My English Journals

I was quite energetic the first time writing a journal in English.


Mon. 1st Oct., 1990. 30℃. Sunny.

Riding bicycle home from Chinese University this afternoon, I thought about "War", the essay (文章) title given by my General Chinese Lecturer (大學國文講師).

I guessed all my classmates would probably (可能) develop this topic in the typical way and would most likely (多數) come to the same conclusion: how cruel wars are and there should not be any wars again in this civilized (文明的) world.

Can I see wars from another angle?

I looked up and gazed (凝視) at the sky. Pictures of disasters (災難) came to my mind: volcano eruptions (火山爆發), flooding (水災), droughts (旱災) and earthquakes (地震), etc. Time passes on after these catastrophic (災難的) happenings. Trees and animals grow again.

I suddenly understood that wars are just natural phenomenon (現象) serving to settle conflicts (衝突) between people and to balance world population. It is equal to "killing" that takes place in the animal world every day. I then decided to elaborate the title from this point of view.

Thinking and thinking, I saw several men practicing canoes (獨木舟) in the Sing Moon River (城門河).


It is very hard to keep a journal two-page long every day!

Tues. 2nd Oct., 1990. 28℃. Cloudy.

To keep a two-page journal (日記) every day is really too much for us!

As the year-one students of Chinese University, we have to spend about twenty five hours attending (出席) lectures (課堂) every week. That means five hours a day.

The way of teaching in university is quite different from that in secondary school. Tertiary (大專的) education mainly trains us analytical (分析性的) thinking. There may be a pile () of books for us to read after a two-hour easy listening lecture!

University students should not just read books. We should spare time for activities organized by faculties (大學學院) to communicate with others. And the time spent to and fro (來回) on the way from home to university may take me one hours. I feel tired and sleepy when I am home every day and it is pretty hard to read and write.

I hope Mrs Bond, our English lecturer (講師), would nod her head if we request to write journals once a week. Maybe this is a shocking (令人吃驚) request! How about twice a week, Mrs Bond, or at the most (最多), three times a week?

To speak English is easy but to write it down is difficult

Wed. 3rd Oct.,1990. 28℃. Cloudy (密雲).  

I began teaching guitar in German Swiss International School years ago, I haven't found any problems communicating with students; but I feel difficult to write a short essay or a two-page journal.

Perhaps the reason is that teaching is routine (例行公事). I just run through the steps I've set. Mistakes students make are more or less (大約) the same. It is the same situation repeating and I have mastered it already.

The other reason may be that talking is quite free. You just utter (說出) the words when they come to your mind and you can make amendments (修正) whenever you want. As long as (只要) others can get your ideas, the job is done.

It is totally different when you put your ideas down in black and white. The first thing you have to do is to think about the overall construction: how you are going to make an announcement, what you will say in the developing section, and then there should be a closing paragraph to wind up ( 結束) the passage. Besides, grammar frequently makes me hesitate (猶豫) and spelling wastes my time looking up dictionaries. Rhetoric (修辭) is always a great challenge, especially to non-native (非本地的) speakers.

I think these difficulties can be overcome by practice. In music, we have an aphorism (格言): "one can learn composition (作曲) in composing (作曲) ". I believe this is also true in writing.  

I consider changing my major studies from Music to Chinese.

Thurs. 4th Oct., 1990. 27℃. Drizzly (下毛毛雨的).

I am thinking about changing my major (主修科) from music to Chinese Literature. It is hard for me to make the decision.

I love Chinese Literature very much. I am busy writing a short story now. Although I have got exemptions (括免) from some of my core (核心的) subjects, I still have to take History of the Medieval Music, ear training and two musical instruments: vocal (聲樂) and clarinet (單簧管).

Frankly (老實地) speaking, my mind is now working in literature rather than in music.

I have spent years on harmony (和聲), musical form (曲式), orchestration (配器) and all sorts of composing techniques. Just imagine how difficult it would be for a literature student to go over all the things I have covered, even though (縱使) he has got a good foundation in music. It will be true if the reverse (換轉) happens.

I had better built my house on the highland in order to get a good achievement (成就). 

All arts reflect human life.

Fri. 5th Oct., 1990. 28. Shower (間歇性陣雨).

All arts bear the same mission (使命): to reflect human life.

Mozart (莫札特) started composing at the age of seven. The music he composed at that time can hardly (幾乎不可地) be considered great masterpiece because a seven year-old boy knows little about life.

It has been several years since I began to study composition after graduating from secondary school. What I have been drilling is to elaborate a subject (主題) to become a Fugue (賦格曲) in Bach's (巴哈) way, and to develop a theme (主題) into a sonata (奏鳴曲) or an orchestral piece using varies techniques, such as harmonic and contrapuntal skills (對位技巧), thematic process (主題處理法), and orchestral color etc. The compositions I have finished are merely (只不過) technically beautiful.

All arts are closely related, especially the lyrics (歌詞) of songs and literature. Naturally music led me to literature a few years ago.

Literature waked my emotion up. Stories and dramas make me feel deeper to love, sorrow and death. Poems lead me to admire (欣賞) nature. I will not just show techniques if I am going to compose in the future. I will fuse (結合) experiences I have in actual life into my works (作品).

