Learning Cantonese: 余頌恩 Grace Yu on Art as Life-force

「我覺得有生命力嘅音樂同藝術背後係有 message、有訊息嘅 | 有魄力嘅藝術家、音樂人佢哋生命都可以流露出一份有生命力嘅 message | 而呢個世界已經有太多冇生命力嘅生命㗎喇」


余頌恩 Grace Yu Chung-yan is a concert pianist and teacher at the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts. In her view, the reason why we need art is because it transmits生命力 sāng1 mihng6 lihk6 = “life force; vitality”. This “power of life” is essential to every human being, especially at a time when, as Yu points out, “there are already too many lives in this world lacking in vitality”. As a musician, she is also committed to the idea art as (potentially) a supremely authentic expression of life, as well as a kind of flow [流動] that enables an exchange of happiness, sincerity and love between one human being and another. Her short presentation in this video is like a whole creative manifesto in miniature.

In this Kongstories video, you will hear Yu use the structure 冇得+ Verb at 1:10. I discussed this grammar topic in the previous Learning Cantonese post on the landscape painter 黃進曦 Stephen Wong Chun Hei, speculating that it might be used to convey an absolute inability. I think Yu’s use of it here reinforces the hypothesis: the phrase 分享音樂帶出嚟嗰份歡樂、真實同埋愛嘅流動係冇得呃嘅 = “there can be no duplicity in the flow of happiness, sincerity and love that the sharing of music brings” does seem to indicate absolute 100% improbability.

With regard to vocabulary, there is a wonderful example of the Cantonese use of 齋 jāai1, the basic meaning of which is “to abstain from meat, wine, etc. (when offering sacrifices to gods or ancestors)”. In spoken Cantonese, the basic sense of “abstinence” is extended in some very interesting ways. 《香港粵語大詞典》gives a few examples, including 齋啡 jāai1 fē1, the word for “black coffee” with neither milk nor sugar in it, and 齋坐 jāai1 chóh5, which means something like “to sit in a restaurant without ordering any food”. At 1:10, Yu uses it to modify 彈 tàahn4, the verb used for “playing” the piano. 齋彈冇靈魂 literally means “to play abstainingly, without soul”, suggesting that 齋 also conveys a sense of something not being done to its fullest possible extent, or perhaps without giving oneself fully. I also once came across 齋聽 jāai1 tēng1 = “to listen (to a conversation) without contributing to it in any way”.

In addition, listen out for the following useful vocabulary items: 孭 mē1 = to carry on the shoulders; 魄力 paak3 lihk6 = daring & resolution; boldness; 劏房 tōng1 fóng4*2 = a subdivided flat, unit & apartment; 獨一無二 duhk6 yāt1 mòuh4 yih6 = unique; unparalleled; unmatched; and 呃 āak1 = to cheat; to deceive; to dupe.

Please scroll down if you want the transcription, notes and my own English translation. Otherwise, you can view the video here (subtitles in English and Standard Written Chinese). Since it is a YouTube video, you can slow down the playback speed if you wish: at 0.75 and 0.5, the sound quality is still good. And remember, if you want the standard jyutping romanization or to check any of the Chinese in the text, please consult the Sheik Cantonese on-line dictionary.

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Caption: 音樂人生 | A Life in Music

香港係其中一個最多人學樂器地方 | 你一出街,周圍都有孭住樂器嘅學生 | 但係有幾多個學上唔係浄係齋彈靈魂 | 而係尋找到屬於獨特嘅聲音同埋生命力嘅呢?| 我覺得有生命力嘅音樂同藝術背後係有 message、有訊息嘅 | 有魄力嘅藝術家、音樂人佢哋生命都可以流露出一份有生命力嘅 message | 而呢個世界已經有太多冇生命力嘅生命喇 | 所以無論係世界上唔同嘅音樂廳表演同埋講學 | 喺演藝學院同每一個學生互動交流 | 定係喺深水埗嘅劏房教小朋友彈琴 【1:00】| 都係生命影響生命獨一無二嘅機會 | 分享音樂帶出嚟份歡樂、真實同埋愛嘅流動係冇得呃嘅 | 呢啲都係生命最真誠嘅表達 | 呢個世界需要音樂,需要藝術 | 呢個世界更加需要有傳遞生命訊息嘅人 | 我叫余頌恩,香港土生土長,七百萬個故仔成就一個香 . . . 港故仔

