My father-in-law

Filed in Life

The other day, I drove my wife out to the New Territories to see our favourite 'super doctor' (神醫). My wife has a serious case of hives and since western medicine has failed to help her in any way, we're consulting our Chinese doctor instead. While there are many 不外如是 super doctors, this one's the real thing. He's quite amazing. He's also our friend, having visited him many times over the years; at first with my mother-in-law and now with my wife. We smile and joke every time we see each other. I never thought it would be fun to visit the doctor.

After seeing the doctor, we drove back to Tai Po to visit my father-in-law. Being an old person, he refuses to move house to be closer to any of his nine children. Change is always harder when you're older, and a change of environment is the hardest.

My father-in-law (張寶榮先生) is an amazing man in his own right. With his wife, they raised nine children, often with little to no money to do it with. It was during the poorest of times that he began learning and teaching English to students. This is many many years ago, possibly around the time of the Japanese occupation of Hong Kong. Because they were poverty stricken, he couldn't afford to buy his own dictionaries, but he had to answer his students' questions, so he would visit multiple book stores, looking up and memorising a few words in dictionaries in each book store until he had memorised all of them and was able to serve the needs of his students.

Cheung Po Wing 張寶榮, immersed in English grammar Over the years, he never gave up studying English. Without help of any kind, he studied English by observation, deduction and pure reasoning. Consequently, he developed his own theories, rules and guidelines regarding English grammar.

In many professions, people think that "re-inventing the wheel" is a waste of time. I don't think so. If you have to develop or invent something without prior knowledge of other methods, you might just come up with a better method. An English saying that comes to mind is "there is more than one way to bake a cake". This adage also applies to invention and development. So while my father-in-law's theories may differ slightly to the theories and so-called standard rules of grammar found in almost every English grammar book in the library, that doesn't make them wrong. On the contrary, because he's a Chinese person who has studied and scrutinised every aspect of English and English grammar from his own perspective, his theories and rules may in fact be better suited to many Asians than those found in most text books today.

One of the things that happens whenever someone works on a single project over an extended period of time is that they become immersed in that project and nothing else counts. For the weeks that I began customising and improving this blog site, I could only talk about two things; the Perfume play, and this blog. My wife was pretty much bored to tears because every time I opened my mouth, something about the blog came out, and usually something technical in nature which she had no chance of understanding. My father-in-law is the same. Apart from talking about horse racing occasionally, his only topic of conversation is English grammar. Having lunch or dinner with him can therefore be difficult at times. None of the family shares his love for English grammar but we have to listen to his lectures out of respect; and we do very much respect him. Of course, apart from needing someone to talk to, my father-in-law also has his family's best interests in mind, hoping that their English standards will improve and enable them to become more successful in the world.

My father-in-law's theories are pretty much spot on. His conversation is not fluid because he doesn't practise much; even when I'm around because I almost never speak English; but his examples and the sentences he does speak are very much correct, and his reasoning makes sense almost all of the time. If no one learns from him, it would be a waste. He has much to offer.

Part of his dream came true last year when we was able to publish his first book, "Reliable Grammar for Teachers and Senior Students". It's available in book stores now and I heartily recommend it to anyone who needs to improve their English grammar. You may have difficulty understanding parts of it in which case you'll need to find one of his students to talk to or attend one of his classes. Two or three times a year, he teaches English grammar to teachers at the Causeway Bay centre of the Hong Kong Professional Teacher's Union 香港教育專業人員協會.

Unfortunately, today's society is all too quick to ignore and give up on the elderly (these days, mid-50s is already considered old), even those with expertise in their fields such as my father-in-law. Much of today's society is based on technology and older people quickly lose track and end up living as strangers in a fast developing world. Just ten years ago, Apple Computer was proudly demonstrating small jerky QuickTime videos being played and edited on a personal computer. Now we can bittorrent full screen high definition dvd-quality videos and not even give a second thought to the technology involved. It's even possible to view these videos while working with other software and the videos hardly stutter. It's amazing. It's also scary. In twenty years time, I myself may have a hard time keeping up with technology. By then, I'll be the ignored technological caveman in a world that moves too fast for its own good.

In the meantime, don't ignore the older people so quickly. If you take the time to chat with them, you might surprise yourself and actually learn something of value.

Daddy Cheung, Happy father's day!

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22 Responses to “My father-in-law”
  1. jayce says:

    hmm.. Where cann i get this book? Seems kinda useful for my student whose english is in a total mess!!
    How much does it costs?

    Sorry, but i will be heading down to HK next week, was wondering where are the more popular bookstores in HK?
    Thanx!

