Saturday, March 03, 2007

漫談英文



午飯時,和同事們談到中英文的差異.我問了個一直大惑不解的問題:「我不捨得」英文該怎樣說?

幾個中外人士七嘴八舌一論爭辯,結果還是不得要領.這麼簡單的句子,要準確表達,竟然也不容易.學好外語,真是一生一世也未必能達到的目標.

十多歲起在外國生活,英文卻說得不夠好,不無一點遺憾.只怪從前居住的,是北美洲最多香港人的城市.就讀的中學,幾乎超過一半學生是華人.嘻嘻哈哈混了幾年,而不知錯過了學習語文的黃金時間.進了大學,便再沒時間分心打好英文基礎.出到社會,才知書到用時方恨少.

雖然,不是母語,不應苛求甚麼.但畢竟是天天在說的語言;很多時候,電光火石間想不出的詞彙,表達不清楚的意思,往往就是最緊要的字眼.只得提醒自己,遣詞用字要準確一些,不要得過且過.

外國人常引用的電視電影小說歷史聖經典故,不浸淫過一段日子,是完全不知所以的.美國人又喜歡用運動術語, 滿口struck out, touchdown,boogie,slam dunk.幸而科技發達,碰到不明白的用語,google是我的朋友.日常對話,便要不恥下問,虛心求教.

至於古靈精怪,不乾不淨的俚語;最快捷的方法,是請教兩位土生土長的表妹.甚麼是get brain,何謂 double-bagger,問問小朋友,自然一清二楚.(不要問我,總之不是好東西)

說英語不能隨心所欲.腦裡有時候卻會用英文思考.特別是工作時面對著一堆堆電腦詞彙,用英文想東西總好像靈活一些.還有一個有趣的怪現象:偶爾迫著要捲起舌頭說國語時,每每三句不到,便自動跳到英文台.或許在我腦中,bopomofo和abcd都一概被歸納為「外語」吧!但毫無疑問,中文是無可避免地一年比一年退步了.很多字和詞,明明掛在口邊,卻想了半天也想不出該如何寫出來.

如果沒有這個blog,恐怕我的中文水平,快要像英文一樣不濟了.

(P.S. :「我不捨得...」,有沒有高手能拔刀相助?)

20 comments:

  1. 「…偶爾迫著要捲起舌頭說國語時,每每三句不到,便自動跳到英文台…」,哈哈,我也試過類似的情況,很奇怪!

    說中文的時候,我不想夾雜太多英文,盡量會用中文表達。要靈活運用一種語言,真的需要花很多時間。有時候,就是想不到最貼切的字眼,唯有多看多問。

    「我不捨得」,可以這樣說麼…
    It's hard to let go (for me).

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  2. "偶爾迫著要捲起舌頭說國語時,每每三句不到,便自動跳到英文台"
    一樣呀! 我D普通話好屎, 同D北京人講講下就轉英文台, 好尷尬!
    都係cannot let go.

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  3. john, mad dog: 我們覺得"can't let go"是「放不開」的意思,對人是比較接近「不捨得」("can't let go of you"),對事便好像不合適(我不捨得吃這塊蛋糕).而且can't let go少了「不捨得」所帶的positive感情("can't let go of my love", 也可以是" can't let go of the painful memory")

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  4. 我英文好差..
    日文雖然比英文好..
    但"我不捨得"的日文..一時間也想不出..
    其實是不是中文的意境情感層次太複雜呢.

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  5. 我有疑问的是:“我心疼你”,怎么说呢?

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  6. abby:或許是中文比較含蓄,要靠直覺去領會其中的感情,因此亦沒有英文那麼嚴謹.

    xuan:心痛,我想可以簡單直譯成"my heart aches (for you)";心疼,真的不知該怎麼說...

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  7. mad dog引我進來的,不是專家出場。

    語言有情景的,翻譯也因而要根據情景來選用最合理的表達方式。你覺得「cannot let go」不等於「捨不得」,主要因為中文裡面可以用在不同情況的一句,換成英文卻不一定可以。

    扯遠一點,來個簡單的英文單字:cutlery。中文叫什麼呢?刀叉嗎?欠了湯匙和一系列匙型物體哦。捨不得的道理也一樣。

    1. 面對吃剩的東西:There is so much food here. It's quite a waste to throw them away, isn't it? 這麼多食物,真不捨得扔掉呢。

    2. 面對一些私家珍藏不想扔掉:These have been with me for so long, I really don't want to throw them away. 這些東西與我一起很久了,我真捨不得把它們丟掉呢。

    3. 我不捨得吃這塊蛋糕:This cake is so pretty, I can look at it forever.

    說英文時想英文,很難會浮出「不捨得」三個字的,我們學習英語作外語的,要把它真學好,我的所謂心德是先不要想好中文的一句然後嘗試把它做翻譯,這樣結果只會詞不達意。

    好像以上三句例子,要是從英語出發的話,大慨不會跟捨不得扯上關係。到了翻譯的領域,看了情景,大慨都會說成捨不得了。

    不是專家搭嘴完畢。:)

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  8. wow, aulina一出場, 果然上了一課.
    orangutan, 係我叫aulina過黎幫幫手架, 佢係專業翻譯人, 所以一定要問佢. :)

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  9. thanks aulina,真係學到野.

