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学习中文:普通话真棒!

In praise of Mandarin

 
因为我为一家中文报纸写作,常常会有人问我我是否会讲中文。一般我都是开玩笑说,如果我会读写中文的话,我应该拿到的收入就会高于大中报现在给我的工资。
Because I write for a Chinese newspaper, I’m often asked if I know Chinese. I usually joke that if I could read and write Chinese, I would deserve more money than Chinese News pays me.
 
但是,当我发现了China Path——一家以英语母语者为目标客户的普通话学校——有“能付多少就付多少”的入门课程时,我意识到了,我再也没有什么借口了:于是,我报名学普通话了。
But when I discovered the China Path, a Mandarin school that caters to native English speakers, offers introductory classes that are pay-what-you-can, I realized I had no excuse: I signed up to learn some Mandarin.
 
我对学习英语、以普通话为母语的人所感到的同情比以往任何时候都要强烈。
I now have more sympathy for Mandarin speakers who learn English than ever.
 
至少普通话的顺序是合乎逻辑的。对说话对象的称谓要放在主语前面,而主语则要放在动词前面。例如,“你明白吗?”——“Do you understand?”——的字面意思是“you understand”,再加上表示疑问的助词“吗”。 
At least Mandarin is logically structured. The person you’re addressing precedes the subject, which precedes the verb. “Nĭ míngbai ma?” – “Do you understand?” – literally means “you understand,” plus the particle indicating a question.
 
“你好吗”——“How are you?”——的字面意思是是“You fine?” 句子的顺序是合乎逻辑的,如同数学一样。
“Nĭ hǎo ma?” – “How are you?” – literally means “you fine?” The sentence order is logical, like math.
 
请注意,上述这句话的两个英语译句对动词和主语所采用的顺序是不同的。我从未发现普通话里存在这种语序不一致的现象。
Notice how the two English versions of those sentences alone ordered the verb and subject differently. I never came across that sort of discrepancy in Mandarin.
 
在普通话里,词语的发音也是合乎逻辑的,语音相对来说比较少。尽管我早就知道普通话是一种声调语言,但当我知道具体的声调数目如此之少时,我不免感到惊讶。
Words in Mandarin are pronounced logically too, using fewer sounds. While I’ve always known Mandarin is a tonal language, I was surprised to learn how few tones there were.
 
我不知道用汉字怎么描述,但在汉语拼音里,在字母上画一道横线表示语音的拉长:“ā”读起来像“ahh!”它看上去和听上去都像一排字母。
I don’t know how it’s illustrated in Chinese characters, but in pinyin a line across the top of the letter indicates a long, sustained pronunciation of the letter: “ā” reads like “ahh!” It looks and sounds like a straight line of letters.
 
其他的符号也同样简单:“á”(第二声,亦称“阳平”)的发音是往上挑的;“à”(第四声,即“去声”)的发音是快速下降的;而“ă”(第三声,即“上声”)是一个先降后升的调子。如果在某个音节看到这些表示声调的符号,该声调就应该用于整个音节的发音。如果一个音节没有声调符号,就该读轻声了。真是简单得令人惊奇!
Other symbols are equally straightforward: “á” is pronounced with a lilt; when saying “à” you quickly lower your voice; with “ă” you lower, then raise, your voice. If you see these symbols in a syllable, you apply that tone to the entire syllable. A word with no tone mark is delivered with no emphasis. It’s beautifully simple.
 
再想想那些可怜的学英语的学生,在学会单词“sea”和“pea”中的“ea”发音后,他们(错误地)以为其发音在“sear”和“pear”中是一样的。
Compare that lesson to the poor English learner who, picking up on the “ea” sound in the words “sea” and “pea,” assumes (incorrectly) it’s pronounced identically in “sear” and “pear.”
 
但与英语不同的是,普通话并非是一种经许多世纪逐渐拼凑而成的语言,也没有像英语那样不厌其烦地借用那么多其他语言的词汇。
But then Mandarin wasn’t cobbled together piecemeal over many centuries, while cheerfully stealing from other languages.
 
普通话也有其难学的地方。“在”、“再”两个汉字的发音(用汉语拼音来标注)都是“zài”,但是,前一个汉字可以指某个地点或将来要发生的事,而后一个汉字的意思则是“再次、重又”。
Mandarin has its share of tricks too. Two characters, 在 and 再, are both pronounced “zài” in pinyin, but the former could refer to a location, or something happening in the future, while the latter means “again.”
 
由于汉字谐音众多的现象,自然就产生了很多双关语:当我得知只消变换一下“ma”的声调,便可形成“妈骂马吗?”这句问话时,我感到好玩极了。
Having so many similar-sounding words naturally produces lots of culturally-specific wordplay: I was quite amused to learn that by repeating “ma” in different tones, I could ask, “Did mother scold the horse?”
 
然而,我比以往更能同情英语学习者在发现英语中“walk”一词既可以是动词(表示身体的动作)也可以做名词,而且其发音还与“wok”(烹调用的炒锅)大同小异时所感到的沮丧。
That said, I empathize more than ever with an English learner’s frustration when they discover that in English, “walk” can be a verb – something you physically do – or a noun – something you plan – in addition to sounding like something you cook with (a “wok”).
 
我的普通话课的有趣之处之一是学会一些儿歌。即使作为英语为母语的人,我和我的同学(其中大多数是白人)即使不知道一首歌讲的是什么意思,也能掌握该首歌的节奏。
One of the more fun parts of my Mandarin lessons was learning children’s songs. Even as English speakers, my (mostly white) classmates and I could pick up a song’s rhythm without knowing what it meant.
 
