Cantonese Podcasts: 陳文灝 Henry Chan Man-hou

Henry Chan 4

陳文灝 Chàhn4 Màhn4-houh6 (Henry) is one of the most beautiful people in Hong Kong ⸺ not for the way he looks but for the way he does. At the time this short video was made, he was the only staff member of the Hong Kong Society of Herpetology Foundation [香港兩栖及爬蟲協會] and utterly devoted to the plight of amphibians and reptiles in the territory. It is an inspiring sight to watch him in action. And, of course, we can also enjoy listening to his Cantonese!


Grammar points:

Henry tends to use the final particles 囉 lō1 and 啦 lāa1 a lot in ways that don’t always match conventional explanations. According to Yip and Matthews, 囉 “gives a suggestion that what is said should be obvious”, and can be used with the word 咪 maih6 = “then” to indicate “an obvious conclusion” (Intermediate Cantonese, Unit 23). The Sheik Cantonese on-line dictionary has various definitions, including “[final particle] showing argumentative mood or making emphasis” and “[final particle] expressing a changed condition”. Keep these in mind as you listen to Henry: it would seem that the very general idea of adding emphasis is what he often aims to achieve with this particle.

As for 啦 lāa1, we expect to see it with imperatives, with suggestions introduced by 不如 bāt1 yùh4, and as a marker of the items in a list (but not with the final item [?]). Sheik Cantonese has “livelier version of喇 laa3”, which suggests that its main function is to report changed circumstances and to indicate what grammarians of Mandarin call CRS (current relevant status). The idea of “liveliness” seems to mean that speakers use it to indicate that what they are saying has a bearing on the “matter at hand”, but even as I write these words I can’t help feeling that we are still far from grasping an essential use of this particle!

In the phrase 唔掂得, the word 得 dāk1 = is a verb particle used to express possibility or capability. Importantly, it follows the verb it modifies. So, in the phrase 又或者邊啲位唔掂得呀, 唔掂得 means “cannot be touched”.

順便 seuhn6 bihn6 is a very useful expression with the meaning of “conveniently; in passing”. This word has, I think, a sense of the English “and while you’re at it . . .”. There is also the sense, too, of “since you happen to be doing A, you might as well do B”. When you hear Charlotte say 有時過嚟幫手做義工,就順便可以見佢咁樣囉, she wants to indicate that she comes to do some voluntary work so that, “in the process”, she can get to spend some time with Henry.



義工工作 yih6 gūng1 gūng1 jok3= volunteer work
圍繞 wàih4 yíuh5 = to revolve around; to centre on
對 . . . 有誤解 deui3 yáuh5 ngh6 gáai2 = to misunderstand so. or sth.
專登 jyūn1 dāng1 = on purpose; deliberately
脾性 peih4 sing3 = disposition; temperament
坎坷 hām1 hō1 = ① bumpy; rough, rugged; ② miserable; frustrating; in bad luck
畸士 kēi 6*2 = a loan-word for the English “case”; an instance
充公 chūng1 gūng1 = to confiscate
投放感情 tàuh4 fong3 gám2 chìhng4 = to project one’s feelings (onto sb./sth. else)
使命 si3 mihng6 = a (personal) mission (MW: 份)

This video lasts for 4:56 minutes. Scroll down for the Cantonese transcription, rough English translation and notes. To watch the video, click here.

To check anything in the transcription and for standard jyutping romanization, please refer to the Sheik Cantonese on-line dictionary.

The video also includes quite a number of captions referring to the species of the amphibian or reptile shown, together with a nickname. I have included all these inside square brackets.


我叫 Henry
My name is Henry

At present, I am the only employee of the Hong Kong Society of Herpetology

● 嚟㗎 lèih4 gaa3 is associated with explanations, and adds a hint of what English might cover with the phrase “just in case you were wondering”. We meet a second example later on, in the sentence 噉係我哋其中一位教育大使嚟嘅 = He is one of our educational ambassadors

Most of the time, for the most part, I run activities [connected with] environmental education

● The phrase 我平時主要呢 is literally something like “I usually importantly”, but I have tried to make the English natural. The use of 呢 at the end of a clause (when not an information-question particle) crops up several times in this video and may have to do with continuous states. Keep an eye (an ear) out for other instances in the course of the interview.

In addition, I take care of the amphibians and reptiles in the adoption centre

In my spare time, I like to [會] make art based on the environment

● The modal verb 會 wúih5 is associated with habitual actions. English uses the so-called “present tense” (!) to achieve the same result.
● The character 以 yíh5 in 以生態 functions as a co-verb working together with the main verb 做 = to make (some creative artworks) using/making use of/based on the environment.
● In this case, 啦 lāa1 is being used to signal the items in a list.

