20110512

楊鐵樑教英文

今天無意中「撞進」一個叫《楊鐵樑留言信箱》的網站,原來是曾任香港最高法院首席大法官、亦參選過特首的楊鐵樑爵士教人英文的地方。我好奇看了好些讀者的來信和楊官的回覆,得出兩個可能的結論:(1) 那些回覆不是楊官寫的 (2) 楊官的英文不算好。

那些回覆有講得不妥當的地方,英文也不夠地道。讓我先舉幾個回覆得不妥當的例子:

1. 讀者問 "novel" 和 "fiction" 的分別,回覆只是簡單地說 "As far as I can tell, novel must be of book length, a fiction can be a novel or just a story" 。

- "Novel" 前面少了 "a",就當他一時手快打漏了字(他也有好幾次在應該用 "every day" 時打了 "everyday")。可是,"fiction" 用來指小說時,一般是指小說這個文學類別,是個不可數名詞,前面不能加 "a"(但可以寫 "a work of fiction" 或 "a book of fiction")。當 "fiction" 前面可以加 "a" 時,一般不是指小說而是指謊言或虛構出來騙人的故事。"Fiction" 當 "novel" 用也可以,例如說 "two fictions" 而不說 "two novels",但這用法很罕見。

2. 讀者問 "It's me" 對還是 "It's I" 對,回覆斬釘截鐵地說後者才對。

- 根據文法,的確是 "It's I" 才對,但在口語裏幾乎所有人都會說 "It's me" ,反而說 "It's I" 則會令人覺得怪怪的。

3. 讀者問 "have to" 和 "must" 的分別,回覆說 "must – more formal; have to – less formal" 。

- "have to" 和 "must" 的分別,要花很長篇幅才可以講清楚,我只能簡單地說以上的答案是錯的;有興趣的讀者可以參看 Michael Swan 的 Practical English Usage, 2nd edition (OUP 1995), pp.344-345.

再看兩段回覆中寫得不地道的英文:

4. "E-mail often uses abbreviated or incorrect forms. The prime object of the E-mail is to make the message simple and short, so incorrect grammar and spelling are often used, so long as the meaning is clear."

- 這幾句不但英文有問題,連思路也有問題,好像是說為了把電郵寫得簡短,就要犯文法和拼字錯誤!我會這樣寫:"People often use incorrect grammar or abbreviated forms of spelling in emails when they try to keep the message simple and short. This is considered acceptable as long as the meaning of the message is clear."

5. “English names are popular simply because we use English language with foreigners. In Macau, some have Portuguese names. Some people have French names. You may use any name you prefer, but I suppose that you adopt a foreign name which is easy for your foreign friends to pronounce and remember. If, for example, you live in Russia, you'd probably adopt a Russian name.”

- 最明顯的錯誤是 "English language" 前面欠了 "the" (其實用 "English" 便成了);"suppose" 亦用得不妥。兒子剛走進我的書房,我懶得再花神,便叫他來改寫這幾句,肯定夠地道;他這樣改:"English names are common simply because we often use English to communicate with foreigners. In Macau, some of the native Chinese have adopted Portuguese names. Some Chinese even have French names. You may adopt any foreign name you like, but I would advise you to adopt one that would be easy for foreigners to pronounce and remember. For example, if you were living in Russia, you’d most likely adopt a Russian name."

30 則留言:

  1. 看來楊官回覆詢問時,是用了他的所謂email體英文。

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  2. Because my husband follows some of the RTHK radio programs, we often catch the radio version of 《楊鐵樑留言信箱》. We had so many "are you kidding me?" moments while listening to the program that we decided that it had to be some sort of a running joke. One example - he was so completely off with the meaning of the expression "take a chill pill" (he took it literally) that we didn't know if we should laugh or cry....

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  3. Chris,

    //看來楊官回覆詢問時,是用了他的所謂email體英文。//

    - 除此之外,就是不地道,看不順眼。

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  4. lin,

    I couldn't believe how bad his English is when I read what he wrote.

    There is no such thing as a chill pill, so how could he take the expression literally?

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  5. 我在香港政府工作了17年,見到很多高官能夠寫「刀筆吏」式的英文,夠長又夠絕,就是不能寫有血有肉的日常英文。

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  6. "chill" "pill" = "cold" "medicine"

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  7. Chris,

    //我在香港政府工作了17年,見到很多高官能夠寫「刀筆吏」式的英文,夠長又夠絕,就是不能寫有血有肉的日常英文。//

    - 所以所謂英文好並不是那麼簡單的一回事。

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  8. 弊咯,首席大法官都咁,0係香港點先學得好英文呀?

    //楊官退休後,不是遊山玩水或飲飲食食,而是把《說岳全傳》,《桃花扇》及《官場現形記》等翻譯成英文,以及到中小學教英文,並到港台做《楊鐵樑留言信箱》節目,一眨眼便八年。//
    http://news.hkheadline.com/dailynews/headline_news_detail_columnist.asp?id=147120&section_name=wtt&kw=15

    八年了,竟沒有人「修理」楊官,是香港太缺乏有識之士,還是大家太過給面子?

