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英语阅读:扎克伯格的中文这么好,你知道么?

2014-10-28    来源:chinadaily    【      美国外教 在线口语培训

英语阅读:
How good really is Mark Zuckerberg's Mandarin?


Confucius said the superior man puts all his energy into everything he does...
On Wednesday, armed only with his favourite grey T-shirt and goofy smile, Mark Zuckerberg held court in one of China’s most prestigious universities for half an hour. In Mandarin.So this son of a New York dentist gets a gold star – or a red flower, as they are called in China – for not only mastering the internet by the age of 30 but also somehow finding time to learn the world’s most difficult language.

“Hello everyone,” he said, to whoops of excitement from the audience (who, being elite business students could all speak English). “There are three reasons I decided to learn Chinese. The first, my wife is Chinese. Her grandmother can only speak Chinese. When I told her in Chinese I was going to marry Priscilla, she was very shocked. Then I want to study Chinese culture. The third: Chinese is hard and I like a challenge!”

After he posted a video, there were also swoons of envy across the world. Speaking Mandarin, with the assumption that it bring the keys to the new global superpower, is now such a prized social goal that Mark Zuckerbergwas instantly labelled a genius for his Chinese chitchat.

Plenty of other tycoons, politicians and sycophants arrive in Beijing claiming to be beavering away at Chinese, but I have never seen anyone attempt more than a few polite interchanges before reverting to English. George Osborne, the Cabinet’s leading Sinophile, only got as far as a “hello” on his most recent visit. Zuckerberg was out of his comfort zone, but he just kept going.
 
A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step
So how good was Zuckerberg’s Chinese? It was good enough to wow the world, but in truth, four years of studying has brought him only to base camp.
Mandarin still rises up before him, a mountain that most adult learners will climb for ever, with no peak to reach. I studied Chinese every morning for two hours for the first four years of my time here, but neglected my homework and have recently been overtaken by my three-and-a-half year-old son, who babbles away cheerfully to everyone he meets.

One of my American colleagues wrote that Zuckerberg’s pronunciation was as if he had a “mouthful of marbles”. That is fine in French, where you can just about rub by with a wonky accent, but in China it is fatal. One slip of your tones and all meaning is lost. Zuckerberg was trying to say “China”, but it came out sounding like “Middle Kiss”.

Still, it is not just foreigners who find Chinese tricky. In September, Li Weihong, the director of China’s State Language Commission, said about a third of China’s population, roughly 400 million people, cannot speak Mandarin either, preferring their local dialects. And of the 900 million people who can speak Mandarin, only 10 per cent speak it “fluently”, he said.

Married couples who love each other tell each other a thousand things without talking

Surely Zuckerberg has an advantage because he can chat away with his wife, Priscilla Chan?

Well, aside from the fact that linguistic ability does not seep across couples by osmosis, his wife is reportedly more comfortable in Cantonese (eight tones, compared to Mandarin’s four), which is as close to Mandarin as English is to Polish.

Chan, the daughter of a Vietnamese-Chinese immigrant, was raised in Massachusetts and studied biology at Harvard. In other words, she is about as American as they come. Many expats in China claim that having a Chinese girlfriend brings the bonus of having a practice partner, but it is probably fair to assume the pillow talk in the Zuckerberg household is in English.
 
The revolution is not a dinner party
Learning Chinese is hard. In short, the ratio of effort to reward is so dismal that all but the most mindlessly dogged foreigners give up.
The Chinese, of course, have no choice, and their children have hours and hours of after-school homework, trying to drill the tens of thousands of characters into their long-term memory.

Every person who tries to learn Chinese will at some point hit a wall and wonder why on earth they are bothering. Like me, many will find an excuse to settle on the low foothills, terrified at the daunting effort before them. Simple pronunciation, as Zuckerberg discovered, can take years to master. There is nothing more soul-sapping than enthusiastically going to lessons for months and still being faced with blank stares of incomprehension when you simply try to say hello and ask someone’s name.
Grammar is more straightforward, but without rules it is difficult for learners to grasp which part of speech they might have heard. Which means if you do not know all the words in a sentence, you cannot guess its meaning.
 
A mountain of knives and a sea of fire
And then there is the writing. There is no alphabet. You simply have to rote-learn Chinese characters, forcing thousands, or tens of thousands of them into your leaky brain.