And I also like to do a spot of hiking

● Here, 吓 háah5 serves as an aspect marker. Yip and Matthews link it to what they call “the delimitative aspect”, which boils down to doing something “for a little while” (see Intermediate Cantonese, pp.74-75).

同埋都會去其他嘅 NGO 做一啲嘅義工工作囉
And I also go and do volunteer work at other NGOs

Therefore, you could say [可以話], all the time in my week revolves around the environment

● The verb 圍繞 wàih4 yíuh5 means “to revolve around; to centre on”. 住 (or 著) jyuh6 is another aspect marker covered briefly in Unit 19 of Basic Cantonese by Yip and Matthews. They sum up its function as describing “a continuous activity or state without change”. They note too that only certain verbs can take this marker, making it a bit unpredictable.

Revolves around the natural world

Headline: I Am Delighted to Meet Amphibians and Reptiles

Generally, the amphibians and reptiles we refer to in conversation [嚟講]

Here, 嚟講 is not the one we usually meet in phrases such as 對於我嚟講 = as far as I am concerned. Instead, it means something like “come to speak of”.

The ones most people are familiar with

Are frogs or salamanders

● Here is another instance of 啦 lāa1 being used to signal the items in a list.
[Caption: 虎紋蠑螈豆豆 / The Tiger-striped Salamander, “Dau Dau”]

龜啦、蛇啦、蜥蜴、[Caption: 東部箱龜 / Eastern Box Tortoise] 甚至 eh 鰐魚咁樣嘅
Tortoises, snakes, lizards, and even crocodiles and such

[Caption: 血蟒爬妹 / Sumatran short-tailed python, “Little Sister Paa”]

Why initially did I want to pick this job?

Perhaps instead I felt that the amphibians and reptiles picked me

● 又 yauh6 has a special role to play in the Cantonese organization of ideas. I have heard it described as designating “a parallel situation”, so it usually follows some previous statement with further clarification or, in this case, a kind of reversal.
● The full term for “amphibians and reptiles” is 兩栖及爬蟲 léuhng5 chāi1 kahp6 pàah4 chùhng4. Henry sometimes reduces this to 兩栖爬 and sometimes even further to 兩爬!

There are probably few specialist organizations in Hong Kong that do work to protect amphibians and reptiles

[Caption: 星點龜 / Spotted Turtle]

Many people have misunderstandings about them

Or have ignored such animals

[Caption: 北部鑽紋龜 / Northern Diamond Back Terrapin]

[I] hope to be able to do some things

[Caption: 東部箱龜 / Eastern Box Turtle]

Making use of my knowledge to help these animals

This species is called the African Ball Python

His nickname is Little Ball

He is one of our educational ambassadors

[Caption: 非洲球蟒波仔, African Ball Python, “Little Ball”]

Because actually we go and study about the environment and go into the wilderness to look at it

● 野外 yéh5 ngoih6 = the countryside

[When], for instance, we see a snake we won’t go out of our way to annoy it deliberately

● 特登 dahk6 dāng1 = “on purpose; deliberately”. 專登 jyūn1 dāng1 means the same thing.
● 攪 gáau2 = ① disturb; annoy; bother ② stir; mix; blend

So [when] we come here

嘩,要 ah 要拎上手,要照顧佢
Wow, we have to handle it [拎], we have to look after it

● 拎 nīng1 or līng1 = ① carry or hold with a hand; lift up ② to take away/out; bring over ③ to make use of sb./sth.

Actually, there is a psychological barrier one must get over

Having had prolonged contact [with them] . . . [you] discover that actually

好多蛇都 . . . 你只要知道脾性呀
There are many snakes . . . as long as you understand their nature

● 脾性 peih4 sing3 = disposition; temperament

Or which places cannot be touched

● Here is another instance of 又或者, indicating a parallel situation.
● 掂 dim3 = to touch. In the phrase 唔掂得, the final 得 dāk1 = is a verb particle used to express possibility or capability. Importantly, it follows the verb it modifies.

其實佢都會好 friendly
Then they will be friendly

In my experience, “they; them; their” etc. is often expressed by the singular 佢 kéuih5 when it is a matter of non-human beings and inanimate things.