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  9. lin,

    //"chill" "pill" = "cold" "medicine"//

    - Unbelievable!

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  10. Meshi,

    //弊咯,首席大法官都咁,0係香港點先學得好英文呀?//

    - 真的很離譜,但他顯然認為自己英文了得,才會在電台教人!

    //八年了,竟沒有人「修理」楊官,是香港太缺乏有識之士,還是大家太過給面子?//

    - 我也覺得很奇怪。

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  11. 請問一條邏輯問題,一間房間內有三個人,他們三個人的臉都是污的。有一個人跟他們三人說他們之中至少有一人的臉是污的,在沒有任何言語交流下,他們三人用了邏輯推論的方式推論。最後,他們都知道他們自己是污的。為何?。求一個詳細的解釋(要step by step)! Thx, Mr. Wong!

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  12. Meshi,王sir,

    這樣說來,跟文明大國前總統布x先生的英文水平不相伯仲、彼此彼此啦,大家見怪不怪囉。

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  13. Charles Mak,

    //請問一條邏輯問題,一間房間內有三個人,他們三個人的臉都是污的。有一個人跟他們三人說他們之中至少有一人的臉是污的,在沒有任何言語交流下,他們三人用了邏輯推論的方式推論。最後,他們都知道他們自己是污的。為何?。//

    - 如果這就是全部資料,那麼我不認為他們可以推論出他們的臉都是污的。他們三人不能溝通,但他們是否可以和那另一人溝通?

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  14. Kelvin Yip,

    //這樣說來,跟文明大國前總統布x先生的英文水平不相伯仲、彼此彼此啦,大家見怪不怪囉。//

    - 布殊只是表達力的問題吧。

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  15. //請問一條邏輯問題,一間房間內有三個人,他們三個人的臉都是污的。有一個人跟他們三人說他們之中至少有一人的臉是污的,在沒有任何言語交流下,他們三人用了邏輯推論的方式推論。最後,他們都知道他們自己是污的。為何?。//

    Let me add some assumptions:
    (a) They were clever and kind
    (b) They kept silent for a long while and then they managed to draw the conclusion.

    Assume that there were three people A,B and C in the room.

    Case 1.
    A: clean / B: dirty / C: dirty
    A could answer the question immediately.

    Case 2.
    A: clean / B: dirty / C: dirty

    In this situation, A was confused.

    B found that A was clean and C was silent for a short while. So, B knew that his head was dirty. Otherwise, C could answer immediately.

    Case 3.
    A, B and C were not managed to reply in a short while. The only possible situation was that they were all dirty.

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  16. 謝謝這篇。我發覺很多人只相信所謂的experts,而忘了用common sense和knowledge去judge or make a decision。

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  17. 很多人說楊鐵樑英文好,可能只是因為他是最高法院首席大法官。

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  18. hello, just pop in your blog.

    could you elaborate a bit why, on question 2, "It's I" is correct, without considering it just sounds weird?

    thanks very much!

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  19. 唔...自問只是一個普通的大學生,英文實在算不上好,但楊官寫的的實...在看不過眼.不是說當大律師的英文都要很好的嗎?
    老實說,上述的例子,即使叫我寫我也會有信心寫得比他順耳呢...

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  20. Holly,

    //唔...自問只是一個普通的大學生,英文實在算不上好,但楊官寫的的實...在看不過眼.不是說當大律師的英文都要很好的嗎?
    老實說,上述的例子,即使叫我寫我也會有信心寫得比他順耳呢...//

    - 我相信在香港英文比楊官(假如上述文字真的是他寫的)寫得好的人多的是。

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  21. I think 毛孟靜 is going a much better job teaching English (and something actually useful):

    http://www.youtube.com/user/MsClaudiaMo#p/u/20/NIt-z9yr1WY

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  22. lin,

    It looks like her program focuses on speaking rather than writing.

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  23. Oops! I mean "doing" not "going" up there.

    It seems that she infuses new/media literacy with the teaching of vocabulary/expressions.

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  24. http://hk.news.yahoo.com/article/110515/3/obvn.html

    楊鐵樑近年大力推動英語,最近他出書《品味英語》講學英文..............

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  25. hahah 原本仲想留言問楊官英文, 睇到 blog 主的呢篇文, 我決定問下 blog 主先, 如果 blog 主唔介意, 希望可以回答呢~~~原問題如下--

    I would like to ask about the difference between "seating plan" and "sitting plan". I have looked up different explanations, but I could not find a satisified answer.
    Which one should be more correct if I want to indicate a layout of which seat sits by which student? Or is it actually just a difference bewteen formal english and American english, that both are acceptable?
    Thank you very mcuh!

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    1. 如果是「安排座位」的意思,動詞是 "seat" 而不是 "sit",因此應是 "seating plan" 而非 "sitting plan";這個字典也可查到,而事實上我也沒見過 "sitting plan" 這用法。

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  26. I thought I just heard him talking about a novel called "The Piano Turner"....

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    1. Wrong pronunciation or ignorance?

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