Anyone writing English can piece together the spelling of a word by saying it aloud to themselves in their head. But here you have to try to remember how many brush strokes it takes to write a character.

Even professors of Chinese find it daunting to be handed a book and asked to read a passage. When my Chinese colleague looks at a text message on his phone, it takes him a good minute to decipher its meaning.

How happy it is to have friends from far away!
Fortunately, the Chinese know how hard their language is – which is why efforts like Zuckerberg’s are applauded. I have lost count of the number of times that my dismal Chinese has been praised and complimented, by everyone from taxi drivers to government officials.

After decades (or in the Chinese mind, centuries) of arrogant foreigners arriving in China and not bothering to learn the language, it is a mark of respect to have a go.

Sadly, as you make progress, the novelty wears off. After seven years here, those who once praised and encouraged me now chide me for getting a tone wrong. I suppose it is a sign of progress to be corrected, rather than simply to win patronising praise, but I miss the old days.
 
The foolish old man who moved the mountains
There is a Chinese folk tale that sums up the effort required to struggle with Mandarin. A man in his nineties began picking up stones in order to level two huge mountains. When told he was an idiot, given the scale of the task and the time he had left, he simply said: “Certainly I cannot do it. But when I die, there will be my children to carry on the work, and the children will have grandchildren, and the grandchildren will again have children. So my children and grandchildren are endless, while the mountains cannot grow bigger in size. Why can’t they be levelled some day?”
 
You cannot catch a cub without venturing to the tiger’s den
For British schoolchildren, there is no short cut. The popular “Chineasy” pictogram cards are charming, but not a magic bullet. You may learn to recognise a few Chinese pictograms, but they do not teach pronunciation and the sea of non-pictographic characters stretches to the horizon.


The best way to shorten the slog is the most straightforward. While children will not pick up much Mandarin in English classrooms, it may open their minds to visit China. And here, if they can find a place to immerse themselves, they have a good chance of learning the language.

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孔子曰,吾道一以贯之
周三,穿着自己喜欢的灰色T恤,带着憨厚微笑的马克·扎克伯格(Mark Zuckerberg),在中国最负声望的大学之一清华大学与主持人进行了半个小时的普通话交谈。

这个纽约牙医的儿子因此获得了一个奖励,或者中国人说的获得了一朵大红花——他不仅在30岁就掌控了互联网,而且不知怎么还挤出时间,学会了世界上最难学的语言。

马克·扎克伯格刚说完“大家好”,观众(作为精英商科学生都会说英语)就发出了兴奋的呼喊。“有三个原因使我决定学习汉语。首先,我的妻子是中国人,她的祖母只会说中文,当我用中文告诉他我将和普莉希拉结婚时,她显得很震惊,第二个原因是我想学习中国的文化,第三个原因是因为中文很难学,而我喜欢挑战。”

在他展示了一个视频后,全世界都羡慕起他。讲普通话,假设这可以打开这个新的全球超级大国的市场,这个社交目的是如此有利,以至于扎克伯格进行普通话聊天后立马被贴上了天才的标签。

许多其他的企业大亨、政治家和奉承者抵达北京时声称他们会好好学习汉语,但我从未见过有谁在用中文进行简单的礼貌问候之后还试图继续用中文交谈。作为亲华人士的英国财政大臣乔治·奥斯本,在最近的访华过程中只学会一句中文“你好”。扎克伯格并没有沉溺于自己舒适的温室中,而是选择继续前行。

千里之行,始于足下
那么扎克伯格的中文到底怎么样?虽然好到足以让世界震惊,但事实上,4年的学习只让他达到了山底的大本营,普通话这座大山仍然屹立在他面前,这是一座大部分成年学习者将要倾其一生去攀登,却永远达不到顶点的山峰。在中国的最初四年,我每天早上花费两个小时学习中文,但我忽视了家庭作业,最近我三岁半的儿子已经超越我了,他见了谁都会兴高采烈地牙牙学语。

我的一个美国同事写道,扎克伯格的中文发音好像他嘴里塞满了大理石,这在法语里是无所谓的,在法语里,你可以任由不靠谱的口音来改变声调,但在中文里,这是毁灭性的灾难,任何一个音调的滑落都会改变句子本身的意思。扎克伯克试图说“中国”,但听起来像是说“中间吻”。

而且,不只是外国人发现汉语是棘手的。在9月份,中国国家语言文字工作委员会主任李卫红表示:将近1/3的中国人,也就是约4亿人,不会说普通话,他们宁愿说自己的方言。她还表示,在会说普通话的9亿人中,只有10%的人表达流利。

彼此相爱的已婚夫妇无需通过语言就可以交流许多事情

扎克伯格真的是因为他可以与妻子普莉希拉·陈(Priscilla Chan)交谈而让自己汉语的学习更具优势吗?

