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最好的時代,最壞的時代 — 一位獨立雙語作家在當下香港的自處之道

2020/8/27 — 15:04

立場新聞資料相

立場新聞資料相

【文:吳若琦】

「把沙爹肉串放在客人前時,竹籤永遠要對着客人,這樣客人拿起來吃才方便。」

「如果你浪費時間把魚蛋排得那麽工整,湯就會涼了,客人就沒法喝到熱騰騰的湯。」


被譽為「世界最佳航空公司」的新加坡航空,培訓空姐時,就是如此一絲不茍,引導空姐處處從客人的角度去着想。

新航的培訓課程對於作為英文寫作導師的我,更有多一層的啟发:教中國人寫地道英文,不能只教文法,更重要的是要引導他們按英文是母語的讀者的思維習慣,把要敘述的細節不動聲色地鋪排好,這樣才能寫出看不出是中國人寫的英語。

我舉個例子吧,下面一段英文來自一位親北京的華人專欄作家,雖然段落只有短短的41字,文法也沒大問題,但她沒把關好的地方還是很多:

廣告

‘Hong Kong, “Asia’s world city”, has become the battleground for a new type of urban “guerilla warfare” – defiant anti-government protesters have adopted a “flash mob” strategy, as evidenced in their hit-and-run rampage against police across several districts over the weekend.’

要把這段文字寫成流暢的native English, 需要注意什麽細節?我的建議如下:

廣告

I must say I’m  bewildered by the author’s enthusiasm for quotation marks - there are a whopping three pairs in this 41-word paragraph. Outside the purpose of indicating direct speech, one should use quotation marks sparingly, for they may create confusion: in unskilled hands, quotation marks distract the reader by making her wonder whether the quoted matter came from a source she ought to have known.

The author’s description of the protesters as “defiant” seems to me a mark of her insensitivity to the nuances of the English Language. “Defiant” has a positive connotation; since, as a known pro-Beijing figure, the author should have no intention of painting the protesters as heroes, she should have used a word with negative undertones - I would have used “unruly.”

I’d hesitate to describe the protesters’ clashes with the police as “hit-and-run rampage(s).” “Hit and run” is associated with serious injuries, if not death; “rampage” implies unchecked violence on an extensive scale. Even readers with pro-government sensibilities should agree that neither is an accurate characterization of what the protesters have been committing.

The following less-is-more approach would have allowed the author to remain safely Beijing-friendly without putting off readers who are somewhat sympathetic towards the protesters:

 ‘Hong Kong’s reputation as Asia’s world’s city is fast losing its luster, as rioters transform the once smooth-running financial hub into a launching pad for their cat-and-mouse game with the police, causing public disorder in one district, only to evade capture and re-surface in another part of town to repeat their misdeeds.’

Notice I've managed to express the author’s meaning without resorting to quotation marks.

新航培訓師上課前就給空姐打預防針,讓她們對課程的苛刻程度有心理準備,他跟她們說:“I like mistakes, because when we have mistakes we can learn from them.”

這話我不但經常跟學生說,也經常跟自己說:沒國際學校背景的中國人寫native English是十分難的,當我edit自己的稿子,察覺到自己大大小小的stylistic errors 時,首先要不向恐懼屈服,才能氣定神閑地把錯誤逐一糾正。

隨著中共不斷地打壓香港,我的日子就更加「與恐懼為伍」,我要害怕的不單是空白的電腦屏幕,還有被送中的可能。我時常嘗試說服自己要以平常心面對:這也好,我在學生前能演示的不單是我如何戰勝 my fear of the blank canvas, 還能演示我如何在強權的淫威下實踐我的信念;我傳授的不單是一項技能,更是一種精神。我中學時期接觸到的Charles Dickens那句名言 — “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times’ — 在我踏入中年之際,竟然成為我的人生寫照,不能說這一切不是時代給我的禮物吧!

(作者簡介:在Skype教授英語寫作。網誌

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