Cantonese! Patience is really important.

On my last trip to Hong Kong, I went to see a language teacher one of whose textbooks I found (and am still finding) very useful. She told me about a student of hers who picked up the rudiments of Cantonese in two weeks! We all love a success story with talent winning out against the odds, but this particular anecdote was pretty deflating for me, I confess. In my case, Cantonese is a matter of years. Actually, I’m into my second decade already . . .

I have no great gift for languages: to me, language is the great gift, one that can never be exhausted. If you’ve ever read the Moomintroll books by Tove Jansson, you’ll recall there’s a character called Hemul who is a very conscientious kind of creature. For a time, his big passion is stamp-collecting, but then one day he is thrown into utter crisis when he manages to acquire the last remaining stamp his collection needs to be complete! What will he do now? Suddenly a huge emptiness gapes open in his life.

I’m sure in my case there will never ever be a Hemul moment! No matter how much I learn, there is always more to be learnt. As Thomas Sterner points out in The Practising Mind, practice itself has to be the focal point for any dedicated language-learner:

I understood that there was no point I could reach where I would feel that I had finally done it, that I was as good as I needed to be, and that there was no need to improve because I had arrived at my goal.

However, rather than sadden ourselves with goals we never seem to reach, we need to learn to enjoy the process itself, to find optimum joy in that and, as Sterner recommends, to experiment with ways “to build the stamina necessary to continue in an infinite study”.

When I first got my puppy, he was only eight weeks old and could fit inside a shoe-box. Six months later, he is nearly full-grown and takes all my energy to lift off the ground! The strange thing is, I could never see that growth from day to day: I guess it happens too close up to be appreciated. Maybe learning a language is like that, too: invisible to the naked eye. But trust in the pleasures of regular, heart-felt practice and perhaps the result will (more or less) take care of itself, a natural progression.

 

Photograph: Rocks & Flotsam down by the Dam

Cantonese through News Stories: Simon Cheng Man-kit Held in Detention

Geng Shuang Mainland foreign Ministry_22 AUG 2019

If you were unsure why the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance has provoked such outrage in Hong Kong, the recent case of 鄭文傑 Simon Cheng Man-kit is a perfect instance of what is at stake. Cheng, trade and investment officer at the British consulate in Hong Kong, disappeared on the evening of the 8 August on his way back to Hong Kong from Shenzhen. Finally, on 22 August, 耿爽Gáng2 Sóng2 (Mandarin: Geng Shuang) informed the world that Cheng had been placed under “disciplinary detention” [行政拘留] by Shenzhen police for fifteen days and warned the British not to go on “fanning flames and lighting fires”, a reference to the 2019 Summer of Protest. To date, no one has been informed of Cheng’s whereabouts.

On 22 August, the Chinese state-run tabloid Global Times reported that Cheng was being held for a violation of article 66:

The Chinese Foreign Ministry confirmed Wednesday that Cheng was under administrative detention in Shenzhen. On Thursday, police in Shenzhen’s Luohu district told Global Times that he was detained for violating article 66 of the Law of the People’s Republic of China on Penalties for Administration of Public Security. The article includes solicitation of prostitutes. 

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12 new words:

外交部 ngoih6 gāau1 bouh6 = Ministry of Foreign Affairs (PRC)
證實 jing3 saht6 = to confirm, to verify
行政拘留 hàhng4 jing3 kēui1 làuh4 = disciplinary detention
治安管理處罰法 jih6 ōn1 gwún2 léih5 chyu3 faht6 faat3 = public security administration punishment law
處罰 chyú2 faht6 = to punish; to penalize
僱員 gu3 yùhn4 = employee
香港公民 Hēung1 Góng2 gūng1 màhn4 = Hong Kong citizen
敦促 dēun1 chūk1 = to urge; to press
發表錯誤言論 faat3 bíu2 cho3 ngh6 yìhn4 leuhn6 = to air/express incorrection opinions/views
指手畫脚 jí2 sáu2 waahk6 geuk3 = to make indiscreet remarks or criticisms
煽風點火 sin3 fūng1 dím2 fó2 = to inflame and agitate people; to stir up trouble; to incite discord
失去聯絡 sāt1 heui3 lyùhn4 lok3 = to lose contact with sb.