● 孭 mē1 = to carry on the shoulders | ● 魄力 paak3 lihk6 = daring & resolution; boldness | ● 流露 làuh4 louh6 = to reveal; to betray; to show unintentionally | ● 音樂廳 yām1 ngohk6 tēng1 = a concert hall | ● 講學 góng2 hohk6 = to give lectures | ● 互動 wuh6 duhng6 = an interaction; interactive | ● 劏房 tōng1 fóng4*2 = a subdivided flat, unit & apartment | ● 獨一無二 duhk6 yāt1 mòuh4 yih6 = unique; unparalleled; unmatched | ● 歡樂 fūn1 lohk6 = happy; joyous | ● 流動 làuh4 duhng6 = ① to flow ② mobile | ● 呃āak1 = to cheat; to deceive; to dupe | ● 真誠 jān1 sìhng4 = sincere; genuine; true | ● 傳遞 chyùhn daih6 = to transmit; to deliver; to transfer

Hong Kong is a place in which so many people are learning to play a musical instrument. Just step outside your door and you’ll see students everywhere [周圍都] carrying musical instruments on their backs. But how many of these students are looking for a voice that belongs to them alone and a vitality, rather than merely going through the motions devoid of soul [浄係齋彈冇靈魂]? It is my feeling that behind any music or art there is a message. An artist or musician with daring and resolution has the capacity to reveal [流露] a message of vitality — and there are already too many lives in this world lacking in vitality, in life-force. So no matter whether [I] am performing in different concert halls around the world or giving lectures, interacting [互動交流] with every single student [studying] at the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts, or teaching a child in a subdivided flat in Sham Shui Po how to play the piano, these are all unique opportunities for one life to influence another. There can be no duplicity [冇得呃] in the flow of happiness, sincerity and love that the sharing of music brings. All these things [呢啲都] are the most authentic expression of life. This world needs music; it needs art. Even more, it needs people who can transmit messages of life [生命訊息]. My name is Grace Yu Chung-yan. I was born and raised in Hong Kong. Seven million stories go to make up [成就] one [of the] Hong . . . Kong Stories.

Learning Cantonese: Strengthening the Innermost Heart (Kongstories 99)

The title of this video from Kongstories means something like “that little kid isn’t slow”, and refers to the treasures hidden inside every human being, even those dealing with some form of serious disability. As 馮惠芳 Nancy Fung puts it towards the end of the presentation: 總有一日可以追尋自己嘅夢想,踏上屬於自己嘅舞台, or “One day you will be able to go chasing after your own dreams, and step out onto a stage that belongs to you and you alone”.

You can take a lot of heart from this video, and the English subtitles make it very accessible, even if you’re not interested in the Cantonese. Michelle Li’s comment — 每日嘅生活就係强壯内心嘅過程 = every day is a process of strengthening one’s noi sam, one’s innermost being — is something than lingers in the mind for a long time . . .

For those of you who are language learners, however, there is nothing too challenging about the grammar in this video, but there are some very nice turns of phrase that are well worth trying to make your own, such as 過目不忘 to have a great memory (and its opposite, 過目即忘); 喐嚟喐去 = to move back and forward; to be unable to sit still (using the specifically Cantonese verb 喐 yūk1); 局限自己 = to limit oneself; 擴闊自己嘅世界 = to broaden one’s world; to expand one’s horizons; 接納 = to accept (a person as they are, without conditions); 渡過難關 = to go through a difficult period in one’s life; and 總有一日 = one day (in the future); the time will come that.

Please scroll down for my transcription and notes. You can view the video here (you are offered subtitles in both English and Standard Written Chinese). Since it is a YouTube video, you can slow down the playback speed if you wish: at 0.75 and 0.5, the sound quality is still good. And remember, if you want the standard jyutping romanization or to check any of the Chinese in the text, please consult the Sheik Cantonese on-line dictionary.

You might also like to make use the Ekho Text to Speech Converter if you have trouble matching any part of the transcribed Chinese text to the spoken version. Just make sure you select “Cantonese” under the language menu before you paste cut and text into the relevant box.

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Title: 小孩不苯 | The Little Kid Isn’t Slow

馮惠芳:我同一般家庭一樣,有兩個仔 | 但唯一唔同就係大仔 Wilson 有學習障礙 | 簡單嚟講,人讀書就係過目不忘 | // 就係過目即忘 | 所以細細個要佢讀書真係好辛苦 | 因爲佢成日喐嚟喐去 | 要比一般人用多好多時間佢先可以記得到啲嘢 | 但好彩我發現佢由細到大都好鍾意音樂 | 所以我就諗,不如用音樂嘅拍子去幫佢背書 | 結果呢個方法有得 | 順理成章,音樂就成爲佢嘅生日一部分 | 印象最深刻就有一次,我帶 Wilson 上音樂班 | 個老師同佢上完一堂就講:你叫你仔仔返去啦,唔好再帶佢嚟 | 時間【1:00】, 嘥錢,教完佢一次,佢下一秒又唔記得喇 | 呢句説話我記到而家,但我同 Wilson 講,佢唔教 | 呢就自己練習 | 只要肯心機咁練習,世上嘢難倒你 | 俾心機一定得