Without any mistrust of you

● 戒心 gaai3 sām1 = be weary of; cautious; vigilant; keep one’s guard up; distrustful
[Caption: 中國水龍單眼仔 / Chinese Water Dragon, “One Eye”]

The animals in our centre have actually had a miserable time of it

● 坎坷 hām1 hō1 = ① bumpy; rough, rugged; ② miserable; frustrating; in bad luck

For instance, the Red-eared Slider ⸺ these

You can get a hold of [買到] one of these for 10 or 20 Hong Kong dollars

● 廿 yaah6 = a colloquial way of saying “twenty”

[Caption: 巴西龜,Red-eared Slider “Ping Ping”]

Few people have any interest in adopting one

[Caption: 盾臂龜,皮蛋 / African Spurred Tortoise, “Preserved Duck Egg”]

Generally, tortoises are rather more popular

陸龜 luhk6 gwai2 = (land) tortoise

[Caption: 凸臂鰐龜,小鋸鰐魚 / Snapping turtle (?), “Little Saw Alligator”]

噉亦都係我覺得,啫, 動物俾咗個 ah 「價值」佢
But then, too, [I] also feel, that is, in the case of animals, [once] they are given a “value”

就變咗 . . . 一啲人俾一啲物種嘅動物會被人忽視或者歧視囉
As so [變咗] . . . some kinds of animals may be overlooked or discriminated against

● 變咗 bin3 jó2 = a word showing consequence, i.e. “so; consequently”
● 物種 maht6 júng2 = species

I have to do the cleaning as well as feed [the animals]

● Here, Henry Chan uses 呀 āa1 (?) to indicate the items in a list. I cannot say whether 啦 lāa1 and 呀 are simply alternatives, or whether some underlying rule determines which one is used . . .

Do some record-keeping

I even help to give the sick ones [有病嘅] their medicine

● Note the use of 嘅 ge3 here. It forms an indefinite noun meaning “the sick ones” or “the ones that are sick”. We have already encountered this use of 嘅 to make indefinite nouns in the phrase 多人熟悉嘅 = The ones most people are familiar with

Minor duties include doing a bit of lifting and carrying [搬搬抬抬] and answering the phone

都 . . . 都需要幫手
I help out doing all these

There was a group of Diamondback Terrapins

The group [佢], as a matter of fact . . . that case [involved] over a hundred tortoises that were first of all confiscated

● 畸士 kēi 6*2 = case. It is sometimes also written as K事.
● 充公 chūng1 gūng1 = to confiscate

But because itself they were probably on the way to be being smuggled somewhere

● 本身 bún2 sān1 = itself. This usually comes after the thing it modifies, but I have the feeling that佢 kéuih5 is implicit here: 但因為佢本身佢可能. It has been omitted to avoid repetition.

They had already been put under a lot of pressure and had many illnesses

Too crowded together, and by the time they came [here] it was too late to save them

● 擠迫 zāi1 bīk1= cramped (?)

[Until] finally there were only nine left just now [而家]

● There is a tone-change in 最尾 jeui3 mēi5*1, meaning “final; last place” according to Sheik Cantonese. Here, “finally” seems more suitable.

When I checked the corpses of the dead tortoises

● 清理 chīng1 léih5 = to clear; to put in order; to check up

I could see that, ah, they were still OK yesterday

But today suddenly they were gone

●  Here, 今日 gām1 yaht6 sounds as if it is being pronounced *gam at.

不過,其實,eh 而家對得耐咗都習慣嘅
However, now, as a matter of fact, having faced [such things] for a long time, I am used to it

● I am not sure about 對得耐咗. My understanding is that 對 deui3 is a verb meaning “to face”, followed by a resultative (?), giving us “to face (something) for a long time”. The aspect marker 咗 jó2 suggests that the speaker has already realized this long-term facing of animal death and has therefore become accustomed to it. Compare this to an earlier comment Henry makes: 接觸耐咗就發現其實 = Having had prolonged contact [with them] . . . [you] discover that actually.

I project my feelings [into the animals] quite a bit, . . . the rebound is big

● 投放 tàuh4 fong3 = to put into circulation; to throw in
● 反彈 fáan2 daahn6 = (to?) rebound; rebound

Henry Chan 3

So after [this], that is, perhaps some new animals will come

就 . . . 可能冇咁擺太多感情落去
Then . . . I don’t think I’ll put so much of my emotions into [them]

● It is unusual to say 可能冇咁擺太多感情落去, but the man is clearly very upset at this point. Normally, one would say可能唔會擺太多感情落去.

Because I worry that [if/when] they die

I’ll be unhappy

Charlotte speaks:

Sometimes [I] come over and help out as a volunteer

And in the process [順便] I can get to see him

● 順便 seuhn6 bihn6 = conveniently; in passing. This word has, I think, a sense of the English “and while you’re at it . . .”.

I know he’s busy, yes

● Here, 都 dōu1 seems to add emphasis, rather than to mean “also”.

So I do everything I can to see if there is anything

I can do to bring us together [夾] using my own methods

● The character 夾 gaap3 has quite a number of meanings. I recently came across 河國榮 Gregory Rivers using it to mean “compatible; on the same wavelength”: 噉啱發覺我身邊啲朋友 / 全部都係香港人 / 啫,我哋,唔知點解我哋好夾嘅. However, in this context, Charlotte seems to use it to mean “to come up with a time or to agree on a time” when both of them are free.