  2. scarl says:

    hey, agree your point.
    i'm so sad that the elderly being useless in society nowadays, but actully they've some experiences & knowledge that we'll never have! we shouldnt give up them and show our care to them :)

  3. Sapphire says:

    你雖然身為一個不折不扣的外國人,但在你的文章中都可以隱約看到你有 ”老吾老以及人之老” 的敬老精神,(這是一句中文諺語Chinese adage,希望你明白我說甚麼)。你的思想好像比一些中國人還要中國化,除了自愧不如之外,你真的值得人為你 ”喝彩”!

  4. Derrick says:

    Firstly, I sincerely hope that the 神醫 will be able to help your wife in healing her case of the hives.

    Secondly, I feel that your father-in-law is indeed a great man, worthy of praise and respect. Being a Canadian-born Chinese and going off to university this September to start my studies in the hopes of becoming an English teacher, I feel that I can relate to him in many ways.

    Great job on another terrific post. Keep 'em coming.

  5. yan says:

    I agree with you that young people should respect elderly. I feel bad because sometimes I'd think that my grandparents are very "long air"(talk too much), but I know they just care about me.

    I'll check out the English grammar book in a bookstore.

    PS. Is the lady in the photo your wife?? =)

  6. Debbie says:

    It is always a tremendously eye-opening experience when a non-native speaker of English analyses and studies English Grammar to such extent whilst native speakers of English simply take for granted how we come about structuring sentences in everyday life. As a native speaker of English, I've always found it redundant to understand how sentences (or anything else grammatically related) come about when I already know how to construct a sentence but I've recently discovered how little I actually know about English, even though being able to read, write and speak fluently in English.

    Your father-in-law sounds like a wonderful person... and I'm sure I'd enjoy listening to his lectures on English grammar. His passion for the language impresses me no end!

  7. cherrie says:

    i agree that we should have respect to the elderly. it's such a pity that there are cases of abandoned elderly in home for the aged centers.

  8. Pegasus@Taipei says:

    這篇文章寫得真好
    若你的岳父看到
    一定也會很開心的

    BTW,剛想到CP1897買這本書
    卻說出版社缺貨 且不接受訂購...

  9. marigold says:

    hi charles. i agree with what you wrote. elderly ppl sadly are sometimes ignored and thought to be senile. even at the very least, they have experienced many decades of life and sometimes know things better than us. like a chinese saying goes, they have eaten more salt than we have eaten rice. does this make sense??

    sometimes though, i feel it is very hard to communicate with elderly ppl especially my grandma. but nevertheless i still respect her very much. thanks for an insightful entry!

  10. Sapphire says:

    I’ve encountered the same problem as Pegasus @Taipei…. unable to locate this book @ cp1897.com. (Commercial Press Cyber Book Store - 香港商務印書館). Do you know any other channel? Don’t bother; maybe I email my big Sis. in HK for helping me out.

  11. garylism says:

    it's amazying to read your blog, i can't believe that...
    the performance of 「表姐你好野2」is attracted to me!!
    anyway work harder, i like your acting
    my english is poor. sorry!!
    and i saw you in telford garden a long time ago
    you are very tall!

  12. Felix says:

    Ya...everyone...today is father's day.Must remember to say happy Father's Day to your father oh...

  13. Jet says:

    hello.. how are you?
    my common is not relating to your article.
    im new to your site.
    and i read a article about you from a magazine and it talks about how , why did you come to hong kong. you are so amazing. im so proud of you. well... your page is every nice.. and i wish you the best and good luck , take cares.

  14. hanness says:

    i think i read the same article too, that's how i got to this site. btw i'm a malaysian who had grown up watching TVB's Cantonese drama series 吃饭捞无线连续剧电视汁大. a local chinese newspaper had published an interview with charles' which i believed is taken from a HK magazine (i supposed thats' TVB weekly) and so i got to know more about you, charles,or should i called you kwokwing.:)
    其实,(hope you do read simplified chiese, i dont have the software to type traditional one)一向以来我很好奇为什么香港会有一个广东话说得那么溜的鬼佬,10几年来还以为你是殖民地的'遗产',我还记得第一次对你有印象,是小学4、5年级看周海媚和黎明演的《回到未嫁时》里面有一个被刘?铭(一时忘了他的名字,那个很会跳芭蕾舞的老家伙)天天强迫用假钞的鬼佬,今天在报纸上看了你的报导才了解你的来路。
    关于忧郁症那会事,唉唉唉,只能说每一个稍微有点志气盼望上位但是又不能到达想要的位子的人,都会有过同样的感觉。人的际遇有时就是这样罗。明明是很想要、甚至觉得那就是你终其一生唯一的目标,但是命运偏偏却要弄人,结果不管怎么努力用尽了力、流干了汗好象就是还差那么几步不能到达。如果想要安安心心随随便便、不再盼望地过日子;有时候又觉得命不该只此而不甘心,就在放弃而安逸过日子、以及努力继续燃点希望之间天天挣扎,人就因此特别痛苦。
    为什么那么清楚了解?唉,都说稍微有点志气盼望上位但是又不能到达想要的位子的人,都会有过同样的感觉罗。
    所以你说,人生真是多难的一会事?
    不过你至少还有一个安慰,就是即便是在像马来西亚这样的地方,还是有观众记得当年《回到未嫁时》里面有一个被刘?铭天天强迫用假钞的鬼佬这样的角色。
    well,我希望我没有记错,应该是你吧。

