Tai O, Lantau Island. Photo: Google Maps
Tai O, Lantau Island. Photo: Google Maps

Singing with very articulate pronunciation in Mandarin is not an easy task, especially when you know nothing about the language.

But a number of non-Chinese-speaking students at Buddhist Fat Ho Memorial College in Tai O, on Hong Kong’s Lantau Island, challenged themselves with a mission – to sing Mandarin songs to celebrate the Buddha’s birthday next Tuesday, Sing Tao Daily reported.

The school said it would hold a charity concert on Tuesday to raise funds and the school choir would perform onstage, singing Buddhist scripture or other songs in Chinese.

Of the 25 students in the choir, most do not speak Chinese.

Villante Dana Mari Erika Coronado, a 19-year-old Filipino student who came to Hong Kong four years ago, said she had just started learning Mandarin, or Putonghua as the Chinese central government prefers to call the official language.

“I know absolutely nothing about Putonghua, I couldn’t even pronounce correctly the song’s name and words,” she said, adding that all she could do was keep practicing and practicing.

Another Filipino student, Ira, who studied Mandarin when she was in elementary school, said memorizing the lyrics, with all the Chinese characters, was the most difficult part for her.

Ira also helped translate the Chinese songs into English and Tagalog.

Another Filipino student, Galura Jon Daniel, said he challenged himself by singing The Heart Sutra – the best-known and most popular Buddhist scripture.

Although there were only a couple of hundred words, Daniel listened to it more than a hundred times to memorize it correctly, but he admitted that he did not know some of the Chinese characters.

Teachers in different disciplines – music, Chinese language and Mandarin – helped the non-Chinese-speaking students practice singing and in pronunciation.

One of the choir members, local student Tang Ching-yi, said she appreciated very much their hard work and their serious learning attitudes.