It would be eternal (永琲) arts if I could do it well.

English translation of a Chinese poem


    慈母手中線   遊子身上衣

    臨行密密縫   意恐遲遲歸

    誰憐寸草心   報得三春暉



Sat. 6th Oct., 90. 29℃. Sunny.

I wrote a short essay on the title "Literary Work" this morning.

I began my essay by saying that literary works come from the experience of our lives. Literature is art; it should meet the criteria (標準) of arts: truth, goodness and beauty.

Quoting (引用) a Chinese poem for illustration. I try to translate it into English as follows (如下):

Needle and thread in the mother's hand,
Clothes on the traveling son.
Sewing busily when he was about to set out,
She worried that he might come back late.
Who says the little heart of the son
Can return his mother's love, warm and
Great as the spring sun!
This was a real story in old China. Mothers always react in the same way when their sons travel afar. It is true all the time. This poem has a good theme and the poet shows his excellent rhetorical (修辭的) skills by using rhymes (押韻) and simile (比喻).

I concluded (概括) the essay with "great literary works (偉大的文說作品) often end in such a way that they start (喚起) readers to think."  

My first English poem

Sun. 7th Oct., 1990. 29. Sunny.

I  love SUNDAY

The morning sun passed through
the window and woke me up. 
"Oh! It is Sunday!"

Having breakfast leisurely (悠閒地),
I am singing in my heart:
"Oh! It is Sunday!"

No lectures to attend,
No papers (論文) to write,
And with all books put aside,
I shall have some Beethoven tonight.

Sunday, Sunday, Sunday!
I love S - U - N - D - A - Y - !

It is somewhat like E. E. Cummings, isn't it. The seven letters, S - U - N - D- A - Y - !, represent seven days of the week.

It's boring (悶的, 沒趣的) to write a journal or an essay every day, Mrs. Bond. Today is Sunday and a smart poem is quite fit for the mood. I shall try to write a poem on every Sunday.  

I got my first computer lesson in a music lesson!

Mon. 8th Oct., 1990. 28. Sunny.

Dr. Law of the Music Department gave us a computer lesson this morning. He started with word processing (文字處理).

Once your sentence or passage has been typed into the computer, you may tell it to change your words in whatever shapes or positions you like: to be larger, smaller, in double or triple spacing, and to cling (傾向) to the left or right, or to stay in the middle are just at my discretion (自由選擇).

The most useful function of the computer to me is the music setting. The machine can even play what I have written on the screen.

The setting of a choral (四部合唱曲) came out from the laser printer surprised me very much. I haven't seen such a smart printed music before! G. Chimer"樂譜商" or Peter's Editions "樂譜商" are all low grade scores (樂譜) compared with the printout (印出來的).

Machines are so powerful! They can do a lot of tasks much more efficiently than human beings. Robots (機械人) even has a certain degree of rational (理性的) ability. That's why some people worry that human beings would one day be substituted (被代替) by machines in doing jobs.

I don't think people have to worry about this because machines are just operation takers (工序執行者). They don't get a brain to create. The strongest fact safeguarding (保護) us from being taken over by machines is that machines never have emotions to feel and to love like we do.

Writing can help lay down your painful experience.

Tues. 9th Oct., 1990. 27. Sunny.

Writing can be a good medicine to ease a certain kind of pain.

Alexander Solzhenitsyn (索忍尼辛), a Russian man, suffered a lot in jail (監獄). He must have hated the regime (政權) deeply. 

I had a long period of sad life in which the girl I loved very much left me. It seemed that all my sadness had gone and condensed on the paper after I put it in a short story. I think Solzhenitsyn should get all his pains relieved after writing down those tortures (折磿he suffered in stories.

If you have any bad encounters (遭遇), try to write them down in a poem, a prose (散文) or a short story whatever you like, and see whether you can get the feeling I have had.

You may probably say that it would be a loss if one pens his sweet experience. It isn't true. The effect will be positive in this case. Your feeling will not only be sweeter, but also longer because you can look at it, and even touch it.

That means writing down a happy event is to make the abstract thing into a tangible (實質的) shape and thus (如此) it will last forever.


My first clarinet lesson

Wed. 10th Oct., 1990. 26. Sunny.

I had my clarinet (單簧管) lesson this morning and this was the first lesson I ever had on a woodwind instrument (木管樂器).

The clarinet is a long black wooden tube with a little bell on one end and a mouth piece on the other. Its body is decorated with so many pieces of silver, which are keys of musical notes.

I tried several times before I could blow the first right sound. My lips were tired after making that sound because a lot of force was needed to hold the mouth piece (吹嘴). It took me half a lesson to play the first five notes of the B-flat major (B大調) scale (音階). At the end of the lesson, my lips were numbed (麻木了) due to the vibrations of the reeds (簧片)

There are two reasons I choose clarinet as my applied music subject. The first reason is that the tone color of it is between that of the flute and the oboe (雙簧管), and the second one wind instruments are much more easier to master than keyboard (鋼琴) and strings (絃樂).

My teacher said that thirty minutes' practice every day will result a quite good playing in one year's time, and that encouraged (鼓勵) me very much.


明天日記的題目 : 給音樂系主任的信
Tomorrow's journal: A letter to Professor David , the head of Music Department

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