Something More Important Than Enlarging One’s Vocabulary
“How to enlarge my vocabulary”—this is one of the commonest questions that I have been asked. True, the average Chinese learner of English has a very limited vocabulary, but1 I think he has something more important to do about his limited vocabulary than to enlarge it2. He has yet to know many more words before he can master English3. Nor can he master English till he has acquired a better understanding of most of the words that are4 in his vocabulary.
For he may think he knows a word when he does not really know it. By knowing a word I mean5 knowing its true sense or senses instead of merely knowing one or more of what we call its Han equivalents6. Take7 the word “student”. Very often it is misused and misunderstood by us Chinese. It is misused and misunderstood by those who call all schoolchild students and take offence at8 being called students of English simply because they are no longer9 at school. As a matter of fact, a schoolchild is not a student, but one who studies English is a student of English though he may be an old man and may have already written many books on it.
因为他会在自己并不真正懂得一个词的时候以为懂得了它。我所说的懂得一个词，是指懂得它真正的唯一意义或各个意义，而不是指一个或多个我们所谓的它的汉语对应语。以“student”这个词为例。我们中国人经常误用、误解这个词。那些人错误地把所有的学童都称作“students”，而且只因他们自己不在校，当被人称作“students of English”时就感到生气。事实上一个学童并不是一个“student”，而一个英语研习者是一个“student of English”，虽然他可能是一个老年人并且可能已经写了许多论述英语的书。
We are apt to neglect common words. Apart from the possibility of misuse and misunderstanding we are apt to neglect their various senses, or rather idiomatic uses. Take the word “read”, which you of course think you know very well. But do you know all the senses (or uses) as illustrated below?
- Can your read dreams?10
- The baby cannot read the clock.11
- He is reading her thoughts.12
- The sentence reads like a paraphrase.13
- Don’t read too much into the text.14
- The thermometer reads 68°.15
If not, you can hardly yet be said to know the word “read”.
- True … but 的确……，可是……
- has something more important to do about his limited vocabulary than to enlarge it 对于他有限的词汇，有比使它增加更为重要的事要做
- has yet to know many more words before he can master English 尚需多识许多词，然后才能精通英语
- are 实在；确然
- By knowing a word I mean 我所说的认识一个词，是……
- what we call its Han equivalents 我们所说那个词的汉语对应语
- Take 举……为例
- take offence at 因……而不悦
- no longer 不再
- read dreams 解梦
- read the clock 看得懂钟
- reading her thoughts 猜度她的思想
- like a paraphrase 像一个解说
- Don’t read too much into the text 不要将文中没有的意义附会上去
- The thermometer reads 68°. 这个温度计指出六十八度。