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TEXT XVII

What kind of language is Chinese? What Chinese dialects do you happen to know?

 

1. Check the pronunciation of the following words in a dictionary. See Ap­pendix III. Practice saying them:

Chinese, content, saccharine, unconventional, nephew, Beijing, overwhelmed.

 

LIVERPUDLIAN WHO LEARNT CHINESE IS WOK'N'ROLL STAR

Former supermarket shelf-stacker picked up Cantonese in his chip shop

 

The distinctive Liverpool sound has spread across the world in the past five decades. But even so, the world of music may have been un­prepared for Barry Cox, 30, once a supermarket shelf-stacker but now a celebrated Chinese crooner.

After leaving school at 16, Cox wished to do something differ­ent so he decided to learn lan­guages. He gave Spanish a try, but found his fellow students were too well-educated for him to make his mark. So he switched to learning Chinese instead. Not content with that, he then took up Canto-pop, a style of love song generally re­garded as too saccharine for west­ern tastes but which has teenage Asian girls swooning.

Now, after years in which his reputation has grown — at least as Gok Рак-wing, his Chinese name — he has finally become a star, singing at the Venetian hotel, the new mega-­casino in the Chinese gambling ha­ven of Macau. There has even been talk of a film being made about his unusual path to fame.

What makes his story amazing is that Mr Cox used an unconven­tional method for learning Chinese. One day he walked into his local chip shop and asked the Chinese owners for a pie and language lessons. Luck­ily, the owner’s nephew was looking for English lessons. The two helped each other out and became friends.

Gradually, Cox became a com­mon face in the Liverpool Chinese community’s favourite bars and karaoke lounges. He was not at the time aware that there were different dialects of Chinese, so he ended up learning Cantonese, the dialect of Hong Kong and south China, gener­ally recognized as far more difficult than Mandarin, the national language spoken in Beijing and the north.

After years spent mastering its nine tonal variations with all-day conversation classes in the chip shop, at the local pub with his new Chinese friends, and at a Chinese supermarket where he took a job as a shelf-stacker to help, he moved on to singing.

He was overwhelmed by a con­cert given in Manchester by Leon Lai, one of Hong Kong’s favourite heart-throbs, and entered a local sing­ing competition at Chinese new year. After that, he had singing lessons.

In the late 1990s, by now in his early twenties, Cox started attracting national attention — and a couple of years later decided it was time to aim for the top. His initial attempts to break through in Hong Kong proved unsuccessful.

Producers and impresarios were not sure what to make of a new, white face. Still, Cox was hired for a few performances, partly as an odd­ity, and even won a singing competi­tion against local rivals. Having achieved his big break in Macau, he has no regrets about his choice of ca­reer, saying that if he had stayed in England he would probably still be working in a supermarket.

“I have got out of the rut. I do things and have done things that most people could only dream of doing,” he said.

Adapted from Richard Spencer, The Daily Telegraph

 


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Читайте в этой же книге: A VERY CHINESE REVOLUTION | Vocabulary | Part One | Part Two | Part Three | Vocabulary Notes | COMMUNING THROUGH CLEANING | Герои своего времени | THE LANGUAGE WE SPEAK SHAPES HOW WE THINK | TEXT XVI |
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