● 過目不忘 gwo3 muhk6 bāt1 mòhng4 = to have a great memory; to not forget stuff that has passed by one’s eyes | ● 喐 yūk1 = to move | ● 拍子 paak3 jí2 = (musical) beat; time | ● 順理成章 seuhn6 léih5 sìhng4 jēung1 = ① follow as a logical course ② follow as a matter of course | ● 嘥 sāai = ① waste; squander; ruin ② wasteful; extravagant ③ miss; let go; lose (a chance) | ● 心機 sām1 gēi1 = ① mood; frame of mind; feeling ② energy; effort; patience | ● 難倒 nàahn4 dóu2 = to daunt; perhaps also “to be put off doing (sth. difficult)

麥妙玲:劉理盈一出世嘅時候,我只能夠用「震驚」嚟形容 | 因爲我從來冇諗過 | [平時] 喺街上邊見到嘅唐氏綜合症 | 會發生自己嘅女身上 | 所以我將佢嘅名改做「盈」| 希望佢人生可以經歷好多嘅恩典 | 當初佢出嚟跳舞嘅時候 | 見到佢聽到音樂,有得跳舞就好開心 | 但到之後,佢學得幾好,要去考試 | 我開始怕,我怕佢失敗 | 怕佢做唔到,怕佢企唔返身 | 但後來我諗深一層【2:00】,人人都有失敗嘅可能性 | 點解我要抹煞佢成功嘅可能性呢?

● 震驚 jan3 gīng1 = to shock; to amaze; to astonish | ● 唐氏綜合症 Tòhng4 sih6 jūng1 hahp6 jing3 = Downs syndrome | ● 恩典 yān1 dín2 = favour; grace | ● 失敗 sāt1 baih6 = ① to be defeated ② to fail | ● 企唔返身 kéih5 mh5 fāan1 sān1 = (?) to get back on one’s feet | ● 抹煞 mut3 saat3 = to remove from evidence; to expunge; to suppress; to wipe out, to obliterate (also written 抹殺)

李苑峰:對於我嚟講,我唯一嘅願望係我嘅仔 | 梓鍵可以好似其他小朋友咁 | 擁有童心,開心快樂咁成長,咁樣就已經好滿足 | 梓鍵佢細細個就被診斷有杜興氏肌肉營養不良症 | 隨住年齡增長,佢嘅肌肉就會慢慢退化 | 你上年見到佢,佢仲可以行行走走 | 但係到咗今年,佢就已經行唔到喇 | 雖然佢而家行唔到,但都唔等於要局限自己 | 只要佢想,無論係跑步定係要游水 | 只要係我能力範圍之内,都會盡力做到 | 希望佢可以見識更多,擴闊自己嘅世界 | 每日嘅生活就係强壯内心嘅過程 | 我相信,只要我同梓鍵一齊 | 就有能力、堅强【3:00】、勇敢去面對生命中嘅困難

● 願望 yuhn6 mohng6 = a desire; wish; aspiration | ● 童心 tùhng4 sām1 = childishness; playfulness | ● 診斷 chán2 dyun3 = to diagnose | ● 杜興氏肌肉營養不良症 Douh6 sih6 gēi1 yuhk6 bāt1 lèuhng4 jing3 = Duchenne muscular dystrophy | ● 退化 teui3 faa3 = 1. degeneration 2. to degenerate; to deteriorate | ● 上年 seuhng6 nín4*2 = (over the) past year| ● 行行走走 hàahng4 hàahng4 jáu2 jáu2 = (?) to walk around | ● 等於 dáng2 yū1 = equal to; equivalent to | ● 局限 guhk6 haahn6 = to limit; to confine | ● 範圍 faahn6 wàih4 = scope; limits; range | ● 見識 gin3 sīk1 = experience; knowledge; sensibleness | ● 擴闊 kong3 fut3 = to broaden | ● 强壯 kèuhng4 jong3 = strong; sturdy; robust | ● 堅强 gīn1 kèuhng4 = strong; sturdy; staunch

麥妙玲:我覺得,就算佢係唐氏,都阻礙唔到佢實現自己嘅夢想 | 做家長嘅只可以好似放風箏咁,喺適當嘅時候就要識得放手 | 好多困難都係自己俾自己 | 就好似搭地鐵嘅時候,怕人哋望到阿女 | 但其實要人哋接納佢,首先係要自己接納佢先 | 呢個心態上嘅轉變就好似當你渡過難關之後 | 回頭一看就會發現呢個嘅經歷會令你嘅生命更加精彩

