LAC1201 (Chinese 1) Podcast

I used to collaborate with Dr.张丽萍 (Cheong Lee Peng) to produce audio podcasts for Chinese 1 students (this is a basic Chinese language course offered by the Center for Language Studies at NUS). All NUS students have free access to this resource:



[VA] 18. concur

concur (v)  /kənˈkɜː(r)/

  • to agree, be in accord with, unite in opinion
  • concur comes from the Latin com- “together” + currere “to run, flow”, and means literally “to run or flow together, go along with”. That derivation has led to 3 slightly different meanings of the word. First, concur may be used to mean “to act together, combine in having an effect” as ‘Time and chance concurred in our success’. Second, concur may be used to mean “happen together, occur at the same time, coincide”, as ‘His pay raise concurred with his promotion.’. The third and most common meaning of concur is “to agree”, as ‘Your story concurs with theirs.’, ‘We concurred on almost every point of negotiation.’

Start over with a clean slate

[Written by Trần Đình Hoành; Translated into English by Hồ Kính Đạt]

Hi everyone,Image

‘Slate’ is a board (usually made of porcelain enamel), the surface of which is used for chalk-writing. Wiping the board to write new stuff on it is “starting over with a clean slate”. This expression is often used to refer to circumstances when someone starts his life all over again, in the same way an ex-convict who has just been released starts his life over.

‘Starting over with a clean slate’ is essential to our spiritual and psychological life, the significance of which overrides our material life.

Psychologically, to some extent we all have experienced the “obsession of guilt”. From time to time we may commit a misdeed, and that mistake may haunt us for many years to come, insofar as it may even govern our thoughts and actions in many life circumstances. People with a very strong obsession of guilt may have a psychological disorder called OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder — an obsession of guilt so strong that it compels the patient to do certain things).

Our sin, or to be more precise, our sense of guilt, oftentimes haunts and burdens us emotionally. It suffocates us, deprives us of our freedom, and stunts our growth. This is probably why children are in general more confident than adults. Children have a ‘clean slate’, while the adults’ plates are filled with faults, wrongdoings and defeats. For that reason, grown-ups are obsessed with their failures, which in turn strip them of confidence. The more mistakes they make, the more self-doubt they inflict upon themselves. The longer they live, the longer the list of failures, the greater the loss of confidence. Thus, many people become less confident as old age approaches.

A solution to this problem of “the longer you live, the more failures you have, the more self-doubting you are” is to start over with a clean slate, to erase all past defeats written on the board. This means we have to know how to let all the dead leaves of this year fall, and next year all we have are new spring leaves.

Christian theology brings “the cleaning of the slate” to the pinnacle of human thinking. Jesus Christ made atonement for the humankind through sacrificing his own life to be affixed to the cross to his death, and thereby exonerating all humans from their sins no matter how great a sin one has committed. ‘A clean slate’ is a present from Jesus to every of us. It is up to us to accept or reject the gift. And we accept Jesus’ gift by our faith in Him. (Note: Faith in Jesus doesn’t necessarily equate with “following Christianity, Protestant, Orthodox, etc.”, which is a common misconception among Christians).

When we receive the ‘clean slate’ gift from Jesus Christ, we can start over with a clean slate. This positive trait explains why Protestant culture is the most positive culture the world over (in terms of spirituality, politics, economics, etc.), because the Protestants place great emphasis on the notion of Christ being ‘born again’ – starting over with a clean slate.

For our psychological life, we need to know how to start over again with a clean slate like that. Everyday we might do a couple of foolish things, so you can count how many stupid things we will have done after a year! By the next 20, 30 years, we will have already lost count of our wrongdoings and mistakes. If we don’t know how to ‘clean the slate’, we will be put into despair by our list of foolish deeds.

How can we have a clean slate at the start of each day?

If you are a Christian, you can sincerely apologize to God every night, and you can start fresh the next morning with a clean slate.

But what if you are not a Christian? What can erase the slate for us every night then?

Ladies and Gentlemen, we can practice to the highest degree the Buddhist teaching of ‘non-attachment’. If you unwittingly said something wrong, and if you need to apologize and rectify your wrongdoing, then do it! Regardless of whether you’ve got a chance to say sorry, what was said was said, and it has vanished into thin air, and has become a puff of cloud of the past; there is no reason ‘to be attached’ to it, so that it keeps on bothering you. Take a minute to repent, and then move on to live here and now, without attachment to the past. That’s the way the Zen masters clean their slate. Non-attchment! Don’t be attached to your own mistakes.

All the actions of yesterday are but memories. Let memories fly into the sky of reminiscence. There is no need to harbor them.

Each day we do something stupid. They are the yellow leaves. Let them fall freely, and don’t hang on to them, so that we can start a new day with a pure and new slate.
Don’t carry on your shoulder the baggage of mistakes made in the past.

A new day, a new sun, a new pure heart.

Wish you a pure day!


The original Vietnamese version can be found here:ắt-dầu-lại-với-tấm-bảng-sạch/

[VA] 17. vanguard

vanguard (n) /ˈvænɡɑːd/

  • the forefront of an action or movement, leading position or persons in a movement
    • They were in the vanguard of the war on poverty.
  • In its strict military sense, vanguard means the troops moving at the head of an army, the part of the army that goes ahead of the main body.

[VA] 16. sporadic

sporadic (a) /spɒˈrædɪk/

  • occasional, infrequent, irregular, not constant, happening from time to time, occurring in a scattered or random way.
  • A business venture may have sporadic success. A gambler’s luck may be sporadic. Sporadic crimes are crimes scattered here and there throughout the city or neighborhood. Sporadic outbreaks of a disease in the population are occasional, isolated outbreaks.
  • Antonyms: constant, incessant, unremitting 

[VA] 15. adamant

adamant (a) Brit. /ˈadəm(ə)nt/ , U.S. /ˈædəm(ə)nt/

  • unyielding, immovable, inflexible, refusing to give in, unshakable, unrelenting, implacable
    • She was adamant in her opposition to the plan.
  • The adjective adamant comes from the noun adamant, spelled the same way, which refers to a hard substance or stone such as a diamond that in ancient times was believed to be unbreakable. There is an old word adamantine still listed in current dictionaries but not often used. It means like adamant: very hard, unbreakable. The adjective adamant which has replaced adamantine in current usage means hard in the sense of inflexible, immovable, unyielding.

[VA] 14. negligible

negligible (a) Brit. /ˈnɛglᵻdʒᵻbl/ , U.S. /ˈnɛglədʒəb(ə)l/

  • unimportant, trifling, of little consequence
  • That which is negligible can be neglected. A negligible concern can be disregarded, it is so trivial or insignificant that it warrants little or no attention.