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(Introduction)

外交部證實英國駐香港領事館一個港職員被深圳警方行政拘留。
The mainland Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs has confirmed that a Hong Kong employee of the British consulate in Hong Kong is being held in “disciplinary detention” by Shenzhen police.

(Main story)

  • 耿爽 Gáng2 Sóng2, spokesperson for the mainland Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs (in Mandarin)

你提到的這個人因爲違反中華人民共和國治安管理處罰法,被深圳警方處以行政拘留15天的處罰。
The person you are referring to has been punished by Shenzhen police with disciplinary detention for 15 days for breaking the public security administration punishment law of the People’s Republic of China.

這名僱員他是香港公民。
This employee is a Hong Kong citizen

他不是英國公民。
He is not a British citizen.

他是中國人也就是說。
Which is to say, he is Chinese.

所以完全是中國自己的内部事務。
For this reason, this is in all respects [完全] China’s own internal matter.

外交部指,英方喺香港問題發表錯誤言論,敦促英方唔好再指手畫脚同煽風點火。
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that the British has expressed incorrect opinions on the matter of the Hong Kong question, and urged Britain to refrain [唔好再 mh4 hóu joi3] from “making indiscreet remarks or criticisms” and from “inflaming and agitating people”.

英國外交部早前表示,高度關注駐港總領事館一個男職員由深圳返香港期間被拘留嘅事。
The British Foreign and Commonwealth Office had earlier said that there was a high degree of concern for the detention of this male employee of the British consulate, detained by Shenzhen police on his way back to Hong Kong.

嗰個男職員本月八日晚坐高鐵由深圳返香港期間同親友失去聯絡。
Close friends lost all contact with that male employee on 8 August while he was travelling on the Express Rail Link from Shenzhen to Hong Kong.

2019年8月21日

Related reports:

+ Hong Kong Free Press (in English)

+ BBC (in Chinese)

Cantonese through News Stories: Hong Kong’s Latest Number One Scholars

Capture_Outstanding Students_10 JUL 2019

In the book Hedda Morrison’s Hong Kong, Edward Stokes writes “Old rural virtues — self-reliance, hardiness, and an abiding respect for learning . . . — characterized the countryside” and these same virtues continue to inspire the extensive media coverage given on a regular basis to the results of the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education Examination, as well as those 狀元 johng6 yùhn4 or “Number One Scholars” who manage to achieve outstanding results. This report by TVB’s 陳逸思 Chàhn4 Yaht6 Sī1 is also interesting for its frequent use of the modal verb 會 wúih5, in addition to the solid array of educational terms. I find it intriguing that Hong Kong’s most intelligent students are all keen to become doctors: perhaps these are the people who might be able to provide a solution to Hong Kong’s current difficulties . . .

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12 new words:

文憑試 màhn4 pàhng4 si3 = 香港中學文憑考試 or Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education Examination (HKDSE)
放榜 fong3 bóng2 = publish the results; publish a list of successful candidates/applicants
佳績 gāai1 jīk1 = good result; success
修讀 sāu1 duhk6 = to study (at university level); to do further study
養育 yéuhng5 yuhk6 = to bring up (a child)
摘星嘅決心 jaahk6 sīng1 ge3 kyut3 sām1 = the determination to reach for the stars
狀元 johng6 yùhn4 = Number One Scholar
屬意 suhk6 yi3 = to fix one’s mind on; to have one’s heart set on
立志 lahp6 ji3 = to resolve; to be determined
劍橋大學 gim3 kìuh4 daaih6 hohk6 = Cambridge University
固有 gu3 yáuh5 = usu. intrinsic; inherent; innate; in this context = “fixed” (?)
熱誠 yiht6 sìhng4 = sincere; sincerity

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(Introduction)

中學文憑試放榜。
The results of the HKDSE have been published.

十二個人至少考獲七科5**,嚟自九間學校。
Twelve people, from nine [different] schools, obtained [a grade of] Level 5** in at least seven subjects.

其中觀塘瑪利諾書院同聖馬可中學首次有學生考到呢個佳績。
Of these, a student from the Kwun Tong Maryknoll College and a student from St Mark’s School obtained this excellent result for the first time ever.

而大部份會修讀醫科。
The majority of them will study [修讀] medicine.
Note: Here, 會 wúih5 is a modal indicating high likelihood: the students will definitely do this.