  15. Alison says:

    Have been travelling like mad lately; hence my response to this posting is a bit dated. Anyways, I would like to buy that book for my Mom's b-day coming up in August. She didn't have a chance to learn much English while she was young. She had taken a few adult classes after our family immigrated to Vancouver. She doesn't have much problems with some basic daily conversation, but surely can improve more. She is a very keen student and is still trying to improve her English.

    Greg, is the book for "advanced" students or the "elderly" students? The word "senior" is a bit confusing. Since I am living in HK, I think I shld be able to buy the book quite easily. Waiting for your advice ....

    Also, can't help to complement ur entry again. It's great and insightful. Your father-in-law sounds like a very great man with high conviction and dedication. We are proud to have a senior citizen like Mr. Cheung in HK.

    Hope he already had a very happy Father's Day! ;-)

  16. kawai says:

    我o係壹周刊見到你o既一個訪問, 所以想鼓勵下你ga..
    每個人都有自己要行o既路, 而家你o既生活都幾多姿多彩呀... ^^
    唔好灰心呀... 我覺得你好叻呀, 因為你勇敢咁去追求自己o既理想, 真係唔係咁易ga...
    同埋你拍o個d戲拍得好好呀..
    哈哈, 我覺得你仲好有愛心, 因為我都好好好好鐘意狗!!! ^0^

  17. Pegasus@Taipei says:

    Dear Sapphire:

    香港書城有賣耶
    http://www.hkbookcity.com/searchbook2.php

  18. 河國榮 says:

    Hanness, I remember the tv series you're talking about. I enjoyed working with 銘 sir. he's a great actor and fun to work with. I don't remember the counterfeit money though ;-)

    Alison, the word 'senior' in this case means advanced students rather than elderly.

    Pegasus, thank you.

    Sapphire, I found the book at hkbookcity by searching for "senior students".

    Everyone, the book is definitely in print and my father-in-law has stock ready for any store that wants to buy it. in Hong Kong, most of the following book stores have the book in stock or can get it if they don't have it: 三聯書店, 大眾書局, 商務印書館, 葉壹堂, 學術專業圖書中心, 常春藤書店, 紫羅蘭書局, 悅書房圖書禮品(澳門).

  19. sapphire says:

    To: Pegasus@Taipei & Mr Ho

    Thanks for your info anyway. My big sis. in HK did a great job for me already.

    Sapphire

  20. Pegasus@Taipei says:

    今天下班收到書了
    雖然一開始找不到管道
    但最後還是買到了
    從看到你的介紹 到收到書
    差不多一個月
    Not bad. ^___^

  21. Kenneth Ho (Macbrush) says:

    Hi man! Remember me? Macbrush from HKMUG? One thing I have to tell you, you're the reason that I learned to use chopsticks properly! :-)

    Great article! Hope to catch up with you soon.

    Bye

  22. lee kwok keung says:

    hi Mr. Rivers, I like your shows and the way you treat your wife and father-in-law. Old people are not so active. They don't like changes. I have an ointment made from Chinese herbs to be rubbed on the feet near ankle. This is supposed to strengthen the feet and legs, this helps to keep liveliness as wll as health. It will be harmless and free of charge, I already gave it to some friends, the result is good so far. I know that if I recommend it to another Chinese actor, he may laugh and refuse then we both loose. I believe you are not against new things since there is 0 risk. About your wife, I like the way you take care of her. Unfortunately I am not a medical doctor. However I offer to supply her a new shampoo free of charge. This is a new product which should be good for sensitive skins. It is supposed to improve the skin. I believe that both of them have good market prospects. Please contact me at mobile 9830-2883 at any time. My e-mail address, just registered is natureskaress21 @yahoo.com.hk. All the best wishes to you and your dear ones. an old man in your scale K.K. Lee