|http://www.sina.com.cn 2005/11/28 15:18 疯狂英语|
THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE 英语语言
Mr. Chairman, adjudicators, ladies and gentlemen,
The arrival of the year 1999 has brought with a near perfect opportunity to take a look back at the last one thousand years, assess man’s successes and failures, and look forward with our predictions of the third millennium.
Already this afternoon you’ve heard many assessments and you’ve heard a variety of predictions. A variety so vast, ranging from Lewis Carol’s depiction of celebratory life, to the Irish celebration of death. So vast a variety that it’s difficult to find any common ground amongst the contestants here today. Perhaps the only thing that we all share is that we are indeed discussing millennia, the old and the new and the turn of the millennium, and we’re all discussing it in the same language.
A few hundred years ago to have held an event like this it would have been imperative that we were all fluent in a number of different tongues, for the approach of combating the language barrier was simply to learn many different languages. Of course people back then had an ulterior motive: that was to ensure that different languages held their different societies or positions, or as King Charles V of Spain put it, “ I speak Spanish to God, Italian to women, French to men and German to my horse.”
Today our approach is somewhat different. Instead of trying to vastly spread our verbal ability across the board, we’ve chosen rather to focus it, concentrating on our ability to master one particular language, the English language. Time magazine recently suggested that by the turn of the millennium, English will be the Lingua Franca for one quarter of the world’s population. Already today sixty percents of the world’s television and radio broadcasts are produced and delivered in English. Seventy percents of the world’s mail addressed in English. And it is the language of choice for almost every bite of computer data sent across the globe.
But why English? There are no clear linguistic reasons for its suggested global dominance, certainly the grammar is complicated, the spelling peculiar and the pronunciation eccentric, to say the very least. One would need only look through the dictionary to find the vast list of amusing paradoxes in the English language—quicksand that works slowly, a boxing ring that is in fact square and a guinea pig that’s really neither from Guinea nor is it a pig. Doesn’t it seem odd that one can make amends but not one amend. Or go through the annals of history but not one annal. The reason, ladies and gentlemen, is simple. English is strange, but no where near as strange as some of our alternatives.
Perhaps I should give you a few idiomatic examples. In English we say “once in a blue moon”. The Italian choose instead “every death of a Pope”. Irish doesn’t like our “drop dead”, replacing it rather with the slightly more obscure “you should lie in the earth.” And if you wanted to tell someone off in Spanish our relatively obvious “go fly a kite” would be better served by the phrase “go fry asparagus”. English’s primary advantage is that of flexibility. On the one hand it has the largest vocabulary of all modern languages, allowing us, as its users, to say exactly what we want in exactly the words we choose to use. On the other, globalization has insured the introduction of a business English, a sort of trimmed down variety of the language we’ve all come to know and love.
It’s interesting to know that the simple list of just ten words, words like “a”, “and”, “have” and “the”, combined to form one quarter of all those ever used in modern communication. Perhaps the real test is: will the global adoption of English as a master language insure the eradication of any misunderstandings that happen today? The answer is not as simple. Russell Hoven once asked: “How many people speak the same language even when they speak the same language?” But one can only hope that our only aim and our only chance of insuring that we communicate effectively with each other is to make sure that we do speak one universal language. In a thousand years time Western clocks will hopefully have ticked onto the year 2999 and we can be assured that scientists, academics and futurists will convene, much like we’ve done today to look back at the third millenium and offer their predictions for the successes of the forth.
It’s impossible to imagine what they might say, impossible to imagine what technology they’ll have available or even which planet they’ll hold the meeting on. In fact, quite possibly the only thing we can say for sure is that they’ll be discussing the issues in one common universal language. And that will be the language of the third millennium. And that language without any doubt looks set to be English. Thank you.
但为什么是英语？对于它的全球化没有明确的语言学的原因。诚然它的语法是复杂的，拼写是独特的，发音是古怪的。就拿最基本的说，只要查一查字典，你就能发现一大串逗人的似非而是的隽语——quicksand反而慢腾腾，boxing ring 原来是方的，guinea pig不是来自几内亚，也不是猪。一个人可以说 “make amends”，但却不能说 “one amend”，这不是很奇怪吗？你可以翻阅一本史册，但却不能把“一本史册”说成 “one annal”。其中的原因，女士们，先生们，是很简单的，英语够奇怪的了，但是对于另外一些说法就更奇怪了。
也许我该给大家举出几个成语例子。“千载难逢”用英语我们说“once in a blue moon” 。在意大利语中则成了“every death of a Pope”。爱尔兰人不喜欢把“死亡”说成 “drop dead”，而用 “you should lie in the earth”表达得更委婉。如果你想用西班牙语指责某人“放空头支票”，那么最好是用 “go fry asparagus” ，而不是相对较直白地说 “go fly a kite”。英语最基本的优势在于它的灵活性。一方面，它有着所有现代语言中最丰富的词汇表，允许我们这些使用者能用最恰当的词汇恰如其分地表达出我们的所想。另一方面，全球化使得商业英语的介入成为必然，一种我们都将能懂得和喜爱的简化语言。
有意思的是，简单的十个词，如 “a”, “and”, “have” 和“the”，组合起来就是能形成现代交际中所用的词汇的四分之一。也许真正的问题是，作为一种主要语言的英语的全球化真能消除今天的种种误解吗？答案并不是那么简单。拉塞尔·霍文曾问道：“即使是在说同一种语言，有多少人说的是相同的语言呢？”但有一点可以确定的是，确定我们相互之间能有效地沟通的唯一的目的和机会，就是我们在说同一种世界语。在一千年内，西方的时钟将滴答着走向2999年，我们也将肯定，科学家、学者和未来主义者将集合起来，就像我们今天所做的，回顾第三个一千年，并展望第四个一千年的辉煌成就。
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