Continue reading “Cantonese through News Stories: Hong Kong’s Latest Number One Scholars”

Cantonese through News Stories: Demonstrators Break Into Legislative Council Complex

Capture_Wire-mesh Trolley_1 JUL 2019

Here is one version of events that led to the so-called “storming” of the Legislative Council Complex. I recently came across the quote “There are years that ask questions and years that answer” (Zora Neale Hurston). Perhaps this is just such a question-asking year for Hong Kong. In several parts of this report, it is impossible to hear what people are actually saying. I have provided a translation based on the subtitles, but these are in Standard Written Chinese rather than Cantonese. Watch out for the use of the verb 撞 johng6 = “to strike” and its use in various compounds: 撞爛, 撞擊, 撞裂 and 撞破.

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12 new words:

露面 louh6 mihn6 = to make an appearance
汲取教訓 kāp1 chéui2 gaau3 fan3 = to learn a lesson; to assimilate; to imbibe
民情民意 màhn chìhng màhn yi3 = public feeling & the will of the people
平息 pìhng4 sīk1 = to calm down; to blow over
鐵籠車 tit3 lùhng4 chē1 = wire-mesh trolley (?)
勸阻 hyun3 jó2 = to dissuade sb. from; to advise sb. not to
防毒面罩 fòhng4 duhk6 mihn6 jaau3 = gas mask
石灰粉 sehk6 fūi1 fán2 = powdered lime (?)
調停 tìuh4 tìhng4 = to mediate; to intervene
角力 gok3 lihk6 = to have a trial of strength; to wrestle
上彈 seuhng6 dáan6*2 = to load (a gun with bullets)
對峙 deui3 sih6/chíh5 = to stand facing each other; to confront

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(Introduction)

香港回歸22週年,行政長官林鄭月娥,近兩個星期以嚟首次公開露面。
[On the occasion of] the twenty-second anniversary of the Handover of Hong Kong, the Chief Executive Carrie Lam made her first public appearance in two weeks.

佢話會汲取教訓,日後施政更加貼近民情民意。
She said that she had learned from what had happened, and that from now on the management of government affairs would adhere more closely [貼近 tip3 gahn6] to public feeling and the will of the people.

不過示威者嘅抗議未有平息。
However, the protests of the demonstrators have not yet stopped [平息 pìhng4 sīk1].

Continue reading “Cantonese through News Stories: Demonstrators Break Into Legislative Council Complex”

Cantonese through News Stories: Carrie Lam’s Apology

Capture_Carrie LAm Apology FOUR_18 JUN 2019

After the second huge protest march in Hong Kong on Sunday 16 June, Carrie Lam decided to make an apology “to every single resident of Hong Kong”. As the TVB reporter 張家灝 Jēung1 Gāa1 Houh6 makes clear, however, she stopped short of agreeing to that word of the moment, 撤回 chit3 wùih4 = to “withdraw”, preferring instead to replace it with 暫緩 jaahm6 wuhn6 = to postpone temporarily. But will this be enough?

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12 new words:

召開記者會 jiuh6 hōi1 gei3 jé2 húi6*2 = to call a press conference
(引起)爭議 (yáhn5 héi2) jāng1 yíh5 = (to spark) controversy
向 . . . 道歉 heung3 … douh6 hip3 = to apologize to (someone)
cf. 致歉 ji3 hip3 = to apologize
重啟 chùhng4 kái2 = to restart
問責團隊 mahn6 jaak3 tyùhn4 déui6*2 = accountability team
cf. 問責 mahn6 jaak3 = to call to account
反省fáan2 síng2 = to do some soul searching
紛爭 fān1 jāng1 = dispute; wrangle
書面致歉 syū1 mihn6 zi3 hip3= a written apology; an apology in writing
暫緩 jaahm6 wun6 = to postpone temporarily; to defer for the time being
重申 chùhng4 sān1 = to reaffirm; to reiterate; to restate
貿然 mauh6 yìhn4 = hastily; rashly; blindly
衷心 chūng/jūng1 sām1 = heartfelt

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(Introduction)

行政長官林鄭月娥召開記者會為修訂《逃犯條例》引起社會爭議向所有市民道歉。
The Chief Executive Carrie Lam called a press conference in order to apologize to all the people of Hong Kong for the controversy in society sparked by the amending of the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance.

