How to React to the Olympics in Cantonese


I honestly doubt I need an introduction to the current international Olympic frenzy.

Open any social media, and half of what you see is sports news from Tokyo 2020/2021. (For me, the other half is depressing Hong Kong news.)

And with any luck, or if you’re following any Hong Kong-related accounts, you might have some dramatic moments to follow and celebrate.

In this edition of Bel Canton, where I highlight (new) Cantonese words that are essential to current topics, let’s react to the Olympic Games together!

But first, the basics.

How to Talk about the Olympics

Every four years, or 四年一度 sei3 nin4 jat1 dou6 (adjective, four years one time), our attention is drawn by the 奧林匹克運動會 ou3 lam4 pat1 hak1 wan6 dung6 wui2 (Olympic ~ ~ ~ sport ~ gathering), even though in daily speech we mostly stick to the shorter forms 奧運會 ou3 wan6 wui2 or 奧運 ou3 wan6.

This year is particularly exciting for Hong Kong, as the Games take place in 東京 dung1 ging1 (Tō kyō), practically the same time zone as Hong Kong. It might also have been possible for Hongkongers to attend in person—but as we all know, thanks to 武漢肺炎 mou5 hon3 fai3 jim4 (Wuhan ~ lung inflammation: common designation for Covid-19 in Hong Kong and Taiwan), not only did they have to tan3 (move/delay) the event for a year, but also ban foreigners from attending. Oh well.

Big tournaments like these have multiple steps in each 項目 hong6 muk6 (item ~ → event). To win, you need to 晉級 zeon3 kap1 (rise grade) through several matches:

  • 初賽 co1 coi3 (preliminary competition)
  • 八強 baat3 koeng4 (eight strong)
  • 準決賽 zeon2 kyut3 coi3 (quasi- deciding competition)
  • 決賽 kyut3 coi3 (deciding competition)

Which brings us to:

You Win Some, You Lose Some

I know what you’re here for: the 獎牌 zoeng2 paai4 (prize medal). So here they are:

  • 金牌 gam1 paai4 (gold medal)
  • 銀牌 ngan4 paai4 (silver medal)
  • 銅牌 tung4 paai4 (copper medal) (technically bronze is 青銅 ceng1 tung4, which is made from copper)

You can hear loud cheers from crowds whenever someone 贏咗金牌 jeng4 zo2 gam1 paai4 (win [-ed] gold medal). You can also 贏 jeng4 or 輸 syu1 (lose) an event. Even though many people look at the 獎牌榜 zoeng2 paai4 bong2 (prize medal list), it’s really more important to 享受過程 hoeng2 sau6 gwo3 cing4 (enjoy ~ pass route → process).

How Are You Feeling?

Let’s play a little game: as I describe each feeling, try recalling a moment or an event that made you feel that way. Tell me in the comments — feel free to use a dictionary or ask me how to name them!

I’ll also demonstrate some words with sample sentences with different structures.

  • 開心 hoi1-sam1 open heart → happy
    • 我 戥 冠軍 開心。
    • ngo5 dang6 gwun3-gwan1 hoi1-sam1
    • I feel-for champion ~ happy ~
  • 興奮 hing1-fan5 excited
    • 我 出世 以嚟 / 香港 第一次 攞 金牌,好 令人 興奮。
    • ngo5 ceot1-sai3 ji5-lei4 / hoeng1-gong2 dai6-jat1-ci3 lo2 gam1-paai4, hou2 ling6-jan4 hing1-fan5.
    • I out world → born since ~ / Hong Kong [ordinal] one time take gold medal, very cause people excited ~
  • 喊 haam3 (verb) to cry
    • 我 睇 乒乓波 睇到 想 喊。
    • ngo5 tai2 bing1-bam1-bo1 tai2-dou3 soeng2 haam3
    • I watch ping pong ball watch until want cry
  • 失望 sat1-mong6 lose hope → disappointed
    • 用 平常心 比賽,輸咗 唔使 太 失望。
    • jung6 ping4-soeng4-sam1 bei2-coi3, syu1-zo2 m4-sai2 taai3 sat1-mong6
    • use usual ~ heart → stress-free mentality competition ~, lose [-ed] no necessary too disappointed ~
  • 着緊 zoek6-gan2 (verb) to be concerned, invested in something
    • 大家 都 好 着緊 呢場 決賽。
    • daai6-gaa1 dou1 hou2 zoek6-gan2 ni1-coeng4 kyut3-coi3
    • big family → everyone all very concerned ~ this [counter for matches] deciding competition
  • 自豪 zi6-hou4 proud (of something, in a good way)
    • 如果 可以 聽到 自己 嘅 國歌,會 覺得 好 自豪。
    • jyu4-gwo2 ho2-ji5 teng1-dou2 zi6-gei2 ge3 gwok3-go1, wui5 gok3-dak1 hou2 zi6-hou4
    • if ~ can ~ hear [successfully] oneself ~ [‘s] country song, will feel ~ very proud ~
  • 同情 tung4-cing4 (verb) to sympathise with
    • 我 好 同情 佢 / 因為 畀人 影響 心情 / 輸波。
    • ngo5 hou2 tung4-cing4 keoi5 / jan1-wai6 bei2-jan4 jing2-hoeng2 sam1-cing4 / ji4 syu1-bo1
    • I very sympathise ~ him/her / because ~ by people affect ~ mood ~ / as-a-result lose ball

Are you following or watching the events? How do you feel about (香)港隊 or your country’s performance? You support 邊隊 bin1 deoi6 (which [counter for teams]) more? Let me know in the comments!