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在中国学母语英语什么感觉

   生活在中国,我有很多来自英国、爱尔兰、加拿大、南非、澳大利亚、新西兰和印度等国家的外籍同事和朋友。从他们那里,我了解到很多不同的英语表达。可是,我总是在想,弄清这些对于一个英语为母语的人来说已经很难了,那些在中国和其他国家学习英语的学生一定感到很困扰。

老外在中国:在中国学母语英语什么感觉

 

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  By Matt Prichard

  The joke goes like this: A business executive from the United States walks into a London hotel and asks a clerk where the elevator is.

  有这样一个笑话:一位美国的公司高管走进伦敦一家酒店,用地道的美式英语向酒店员工询问电梯(elevator)在哪儿。

  The clerk answers, “The lift, sir, is just to the left.”

  员工则用纯正的英式英语回答:“先生,电梯(lift)就在左边。”

  The businessman says, “Don’t tell me how to say ‘elevator’ – we invented it.”

  商人说:“别告诉我 ‘电梯’ 怎么说——电梯就是我们发明的。”

  The clerk answers, “Quite right, sir, but we invented the language.”

  店员回答说:“先生,您说得很对,但是英语是我们发明的。”

  Actually, we in the US didn’t invent the elevator (or the lift), just a new form of the English language.

  事实上,我们美国人没有发明电梯,我们只是发明了一种新的英语形式。

  Living in China and having foreign colleagues and friends from such countries as the United Kingdom, Ireland, Canada, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and India, I have learned much more about the rich variety of my native tongue.

  生活在中国,我有很多来自英国、爱尔兰、加拿大、南非、澳大利亚、新西兰和印度等国家的外籍同事和朋友。从他们那里,我了解到更多丰富多样的英语。

  I have learned that “sleepers” are not necessarily weary people – they can be planks that form the foundation of railroad tracks. In the US, we call them “crossties.” “Hoardings” may not be the stashes of compulsive collectors but advertisements we call “billboards”.

  我知道了“sleepers”不单指疲倦的人——也可以指铁轨的枕木。在美国,我们称枕木为“crossties”。还有,“hoarding”可能不是收集家的收藏,而是我们称之为“billboards”的广告牌。

  I already knew some terms, having long been a fan of British films, television and novels. But I have often thought of how confusing this must be to students of English in China and other countries. It’s hard enough for native English speakers to keep it straight.

  由于长期热衷于英国电影、电视剧和小说,我已经知道一些表达。可是,我总是在想,那些在中国和其他国家生活的学习英语的学生一定感到很困扰。弄清这些对于一个英语为母语的人来说已经很难了。

  Of course, this variety is evidence that languages are living things, and while some commonality is needed in order to communicate, the world would be less interesting if we all expressed ourselves in the same way.

  当然,这种多样性印证了语言是活的,虽然为了交流我们需要语言有一定的共性,但是如果我们都用同样的方式表述,这个世界就太无趣了。

  In China, linguistic differences have their roots in ancient times. While it is practical to make sure all children learn Putonghua (the people’s language), or Mandarin, it is encouraging that there also are efforts to save regional tongues. In Shanghai, classes are given in Shanghainese, a subgroup of Wu Chinese that is only partially understood by many Mandarin speakers.

  在中国,语言的差异性源于古代。中国虽然努力推行所有儿童学习普通话,但同时也在努力保护方言。在上海,当地人开设了上海话课程,上海话是吴语的分支,许多讲普通话的人只能听懂少部分吴语。

  In today’s hurry-up world, it would be unfortunate if these living remnants of the past are extinguished. The key to keeping them alive is to cultivate an interest among the young.

  在当今繁忙的社会,如果这些过去的遗产消失了,那将非常不幸。将遗产保留下去的关键在于培养年轻人对它们的兴趣。

  Because I was raised partly by my grandparents, there are some antiquated expressions in my vocabulary. When someone is sore or injured from exercise or overwork, I might say they’re “stove-up”. Most people nowadays are puzzled by that. When I looked for it on dictionary.com, it replied, “Did you mean ‘stovetop’?”

  小时候祖父母也带过我,所以我的话语中总会有一些过时的表达。当某人因为运动或过度劳累而受伤时,我可能会说他们“stove-up”。现在大多数人不理解这个说法。当我试着在dictionary.com上查找这个词时,搜索结果却是“你想要查找的词语是‘stovetop’吗?”

  Merriam-Webster tells us it’s an adjectival form of the verb “stave up”. “Staves” can be pieces of wood used to make a barrel, and Southern Mountain Speech by Cratis D. Williams says “stave” also can mean to break to pieces, splinter, shatter – the apparent origin of my peculiar expression.

  韦氏词典的查找结果是,这是动词‘stave up’的形容词形式。“stave”指可以用来做木桶的板子,而Cratis D. Williams则在《南部山区的语言》(Southern Mountain Speech)一书中说,“stave”还可以表示碎片、碎了——很显然我的独特表达就来源于此。

  It gives me hope that the expression is found in the youth-oriented Urban Dictionary, so it might yet survive.

  后来我在《青年城市字典》中找到了这个表达,这给了我希望,这个词还是有人在使用的。

  All of this may seem academic, but it shows that language is a mirror on life and a way to examine culture and history. Also, it’s comforting that my wife -- raised in a similar environment, influenced by her grandmother and great-grandmother -- understands when I say I’m stove-up.

  这些看起来可能有些学术,但是这表明语言是生活的一面镜子,也是审视文化和历史的一种方式。另外,我的妻子和我在相似的环境中长大,深受她的祖母和曾祖母的影响,当我说自己“stove-up”的时候,她能懂我说的是什么意思,这一点真的很令人欣慰。


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