● 阻礙 jó2 ngoih6 = to hinder; to block; to impede | ● 放風箏 fong3 fūng1 jāng1 = to fly a kite | ● 放手 fong3 sáu2 = to let go; to let go one’s hold | ● 接納 jip3 naahp6/laahp6 = 1. to admit (into an organization) 2. to accept | ● 轉變 jyún2 bin3 = to change; to transform | ● 渡過難關 douh6 gwo3 nàahn4 gwāan1 = tide over a difficulty; pull through | ● 回頭一看 wùih4 tàuh4 yāt1 hon3 = turn around and look | ● 精彩 jīng1 chói2 = brilliant; splendid; wonderful

馮惠芳:佢就日練夜練,有時日頭返工,夜晚練習 | 佢終於可以完整咁彈 // 首《真的愛你》俾我聽 | 我覺得上帝喺每個人嘅生命裏面都有一個計劃 | 無論本身你有咩困難【4:00】,只要你肯努力 | 總有一日可以追尋自己嘅夢想,踏上屬於自己嘅舞台

● 日頭 yaht6 táu4*2= the sun; daytime | ● 完整 yùhn4 jíng2 = complete; integrated; intact | ● 追尋 jēui1 chàhm4 = to pursue; to search; to track down

我叫馮惠芳 | 我叫李苑峰 | 我叫麥妙玲 | 香港土生土長,七百萬個故仔成就一個香 . . . 港故仔

Hong Kong Uplift Two: Kongstories No. 100

This episode of 港故仔 Kongstories was made to commemorate the remarkable effort of making 100 consecutive videos in as many weeks. It brims with fantastic Kong-optimism and is full of words such as 恩典 yān1 dín2 = grace, 傳奇 chyùhn4 kèih4 = legendary, and 祝福 jūk1 fūk1 = a blessing, words now that possibly only the bravest, most visionary of Hongkongers would dare voice. The inspirational message is summed up in the phrases: 我哋香港人係有能力嘅 | 只要你願意,我哋每個人都可以成就傳奇 . . .

If you are not interested in the Cantonese aspects of the video, please click here to view it — the English subtitles are generally very good.

But if Cantonese is what you’re after, highlights in the language department include the structure 一 … 半 … used with measure words, which seems to convey a sense of “merely” or something like “measly” in English: 拍一條半條 = “to make a measly single video”. Also, there’s the adverb 不間斷 bāt1 gāan1 dyuhn6 = (?) “uninterrupted; without interruption” as well as a number of four-character phrases: 木口木面 muhk6 háu2 muhk6 mihn6 = pudding faced; 一事無成 yāt1 sih6 mòuh4 sìhng4 = accomplish nothing; get nowhere; and 成就傳奇 sìhng4 jauh6 chyùhn4 kèih4 = (?) to accomplish something that becomes a legend.

The episode finishes with a long list of personal names. Apart from being good practice (the list includes some less commonly seen surnames, including 霍 Fok3 and 詹 Jīm1) and you can also use these names to search for further videos in the 港故仔 Kongstories series.

Remember, if you want the standard jyutping romanization or to check any of the Chinese in the text, please consult the Sheik Cantonese on-line dictionary. You might also like to make use the Ekho Text to Speech Converter if you have trouble matching any part of the transcribed Chinese text to the spoken version. Just make sure you select “Cantonese” under the language menu before you paste cut and text into the relevant box.

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唔收錢咁樣為香港拍片 | 拍一條半條,邊個都得 | 拍十條或者都大有人在,拍到五十條可能已經唔多 | 能夠堅持一百個星期,或者香港開埠以 | 可能只有我 | 港故仔 | 由2016年嘅7月2號開始 | 第一集《港故仔》播出之後 | 不間斷持續一百個星期 | 呢份堅毅完全體現咗香港精神 | 我哋唔係講多過做,我哋做咗先講 | 香港人係有能力、有夢想、有堅持、有作爲 | 我哋每個香港人都可以,只要我哋願意一齊為自己 | 為家庭、為香港走多一步,堅持多一啲 | 我哋嘅香港本身就係一個傳奇 | 過去呢一百個星期,我哋經歷咗好多唔同嘅恩典 | 呢一百個唔同香港嘅故仔【1:00】有希望成爲你哋嘅祝福

