Friday, November 5, 2010

It’s Nice to be #1 (Book of Words)

Feb. 16, 2010
writer: Eunice Lam

In the TVB Chinese Language quiz show, Book of Words, (正识第一) Steven Ma and I as partners won the championship. My Chinese is not #1, (playing on the word ‘#1’ in (正识第一 ) it was only #1 during that month of competition. However, among the artistes, Ma Zai’s Chinese should be considered #1 indeed. I did not expect his Chinese to be this good.

Actually, we are not that well-acquainted; we only met last year in an awards function, and we chatted. He gave me some books. Turn out he has already published five so far. (Ms. Lam also wrote an article on Steven)

When Book of Words was launched, he invited me to be his military counselor. For some questions we could discuss before answering. For the last level in the final round, he had to answer alone. As his military counselor, he could only ask me one question; if counseled wrongly he would not be able to answer the remaining scoring questions.

I had no idea beforehand that the questions were so profound. It began with an oracle script (an early form of Chinese script written on bones). I know that the Chinese language started off as pictograph to be looked at not to be read. The character looked like 「雨」(rain),and sure enough it turned out to be ‘rain’ indeed. Actually, I have never studied oracle script, so the one good thing about quizzes is that it forces one to think on one’s feet.

Steven and I were very compatible, cooperated well, and had fun together. During the question grabbing round, I said to him: “Your hand is longer than mine; you’re in charge of hitting the bell.” In the last level, Steven performed extraordinarily well. My son came up and said: “How come so profound? I didn’t even know any of the characters.” His Chinese, no matter how much tutoring, remains poor. The 4th (sic 6th, total 8 questions in all) question was a passage from an article deliberately written with erroneous characters that needed fixing. The MC asked Ma Zai if he needed my help. I suggested him to forfeit the question because the chance of being wrong was way too high. Go to the next question. Sure enough in the following question, he could not come up with the two correct characters. After consulting me he went on to successfully sweep through the rest of the remaining questions. I had to commend Ma Zai for his composure and effort.

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