向英语学习者讲话 | The Language Is the Main Thing 语言是主要的东西

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The Language Is the Main Thing
语言是主要的东西

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.
当你读一篇用英语写的故事时,你是为了故事还是为了英语而读它?这是一个不像它表面看来那样愚笨的问题。因为我见到有许多学习英语的人们注意故事多于英语。他们读了故事,非常欣赏,在之后的很长一段时间里记住它,但不肯研究里面的词和短语的用法。举例来说,他们牢记着三角恋爱的秘密是怎样被解开的,但是故事中的句子连一句也不记得,也说不出在某个人物的谈话中什么介词用在某个词的前面或后面。

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.
当然读了故事、欣赏它、记住它是好事;如果一个人只要知道那个故事,他就不必关心语言。但是语言学习者的情况就不同了。我的意思是英语学习者跟故事学习者或所谓一般读者应有所区别。

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.
顺便说一句,我要劝告英语教师们不仅要向他们的学生提问关于选词和结构方面的要点,而且也要提问关于事实和思想方面的要点。

NOTES

  1. is not so foolish as it may seem 并不像它表面的那样愚笨
  2. do not care to … 不肯……
  3. keep in the memory 继续牢记
  4. eternal triangle 三角恋爱
  5. cannot tell 说不出
  6. bother about 关心于;因……而费心
  7. case 情况
  8. with 关于
  9. as distinguished from 跟……分别的
  10. besides 除了……以外
  11. does learn some English 确实学到些英语
  12. otherwise 在别的方面(指在文字以外的方面)
  13. subject 科目(指英语作文)
  14. Incidentally 顺便说一句
  15. diction 语词的选用

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