向英语学习者讲话 | About the Study of Grammar 关于语法的学习

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About the Study of Grammar
关于语法的学习

I have been told by more than one bookseller that, here in China, so far as books on English are concerned1, grammars sell better than other kinds of books except readers2 and dictionaries. And it seems to me that nearly every Chinese who learns English at all reads a grammar. I myself am a serious student of grammar; I have read I cannot tell how many English grammar books, by Chinese, English, American, Japanese, Danish and Dutch authors, and am always on the look-out for new ones3.
我曾被不止一个书商告知过:在我们中国,就论述英语的书而言,除了读本和词典以外,语法书的销路比别的书好。而且似乎每个学习英语的人都读过一本语法书。我自己是一个认真学习语法的人。我读过多少本语法书自己也说不上来,其中有中国人、英国人、美国人、日本人、丹麦人和荷兰人写的,而且我会时常注意找新出版的语法书。

The object of this article, however, is to advise you not to devote too much time to the study of grammar. I study grammar for grammar’s sake4, but I do not think every student of English should do so. You study English in order to be able to make practical use of it. This object is not to be attained by mere study of grammar. I do not even think I should now be able to write such simple English as that of this book if I had read nothing but grammars.
可是这篇文章的目的是劝你不要花太多的时间在学习语法上。我为语法而读语法,但我认为并不是每一个英语学习者都该这样做。你学习英语的目的在于学会实际使用英语。这个目的是不可能从只读语法来达到的。我甚至认为要是我以前只读语法书而不读别的东西,现在也不能够写出像本书中这样简易的英语。

Grammar tells you some general rules, some exceptions to rules, and perhaps some idioms. But the correct use of English is not a mere matter of such5. For example, grammar has what is called the double object, as in “He gave her a pen”; but it would be wrong to say “He introduced her a friend”, in which “her” and “friend” seem to form the double object. The fact is that “introduce” cannot take the double object; but this point is not to be learnt from grammar but only from careful reading. Many Chinese students write sentences that might be justified6 by one grammatical rule or another but are certainly wrong.
语法告诉你一些规则、一些例外,也许还有一些习语。可是英语的正确使用不仅仅关于这些东西。举例来说,语法中有叫作双宾语的东西,例如在“He gave her a pen.”这句中;但是如果说“He introduced her a friend.”(这句中“her”和“friend”好像构成双宾语)就错了。事实是这样的:“introduce”不能带双宾语;但是这一点不能从语法中学到,只能从仔细的阅读中学到。许多中国的学习者写出可能被某条语法规则证明为对的,但事实上肯定是错的句子。

I believe you have already read a few grammars, and probably have spent a great deal of time on the subject, though you may not now be able to write anything—say7 a short letter—grammatically perfect. Grammar may help you to use English, but only to a certain extent8. Do not look on the study of grammar as9 all or nearly all that you have to do in order to master English. Careful reading and constant practice are far more important.
我相信你已经读了些语法书,而且很可能花了许多时间在这上面,虽然你现在也许还不能把任何东西(例如一封短信)写得在语法上完美无缺。语法可能帮助你使用英语,但也只有在一定程度上。别把语法的学习看作你为了精通英语而必须干的全部(或者几乎全部)的工作。仔细阅读和反复练习比学习语法更为重要。

NOTES

  1. as far as books on English are concerned 就论述英语的书而论
  2. readers 读本
  3. new ones=new grammar books
  4. study grammar for grammar’s sake 为语法而读语法
  5. such=general rules, exceptions, and idioms.
  6. justified 视为正当
  7. say 例如
  8. to a certain extent 到某种程度
  9. look on … as … 把……看作……

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