向英语学习者讲话 | Books on English and Books in English 论述英语的书和用英语写的书

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Books on English and Books in English
论述英语的书和用英语写的书

“On” and “in”—well, there is often a wide difference between these two little words. A book on English is one that deals with the English language; a book in English is one that is written in the English language. The former may be written in Han, French, German, or any other language; the latter may deal with any subject under the sun1.
“on”和“in”——这两个小小的词往往有大大的不同。“a book on English”是“一本论述英语的书”;“a book in English”是“一本用英语写的书”。前者可能是用汉语、德语、法语或者任何别的语言写的,后者可能论述天下的任何题目。

Books on English are intended for learners of the language2; and it is very gratifying to note that far more such books are now available than fifty years ago or more. I myself have written several, and am glad to say that I often receive letters telling of their usefulness to learners of English.
论述英语的书是为了这一语言的学习者写的;现在这种书比五十多年前多得多,这是令人满意的。我自己写过几本,可喜的是我时常收到来信说起它们对于英语学习者是有用的。

But I must give a word of warning here. Language is not an exect science, nor a mere matter of principles, rules, exceptions, definitions, formulas, and diagrams. Books on English are helpful, but no one can master English by reading such books only. Perhaps the very fact of3 there being so many such books today accounts for the frequency with which we meet with people who can talk and write about English without being able to talk and write it4. This is due to their ignorance of the fact that without wide and careful reading the mastery of English is impossible.
但是我必须在这里发出警告。语言并不是一门精确的科学,也不仅是一条原则、规则、例外、定义、公式和图解。论述英语的书是有助益的,但是没有人能够只读这种书而精通英语。也许正因为现在这种书这么多,所以我们时常碰到有人能够在谈话和写作中讲述英语但自己却不能讲英语和写英语。这是因为他们不知道这一事实:没有广泛而仔细的阅读,精通英语是不可能的。

I would advise all learners of English to devote more time to reading books in English and less time to reading books on English. What book in English are you reading? Is it a book of stories or essays or travel sketches? Or is it a biography or a diary or merely a textbook of history or geography? Well, if you happen to spend your days and nights on books on English, it is time you acted on my warning5.
我要劝告所有的英语学习者花较多的时间读用英语写的书而花较少的时间读论述英语的书。你正在读什么用英语写的书?它是一本小说、杂文或游记吗?还是一本传记、日记或仅仅是历史或地理课本?要是你恰巧在日夜攻读论述英语的书,你就该根据我的劝告行事了。

NOTES

  1. under the sun 在天下
  2. the language=the English language
  3. the very fact of 恰恰是……这个事实
  4. account for the frequency with which we meet with people who can talk and write about English without being able to talk and write it. 就是我们时常碰到能在谈话和写作中讲述英语但(他们自己却)不能讲英语和写英语的原因。
  5. it is time you acted on my warning 现在你该实行我的警告了(注意“it is time…”中动词用过去式)

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