The Language Is the Main Thing
When you read a story in English, do you read it for the story or for the English? This is a question that is not so foolish as it may seem1. For I find that many learners of English pay far more attention to the story than to the English. They read and enjoy and for a long time afterwards remember the story, but do not care to2 study the use of words and phrases in it. For instance, they keep in the memory3 how the mystery of the eternal triangle4 is solved, but do not remember a single sentence in the story and cannot tell5 what preposition is used before or after a certain word in the speech of a certain character.
Of course, it is all right to read and enjoy and remember a story, and so long as one wants to know the story only, one needs not bother about6 the language. But the case7 is quite different with8 a learner of English, I mean a student of English as distinguished from9 a student of stories or what is called the general reader.
Whatever a learner of English reads, he should, in my opinion, regard the language as the main thing. For instance, on reading this preceding sentence, besides10 understanding its meaning, he should notice such points as the concessive use of “whatever”, “in my opinion”, “regard … as …” and “the main thing”. In this way, he does learn some English11 though what he reads may happen to be otherwise12 uninteresting or uninstructive. It may safely be said that this is a far better way of learning English composition than to read and consider the so-called principles of the subject13.
不论一个英语学习者读什么东西，我认为他该把语言看作主要的东西。举例来说，读了前面这一句（“Whatever a learner of English reads，he should，in my opinion，regard the language as the main thing.”），除了了解它的意思以外，应该注意到“whatever”的让步用法、“in my opinion”、“regard …as…”和“the main thing”。这样，他的确学到一些英语，虽然他所读的东西在别的方面也许恰巧既没有趣味又没有教益。可以可靠地说，这种学习作文的方法比读而思考作文的原则要好得多。
Incidentally14, I would advise teachers of English to question their pupils on points of diction15 and construction as well as on facts and thoughts.
- is not so foolish as it may seem 并不像它表面的那样愚笨
- do not care to … 不肯……
- keep in the memory 继续牢记
- eternal triangle 三角恋爱
- cannot tell 说不出
- bother about 关心于；因……而费心
- case 情况
- with 关于
- as distinguished from 跟……分别的
- besides 除了……以外
- does learn some English 确实学到些英语
- otherwise 在别的方面(指在文字以外的方面)
- subject 科目(指英语作文)
- Incidentally 顺便说一句
- diction 语词的选用