To have some shared time [共同嘅時間] to go out

I mean, our study, the things that we study, our going out to work, and even the things we do in our free time

● In this list, Charlotte uses 呀 āa1 to enumerate the individual items.

Are connected with the natural environment

Henry speaks again:

Eh 有時都會幾攰,但係有滿足感嘅
Sometimes [I] am quite tired, but feel a satisfaction

Having made use of every minute and every second, you could say

Because there is [a sense of] a mission here

For instance, if I weren’t around

There’d be no one to take care of the animals in the centre any more

A reminder [提著] to oneself not to give up this thing

● From the context, 提住(著)seems to mean “to remind” or “keep reminding oneself”. In Unit 19 of Basic Cantonese, Yip and Matthews point out that “verb + jyuh6 can mean something different from the simple verb by itself” (p.101).

Cantonese Podcasts: Hong Kong Newts

Thomas Browne_Hong Kong Newt Tai Po Kau

When I was living in the village of Cheung Shue Tan back in the late 1990s, I would often walk up to 大埔滘 Tai Po Kau just to unwind a bit. If you sit down beside one of the mountain streams up towards the picnic area and watch the crystal-clear water patiently, eventually you will catch a glimpse of the schools of small fish strong enough to hold their own against the current. Once or twice, to my surprise, I also saw small creatures with legs like lizards moving through the water in slow-motion like space-walking astronauts. What I saw, perhaps, was the Hong Kong newt.

This newt (or 香港瘰螈 Hēung1 Góng2 ló2 yùhn4 in Cantonese) was once thought to be unique to Hong Kong and so for a time served as an animal-totem or mascot of the Region. In her book Hong Kong (1988), Jan Morris includes it in her list of “esoteric wildlife” to be found in the Colony: “there were also crab-eating mongooses, an unusual variety of newt, 200 kinds of butterfly and thirty-two kinds of snake” (18).

Although specimens of Paramesotriton hongkongensis have been since discovered in coastal areas in Guangdong province, concerned individuals such as 陳文灝 Henry Chàhn4 Màhn4-houh6 and the self-effacing Ah Sam continue to make efforts on behalf of this threatened animal in Hong Kong. In this short video, made in 2016, the problem of catchwaters is outlined, as well as the impact these have on the newts, which prefer the waters of mountain streams in which there are large rocks to soften the force of the flow.

There is plenty of useful vocabulary here for eager students of Cantonese, including 陷阱 haahm6 jehng6 = trap; 生猛 sāang1 máahng5 = full of life; lively; 栖息 chāi1 sīk1 = to inhabit; and 耗費 hou3 fai3 = to expend (energy). As for grammar, there are some noteworthy uses of classifiers or measure words, 條 tìuh4 being the measure word for “newt”. In addition, we are treated to a couple of instances of 嗮 saai, a “particle of quantification” (see Intermediate Cantonese by Yip and Matthews) ; several uses of 啫 jē1 (“merely; only”), that very handy downplaying final particle; and one example of 冇得, a verbal structure that seems to indicate a general inability to do something.

You can watch the video here, but if you would like to see the Cantonese transcription with a rather patchy (my apologies!) English translation, then please read on.

To check anything you’re not sure about, please refer to the Sheik Cantonese on-line dictionary for further help.

Finally, there’s a very moving and heart-lifting video about 陳文灝 Henry Chan Man-hou in Cantonese here. Unfortunately, it has no English subtitles, but the man’s passion for animal protection comes through pretty clearly, nonetheless!

Photograph:香港大埔滘:香港瘰螈 Hong Kong Newt, Tai Po Kau, Hong Kong (Thomas Brown on Flickr, 2011)


Headline: 引水道變奪命深淵:近危動物死路一條

● 引水道 yáhn5 séui2 douh6 = a catchwater ● 奪命 dyuht6 mihng6 = a life plucked away; a life taken away by force ● 深淵 sām1 yūn1 = abyss ● 近危動物 káhn5 ngàih4 duhng6 maht6 = (?) endangered animal

Catchwaters Become Deadly Abysses: A Death Road for an Endangered Animal


A year ago, we ran a report

(About how) the walls of catchwaters in non-urban areas

● Note: The noun 郊區 gāau1 kēui1 is a bit of an interesting problem. Dictionaries such as Sheik Cantonese give the meaning as “suburban district; suburbs; outskirts”, but since country parks in Hong Kong are known as 郊野公園, the meaning in this context virtually equates with “non-urban areas”, that is, areas where wildlife is still able to flourish.

Continue reading “Cantonese Podcasts: Hong Kong Newts”