    我明白文字要看context,不能直接般字過紙.但和cutlery 不同(刀叉不是中國文化),「捨不得」令我困擾,是因為看似universal的感情,要用英文表達時卻好像很convoluted.或者如你所講,英文根本沒有捨不得,我是在把中式思想譯成英文.

    其實你舉的三個例子,也可以分成三種不同的感情(不想浪費,念舊,欣賞).是不是因為中文「捨不得」一詞,才令我們籠統地把不同的感覺混在一起?語言是不是操縱了我們的思考模式?真的要請教專家.

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  10. Hi Orangutan, just stumbled upon your blog from one of the links in See Chuen's recent blog post, and I'm so glad I did as I really enjoyed reading your story of tracing the original writers of the war-time postcards. If you're saying your level of Chinese is already much worse than it had been previously, then I really envy you because you articulated your thoughts so well in Chinese on this blog, and I wonder what kind of beautiful writings you would be able to achieve if you had been able to maintain your Chinese...

    Anyway, regarding your question about how to translate 「我不捨得」, I think there are ways to express this in English beyond "I don't want to", that are closer to the sentiments implied in this Chinese expression. The ones that came to my head immediately, when I try to imagine myself in situations where I need to express this sentiment in English, are "I don't have the heart to..." or "I can't bear to...".

    E.g. "I don't have the heart to throw these pants out even though they shrank in the wash, as they are my favourite pair", or "I can't bear to cut this cake as it looks so pretty and I don't want to ruin it". Or indeed, one could say, "I don't have the heart to sell those old postcards as they have such sentimental value for me."

    Of course, an even more stronger version of 「我不捨得」would be to combine both translations in one sentence, as in, "I can't bear to let you go".

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  11. Snowdrops: thanks for your comment, although these modest writing do not deserve such kind compliments.

    As regard to 不捨得, I agree that ”I don’t have the heart to…” is a much closer interpretation of the sentiment. However, the phrase also conveys a sense of regretful hesitation (similar to “I don’t have the stomach to…”). The same goes for “"I can't bear to...". My gripe is the lack of granularity to express a “cherishing” sentiment. In Chinese, 不捨得 and 不忍心 are two similar, but distinct expressions.

    As Aulina said, language is all about context. Insisting on a precise translation is probably a quixotic endeavor. But it’s a good icebreaker among bilingual people. My other favorites are 孝順 and 緣份. Want to give them a try?

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  12. Hmmm, I think "I don't have the heart to..." does convey that sense of regretful hesitation, and I really wouldn't compare it to "I don't have the stomach to" at all, the latter expression has a lot more to do with one's capacity to countenance something (or not), while not having the heart to do something has nothing really at all to do with whether one is prepared to put up with something or not...

    Perhaps it depends also with whether we're using Anglo-Irish versus American expressions? And I also think the message depends very much on the tone in which one says it as much as the context...

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  13. "My other favorites are 孝順 and 緣份. Want to give them a try?"

    Ha, those are my favourite translation conumdrums too! The first time I found out how 孝順 is really translated in English was from reading Adeline Yen-Mah's autobiography, who used the phrase "filial piety" to describe this most fundamental of Chinese virtues. So the common Chinese injunction of "孝順 parents" becomes this clunky expression: "showing filial piety to your parents", rather than just "obeying your parents" or "caring for your parents"... One could say perhaps 孝順 is an alien concept in Western cultures, which cherish children and respect the autonomy of the young far more than in Eastern cultures... after all, nursing homes is invented by the Anglo-Saxons.

    As for 緣份, I still haven't found a good enough English translation that would communicate all the subtle meanings of this Chinese phrase. The concept is there (cf. Sleepless in Seattle and countless Hollywood romcoms), but while "gweilos" would exclaim "It's fate!" when faced with a similar situation, Chinese tends to be a bit more circumspect and rueful when discussing matters of 緣份. The hardest to communicate I found is the concept of "have 緣 but no 份" - such a glib cliche in Chinese culture for explaining break-ups, but nigh on impossible to translate in English. Do you have any suggestions?

    Perhaps one day these Chinese expressions will be incorporated into the English lexicon just like certain French expressions, for their sheer uniqueness in communicating complex concepts in one word...

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  14. 我捨不得 -- 中文寫法學多一點.

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  15. g4:謝謝你的提醒。以廣東話思考,常常也會犯這樣的錯。

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  16. Orangutan, I can see you have a very lively discussion going on here, very interesting!

    還蠻慶幸我們可以說兩種或以上語言的人可以來這樣比較和欣賞同一句話以不同語言來釋譯就有不同的感覺。

    Nothing much to add here, just that I agree with Aulina that it all depends on the context.

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  17. 這篇很有同感。

    中文不好﹐英文又差。(我講緊我﹐你兩樣都好好呀!)

    唉。

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  18. 雲:

    唔使唉聲嘆氣喎。來日方長,大把機會學好想學的東西。

    係呀,我都覺得自己中英文都好好;不過係「中文比好多外國人好,英文比好多中國人好」(即係冇用!)

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  19. 哈哈,我系网上搜“唔舍得”或者“唔忍心”英文点讲,跟住就入咗来啦,系comments度学到好多嘢,多谢啊。我都一样啊,中文唔好,次次考mandarin肥佬,不过英文又一样唔掂,来美国无几年,慢慢来咯,我觉得迟啲可能我都唔识得点样讲中文了,而家见到中国人会时不时忍唔住讲英文,不过粤语仲系无问题嘅,毕竟系mother tongue。

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