小白兔
白又白
两只耳朵竖起来
Xiăo bái tù
bái yòu bái
liăng zhī ĕrduo shù qĭlái
 
反正在英语母语者听来,这首诗倒更像“small white rabbit, two long ears”。我敢担保,“Pease porridge hot, pease porridge cold, pease porridge in the pot nine days old”(“热豌豆粥,冷豌豆粥,豌豆粥在罐子里放了九天”)在普通话母语者听来是同样枯燥无味的。
That sounds more fun to English speakers than “small white rabbit, two long ears” anyway. I’m sure “Pease porridge hot, pease porridge cold, pease porridge in the pot nine days old” sounds equally exotic to Mandarin ears.
 
我们也读了几首成人的诗歌,但无论如何,只有在诗歌所使用的语言与自己的母语相同的情况下,才能最有把握地了解其内涵本质。故此,我虽能够意识到《静夜思》描述的是一个沉思的明月之夜,但我无法欣赏其所体现的语言魅力。
We read grown-up poetry too, but there remains no substitute for understanding a poem in its native language. I can recognize that “Jìng Yè Sī” is depicting a contemplative moonlit night, but I cannot appreciate its eloquence.
 
不过,即使通过学习普通话基础知识,我现在已能更好地了解并欣赏中国文化。
However, simply by learning the foundations of Mandarin I began developing a greater understanding of, and appreciation for, Chinese culture.
 
与很多亚洲语言一样,普通话的结构也包含对权威的尊敬。作为一名学生,我被告知要以“您好”——而不是“你好”——表示对老师的问候。假使我当时能够记得上课的内容,我也确实会那样做。
Like many Asian languages, Mandarin’s structure teaches inherent respect for authority. As a student, I was told to greet my teacher not with “Nĭ hǎo,” but “Nín hǎo” – and would have, had I remembered my lessons properly.
 
我课本的内容也包括有关茶、古典音乐和如何向对方表示“不用谢”等话题的章节。
My textbook also included chapters devoted to tea, classical music, and telling someone they’re welcome.
 
就像许多的语言一样,普通话显露出中国文化固有的性别歧视——例如,即使在一群女人中只有一个男人,用的还是男性复数形式“他们”。和英语一样,中文默认用来表示“people”的音节/汉字(即rén/“人”)通常是指男性,而普通话表示“man”(男人)和“woman”(女人)的单词都是由这个汉字组合而成的。
Like many languages, Mandarin betrays its culture’s inherent sexism too – for example, the male plural is used if even one man is present in a group of women. Like English, the default syllable (or character) for people in general refers to males (“rén”), with the Mandarin words for “man” and “woman” sharing the character.
 
还有下面这句妙语:
Then there’s this gem:
 
“结婚前,男人讲,女人当然听。
“但是蜜月后,女人讲,男人听。
“最后男女一起讲,邻居听。”
“Jiéhūn qián, nánrén jiăng, nŭrén dāngrán tīng.
“Dànshì mìyuè hòu, nŭrén jiăng, nánrén tīng.
“Zuìhòu nánnŭ yìqĭ jiăng, línju tīng.”
 
在结婚之前,女方要听从男方的话。度过蜜月之后,丈夫要听从妻子的指挥。接下来,四邻八舍都得听他们俩人吵吵嚷嚷、争论不休。
Before marriage, the woman listens to her man. After the honeymoon, the husband listens to his wife. Later, the neighbours listen to both of them.
 
换言之,先是他控制了她,然后是她控制了他,再然后就是争执和吵架。
In other words, he controls her, then she controls him, then they fight.
 
经过七周的课程,我对普通话口语仍感到百思不得其解。这周,我完成了我的第一系列课程。我的汉语并不流利,但我已成为一名跃跃欲试的学习者。我不但对普通话的结构有所了解,而且我还拥有一套学习材料,明年,在我首次的中国之旅之前,我会打开这些教材好好读一读!
After seven weeks of classes, I remain baffled by spoken Mandarin. This week I completed my first set of courses not as a fluent speaker, but as an eager learner with knowledge of how the language is structured, and study materials I’ll be cracking open sometime next year before finally visiting China.
 
我对那些抵加时不得不从零开始学起英语的人依然感到敬佩不已;但我同样也意识到,学好一门语言对了解其所承载的文化是多么重要的。
I remain awed by people who arrive in Canada and need to learn the English language from the ground up – but I’m equally reminded of how essential learning a language is to understanding its culture.
 
照这样看来,只要我继续写以中国文化为题的文章,并且以华人读者为对象,估计我很快就会再次报名上一个普通话学习班了。
By that token, so long as I’m writing about Chinese culture, for a Chinese audience, it shouldn’t be long before I register for additional Mandarin lessons as well.
 
下次再见!
Until next time, zài jiàn.
 
感谢我的老师翟乃刚为本文细心校对,并确保其中我所用的普通话都是正确的。
Xièxie to my instructor, Nigel Zhai, for making sure this column’s use of Mandarin was correct.

编注:英翻中:马特-杜鲁门编译。Translator (English to Chinese): Matthew Trueman. 如果你对本文有任何评论,请到096.ca的“特别报道”栏目下、此文的论坛里发表评论。如果你有任何社区、社会和生活问题需要大中报回答或调查,请将你的评论或问题细节以电话留言(416-504-0761 转215分机),或传真(416-504-4928),或电邮(cng@chinesenewsgroup.com),或电邮给Eric Emin Wood(eric.emin@chinesenewsgroup.com)。你可以匿名为本报提供调查线索,但调查线索应包括当事人的联系电话或地址、发生问题的时间及地址等信息。




 



 

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