佢話自己要負責最大責任,強調喺解決爭議前,絕對唔會貿然重啟修例。
She said that she must take the biggest share of the responsibility, and she emphasized that before the controversy is resolved, she will not rashly restart [any] amending.

佢又希望社會俾機會佢同問責團隊。
She also hoped that society would give her and her accountability team a[nother] chance.

Continue reading “Cantonese through News Stories: Carrie Lam’s Apology”

Cantonese through News Stories: Hong Kongers Climb Mount Everest

Capture_Mountain Climbing_31 MAY 2019

While the Hong Kong people have scaled new heights recently in their determination to protest against encroachments on their way of life, a small team of unsung Hong Kong climbers made it all the way to the top of Chomolungma (Mount Everest) at the end of May. This fine piece from TVB reporter 陳金寶 Chàhn4 Gām1 Bóu2 showcases some essential parts of the mountaineering lexicon, as well as the wonderful four-character expression, 量力而為 leuhng6 lihk6 yìh4 wàih4. As it turns out, mountain climbing is not just physically hard but also psychologically very demanding.

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12 new words:

珠穆朗瑪峰 jyū1 muhk6 lóhng5 máah5 fūng1 = Chomolungma; Qomolangma; Mount Everest
登山 dāng1 sāan1 = to climb a mountain
攀登 pāan1 dāng1 = to climb; to clamber; to scale
目睹 muhk6 dóu2 = to see with one’s own eyes; to witness
屍體 sī1 tái2 = corpse
爬 pàah4 = 1. to creep; to crawl 2. to climb; to clamber
攻頂  = to charge; to assail (gūng1) + top; peak (déng2)
人龍 yàhn4 lùhng4 = a group of people standing in line
失溫 sāt1 wān1 = hypothermia (?) / lit. “loss of warmth”
量力而為 leuhng6 lihk6 yìh4 wàih4 = to know one’s limits; not to go overboard
巔 dīn1 = summit of mountain; mountain top
靚景 leng3 gíng2 = beautiful scenery

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(Introduction)

世界最高峰珠穆朗瑪峰今個登山季超過十個登山者死亡。
More than ten people died during this [year’s] mountain-climbing season [on] Chomolungma, the world’s highest peak.

Note: The character 今 gām1 can mean “this” with certain time expressions: 今個月 = this month.

Continue reading “Cantonese through News Stories: Hong Kongers Climb Mount Everest”

Cantonese through News Stories: Police Use “Speed Dragons” on Umbrella-wielding Protesters

Capture_Bao-wai TWO_12 JUN 2019

Hong Kong police’s Special Tactical Squad is popularly referred to as 速龍小隊 chūk1 lùhng4 síu2 déui6*2 or Speed Dragon Squad. These “men in black” made an appearance in the effort to clear crowds encircling the Legislative Council Building on Wednesday afternoon, and demonstrated for all the world to see just how superior the truncheon is to the humble domestic umbrella.

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12 new words:

防線 fòhng4 sin3 = line of defence
催淚彈 chēui1 leuih6 dáan6*2 = tear bomb; tear-gas grenade
布袋彈 bouh6 doih6 dáan6*2 = beanbag round/bullet
橡子膠彈 jeuhng6 jí2 gāau1 dáan6*2 = rubber bullet
驅散 kēui1 saan3 = to disperse; to break up
騷亂 sōu1 lyuhn6 = riot; disturbance; turmoil
衝擊 chūng1 gīk1 = to make an assault on
防暴警察 fòhng4 bouh6 gíng2 chaat3 = riot police
被擊中 beih6 gīk 1 jung3 = to be hit (by a bullet, etc.)
疏散 sō1 saan3 = to scatter; to disperse; to evacuate
催淚水劑 chēui1 leuih6 séui2 jāi1 = ?a tear-inducing liquid
胡椒噴霧 wùh4 jīu1 pan3 mouh6 = pepper spray

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晏晝唔少示威者衝破咗警方嘅防線,衝入立法會示威區。
In the afternoon, quite a large number of protesters broke through police lines and stormed into the protest area of the Legislative Council Building.

Note: The verb 衝 chūng1 means “to charge”, while 破 po3 means “to break” and indicates the result of the action. English typically uses a preposition for this purpose.

Continue reading “Cantonese through News Stories: Police Use “Speed Dragons” on Umbrella-wielding Protesters”