事实上,除了英语能力不能进行夫妻间的相互渗透外,扎克伯格的妻子更喜欢说粤语(相对于只有4个音调的普通话,粤语有8个音调),粤语接近于普通话的程度就如同英语接近于波兰语。

普莉希拉是越南华侨的女儿,她成长于马萨诸塞州,随后在哈佛主修生物学。也就是说,在他们家搬去美国的时候,她就基本是个美国人了。许多外籍人士称,有个中国女朋友的好处就是有了个练习中文的伙伴,但扎克伯格夫妇间的枕边话是用英语交谈这一假定可能是合理的。

改革不是请客吃饭
学习中文是艰难的,简而言之,努力的回报率是非常低的,以至于许多最顽强的外国人最后都放弃了。

中国人当然就没有选择余地了,孩子们在放学后要花费几个小时来完成家庭作业,试图把成千上万个文字保存到他们的长期记忆中。

每个试图学习中文的人都会在某一时候碰壁,接着就琢磨为什么它们到底为什么这么惹人困扰。在攀登汉语这座大山时,许多人像我一样,会找个借口在低山麓处安定下来,害怕在它面前付出的艰巨努力。正如扎克伯格发现的那样,掌握一个简单的发音都会花费好几年的时间。你充满热情上地去上课,几个月后会,当你只是试图跟人打招呼或者问别人的名字,迎来的却仍是不解的凝视,没有什么比这更让人心灵备受拷打了。

语法确实更加直观,但是如果没有规则的话,学习者就很难理解讲话者所说是哪一部分,也就是说,如果你不认识句子里的所有汉字,你也就无法猜到它的含义。

上刀山下火海
接下来是写作,汉语中没有字母表,你需要的是死记硬背汉字,然后将成千上万的汉字灌输到自己的大脑中。

任何一个进行英语写作的人都可以通过在脑海中回想发音而将单词拼写出来,但写汉字时,你必须努力记住要写多少笔画。

如果你给汉语教授一本书,让他读一篇文章,连他都会畏缩。当我的一个中国同事看手机上的信息时,他总会花费好几分钟来理解它的含义。

有朋自远方来不亦乐乎
幸运的是,中国人知道汉语是多么的难学,这也是为什么扎克伯格的努力获得了一致好评,我已经记不清有多少次,我憋足的汉语得到了人们的好评和赞扬,从出租车司机到政府官员。

在傲慢的外国人踏入中国的几十年(或者在中国人看来是几个世纪)不学汉语后,学习汉语也是一种值得发扬下去的对中国的尊重。

可悲的是,当你取得进步时,新奇感就会消退。在中国待了7年后,当初那些表扬并鼓励我的人们开始指责我音调不对,我把这当做一个需要改正以取得进步的标志,而不是简单的想赢得屈尊俯就的表扬,但不可否认,我怀念从前的日子。

愚公移山
中国有个寓言故事可以用来说明学习普通话需要同其做坚定不移的斗争。一位老人在90岁时开始搬运石头以夷平两座大山,考虑到这一巨大工程耗费的时间之久,而他所剩的时间无几,人们说他太傻,他说:“我死了有儿子,儿子死了还有孙子,孙子过后还有曾孙子,子子孙孙无穷无尽,而山又不会增大,为什么就不会夷平呢?”

不入虎穴焉得虎子
对于英国学生来说,学习汉语没有捷径。“简易中文”卡片是充满魅力,但它毕竟不是一颗神奇的子弹,你可能会记住几个汉字的象形图,但它不会教会你发音,并且非象形文字的海洋已经延伸到地平线了。

缩短学习汉语这一艰难过程的最好方法也是最直接的方法。当孩子们不再在英语课堂里学习普通话,这可能反而会激发他们想来中国游玩的好奇心。到了中国之后,如果他们找到了一个自己迷恋的地方,他们就会有个学习语言的良好机会。


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