● 收錢 sāu1 chín4*2 = to charge (money); to take money for doing sth. | ● 拍片 paak3 pín3*2 = (?) to shoot a film; make a video | ● 開埠 hōi1 fauh6 = lit. “to open a (new) port”; generally used to refer to the English settlement of Hong Kong Island | ● 播出 bo3 chēut1 = to broadcast | ● 不間斷 bāt1 gāan1 dyuhn6 = (?) uninterrupted; without interruption | ● 堅毅 gīn1 ngaih6 = firm & persistent; with unswerving determination; with inflexible will | ● 體現 tái2 yihn6 = to embody; to incarnate; to reflect; to give expression to | ● 作爲 jok3 wàih4 = 1. deed; conduct; act 2. to accomplish; to do something worthwhile | ● 傳奇 chyùhn4 kèih4 = legend; legendary| ● 恩典 yān1 dín2 = favour; grace | ● 祝福 jūk1 fūk1 = a blessing; a benediction

當我哋香港人生活上遇上唔同嘅困難 | 可能會有失意、迷茫、困惑、痛苦嘅時候 | 但係希望你唔好放棄,唔好失去盼望 | 我哋有一百個港故仔去鼓勵你、勉勵你 | 無論你以前係咪曾經喺毒海裏邊或者係讀書唔正 | 或者係木口木面,可能而家係一事無成 | 又或者環境對你有大嘅捆 [擾] | 就算冇人明白你,好似冇人幫到你 | 我哋港故仔好想話你聽:我哋香港人係得嘅 | 我哋香港人係有能力嘅 | 只要你願意,我哋每個人都可以成就傳奇 | 只要你願意,先付出,為別人貢獻自己 | 將來有一日,你會成爲香港嘅傳奇 | 我哋每一個人嘅付出 | 就係成就【2:00】呢個香港東方之珠嘅基石

● 失意 sāt1 yi3 = to have one’s aspirations, plans, etc. thwarted | ● 盼望 paan3 mohng6 = to hope for; to long for; to look forward to | ● 勉勵 míhn5 laih6 = to encourage; to urge | ● 唔正 mh4 jeng3 = not very good | ● 木口木面 muhk6 háu2 muhk6 mihn6 = pudding faced | ● 一事無成 yāt1 sih6 mòuh4 sìhng4 = accomplish nothing; get nowhere | ● 捆擾kwan3 yíu2 = to perplex; to puzzle (subtitles have 捆綁 = usu. to bind; to tie up) | ● 成就傳奇 sìhng4 jauh6 chyùhn4 kèih4 = (?) to accomplish something that becomes a legend | ● 為別人貢獻自己 wàih4 bīt1 yàhn4 gung3 hin3 jih6 géi2 = to devote/dedicate oneself for others | ● 東方之珠 Dūng1 Fōng1 jī1 jyū1 = the Pearl of the Orient | ● 基石 = gēi1 sehk6 = foundation stone; cornerstone

我係梁淑儀 Lèuhng4 Suhk6 Yìh4 / Zoe Leung
我係文曉光 Màhn4 Híu2 Gwōng1 / Henry Man
我叫黎演樂 Làih4 Yín2 Lohk6 / Lock Lai
我係鄭淦元 Jehng6 Gam3 Yùhn4 / Ken Cheng
我叫藍全傑 Làahm4 Chyùhn4 Giht6 / Manson Lam
我就江富德 Gōng1 Fu3 Dāk1 / Kong Fu Tat
我叫陳浩源 Chàhn4 Houh6 Yùhn4 / Denial Chan
我叫做謝寳達 Jeh6 Bóu2 Daaht6 / Donald Tse
我叫黃明慧 Wòhng4 Mìhng4 Wai3 / Jennifer Wong
我叫志鵬 Fok3 Ji3 Pàahng4 / Thomas Fok
我叫黃岳永 Wòhng4 Ngohk6 Wíhng5 / Erwin Huang
我係羅孟慶 Lòh4 Máahng5 Hing3 / Jeff Law
我係張柏淳 Jēung1 Paak3 Sèuhn4 / Dennis Shun
我係阿露。何嘉露 Hòh4 Gāa1 Louh6 / I am Lu
我叫糖兄峰 (潘雲峰) Pūn1 Wàhn4 Fūng1 / I am Poon Wan Fung
我叫麥心睿 Mahk6 Sām1 Yeuih6 / I am Lesley Mak
我哋叫 The Wave
我叫詹家俊 Jīm1 Gāa1 Jeun3 / I am Wallnex Jim
我叫黃子財 Wòhng4 Jí2 Chòih4 / I am Colon Wong

香港土生土長 | 七百萬個故仔 | 成就一個香 . . . 港故仔