20140124

語文憾事

〈文言範文的有限作用〉一文在《主場新聞》轉載,有讀者以英文留言,意思是:「你選擇了讓兒子在英語國家長大,香港這邊的中文教育問題,干卿底事?」這一問,其實說中了我的一件憾事。

我喜歡美國的生活,也慶幸兒子在這個民主社會成長和接受較自由的教育,然而,對於兒子到現在還是只能寫簡單的中文,我引以為憾。我不是替他選擇英文為第一語言,我只是選擇留在一個英語國家,而英文無可避免成為了他的第一語言。這是一個很大的分別,如果我可以決定兒子的第一語言,我會要他先學好中文,才學英文。

事實上,我們家裏只講粵語,因此我兒子到現在還能操流利粵語,雖然詞彙不夠豐富,而且帶點「鬼仔口音」,但到香港時可以純用粵語跟人溝通,算是不錯的了。他小時候我們有教他背誦《三字經》和唐詩,認字寫字也有教,但進度緩慢;他上到高中後選修了中文,才逐漸進步得快一點,但始終是缺乏中文的語言環境,很難學得好。

這是我的憾事,因為我喜愛中文,認為中文的文史哲作品是一個大寶藏;兒子中文不好,就等於沒有進入藏寶室的鑰匙,那是多可惜啊!讀翻譯也許能彌補一二,然而,多神妙的翻譯,也無法傳達「落花人獨立,微雨燕雙飛」之美、「小舟從此逝,江海寄餘生」之慨、「君問窮通理,漁歌入浦深」之達。還有過癮的金庸武俠小說,老爸數十萬言的中文文章,我兒看來都無福消受了。

我也用英文寫作,程度還可以;雖然英文亦我所愛也,但對中文的感情卻深厚得多。英文是我的第二語言,我到讀碩士時才著力於英文,也能進步神速;假如我的母語是英文,長大後才學中文,相信不會達到和我現在的英文相應的程度。作為第二語言,中文比英文難學得多了。

香港中文教育的癥結,當然和教育制度有關,但大部份家長不重視中文,也許才是死症。假如父母愛做假洋人,自己做不成,也想子女做,那麼,子女自然看輕中文。在這樣的社會風氣裏,中文課程是否包括文言範文,分別不會很大。如果換了另一股風氣,中英都被重視,有些家長便不會介意子女先學好中文,然後才專攻英文(雖然英文是同時學習,但不會專注於英文);這些小孩子長大後,中英文俱佳的機會便高得多了。

17 則留言:

  1. English is not Ah Lok's first language. It is his preferred language. I believe his mother speaks to him in Cantonese.- the first language he learnt is Chinese. Cantonese is his mother tongue. This is my understanding of first language. The language a child FIRST learnt. My children were born in Canada and we speak Cantonese at home. The principal in my sons' school told me that my sons' first language is Chinese not English. May be it is different in USA.

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    1. The term 'first language' can mean different things. I know in Canada it is often used to refer to the first language a person earned at home in childhood and still understands. But it can also be used to refer to the language a person speaks the best and most naturally. I am using the term in the latter sense here.

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    2. yes, it's true that the term "first language" is ambiguous, even to researchers. but even in the field of Second Language Acquisition, labels like "L1" and "L2" for "native language" and "acquired language" are still used for convenience's sake. what's more descriptive and accurate, however, is to discuss language fluency in terms of not which language is learned first, but of which language a person is most comfortable with (and so proficient in). of course, it just so happens that for the vast majority of people, what they speak at home is more or less what they speak in school and, later in life, at work, so what's their first language (i.e. "mother tongue") is also what they are most fluent in.

      but we can take this even further to say that how early a language is learned actually has no bearing on how fluent the person is when using that language. many people are more fluent in their "second language" (or third/fourth/whatever ones) if that language has become the "dominant language", meaning that they communicate in it the most for both their professional and private lives and as a result has become the most fluent in it, hence someone who's spent significant number of years abroad could lose considerable fluency in their [yes, i use "they" as a singular pronoun whenever necessary] native language.

      sorry for being verbose, but there's yet another oft-overlooked (and interesting) side to this "bilingualism" debate. i personally don't really believe that there are indeed true "bilinguals" for a very simple reason: we all have only 24 hours a day and we all can interact with only our immediate surroundings, but what we speak (and how we speak) at home is very different from what we do at school and vice versa, so unless a child has the luxury of having both proficiently bilingual parents and going to a bilingual school (and when as an adult has worked in both cultures), it's unlikely that the child could learn all the nuances between the formal vs. informal varieties of a language. (of course, if you had the resources, it's conceivable that it can be done, but most people don't, so...)

      admittedly, this bar is very high (and perhaps impractically so), but i do believe that once people realize what a tall order it is to be "bilingual" for most people, they'd go easier on themselves and actually have a healthier attitude toward both their L1 and L2 (the chinese are not the only ones who have hang-up's about english; almost everyone who's not a native English speaker does). in doing so, their learning experience might be more enjoyable and their own performance should accordingly improve.

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    3. Thank you for your thoughtful comments.

      // i personally don't really believe that there are indeed true "bilinguals" //

      - Your standards are probably too high. I would consider myself bilingual even though I speak English with a rather strong Cantonese accent.

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  2. 可能不少華人家長都有這個「毛病」:在英語國家的家長很想小朋友也學會中文;但在中文國家的家長則很想其小朋友學會英文,否則可能也認為是「憾事」。莫非有如俗話所說的「隔鄰飯香」?

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  3. //假如父母愛做假洋人,自己做不成,也想子女做,那麼//
    便更應鼓勵
    //子女先學好中文,然後才專攻英文//.
    母語也學不好,想學好第二語言,頗難. 請位洋人天天補習吧, 把洋文変成第一語言.

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  4. 如果香港的父母能有您這樣的視野就好了,那麼下一代也就有希望。

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    1. 社會風氣和教育制度也是重要的因素。

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  5. 對於王公子本人而言,無法通往中國文化的寶庫,大概跟無法通往阿拉伯或者印度的傳統文化寶庫一樣,未必一定係好大損失。

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    1. 你說得對,所以我說這是「我的」憾事。

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  6. first language second language 。。。。。how about mother tongue !!!

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    1. "Mother tongue" is ambiguous too.

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  7. //如果換了另一股風氣,中英都被重視,有些家長便不會介意子女先學好中文,然後才專攻英文(雖然英文是同時學習,但不會專注於英文);這些小孩子長大後,中英文俱佳的機會便高得多了。//

    不少教授覺得有很多大陸和臺灣的學生中英文俱佳。這些地區中英並重,不知道是不是一個佐證。

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    1. 我接觸過的大陸和臺灣學生不多。

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    2. In terms of TOEFL scores among Asian countries, Hong Kong is better than mainland China and Taiwan, but worse than Bangladesh, Bhutan, Malaysia, Pakistan, Philippines, India, and Singapore, in that order.

      For the full report, http://www.ets.org/Media/Research/pdf/test_score_data_summary_2009.pdf

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    3. If we compare the whole mainland with Hong Kong, I think it is obvious that Hong Kong students' English is better (considering that so many students in mainland don't receive very good English education). But I think we should compare Hong Kong with, for example, Shanghai or Beijing.

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