Thoughts on Writing 中文文章

文字的脈象

我在大陸居住期間,有幸遇上一位好中醫,被她針灸的過程神奇極了:每當她给我施針,我皮下一感到一股流動的氣,她就會立馬停手,她似乎知道已刺進穴位,不需要把針插得更深。

我在大陸居住期間,有幸遇上一位好中醫,被她針灸的過程神奇極了:每當她给我施針,我皮下一感到一股流動的氣,她就會立馬停手,她似乎知道已刺進穴位,不需要把針插得更深。她是寡言的人,但有一次我還是忍不住打擾她,問:「你怎麽知道你的針插對了地方?」 她只回了我一句:「有些東西是說不出來的啊。」

適逢深冬的一天,她剛洗完手就給我把脈,她一按我手腕就責怪自己,自言自語地說:「我的手太冷了,什麽都感覺不到。」

這位中醫看事情的角度令我十分好奇,等到我教授英文寫作,要琢磨怎麽做一個好老師,我就想起她那隻還沒「恢復體溫」的手:我也同樣要保持我對文字的熱愛,才能感染學生,使他們寫作時更勇敢面對空白的電腦屏幕。

後來我讀到Viriginia Woolf參加美術評論家Roger Fry的一場演講後寫的觀後感,我對教學的認知又再上了一個台階。上世紀初,法國後印象派的畫,就是由Fry通過一場又一場的展覽和講座介紹給相對保守的英國人,Woolf 這樣形容Fry演講時的場景:

For two hours (Fry’s audience) had been looking at pictures. But they had seen one of which the lecturer himself was unconscious — the outline of a man against the screen, an ascetic figure in evening dress who paused and pondered, and then raised his stick and pointed. That was a picture that would remain in memory together with the rest, a rough sketch that would serve many of the audience in years to come as the portrait of a great critic, a man of profound sensibility but of exacting honesty, who, when reason could penetrate no further, broke off; but was convinced, and convinced others, that what he saw was there.

Fry 的演講令畫作在聽衆前活靈活現,而這本身就是一幅動人之作。這給了我一個啟示:前衛的畫作也好,文學也好,中醫也好,精髓都有只可意會、不可言傳的一面。當我給學生上課,就算不能徹底說明白優秀文章布局之巧妙,但我在講解過程中對作者自然流露的崇敬,在學生眼中也是一道風景。

當然,很多時候,中國人學英文寫作,最好的教材不是好文筆而是爛文筆,我這裏指的不是英文課本裏錯文法的例句。中國人寫英文,常犯的不僅僅是文法上的錯,而是下筆前思路就出了問題,有時是混淆了什麽,有時是忽略了什麽,畢竟英文不是他們的母語。文法上的錯容易糾正,但思路上的錯,老師往往需要抽絲剝繭,才能解釋清楚。

以下這些「病句」來自《南華早報》一位中國專欄作家,它們幾乎沒文法錯誤,但在我眼中是「病句」,是因作者走進英文的語境後,有點水土不服,所以她的句子讀起來不大地道(斜體為專欄原文):

That well explains (Carrie) Lam’s sudden return to visibility and decision to end the month-long summer break — or “summer hibernation”, as some sarcastically put it — of her de facto cabinet, the Executive Council. She also asked Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po to consider rolling out contingency relief measures to help affected businesses

此段除了語法有瑕疵,文意也不連貫,說完林鄭重現公衆视野,即跳至考慮援助企業。我現以英文稍加點評:

“That well explains Lam’s sudden return to visibility” should have been “that may well explain Lam’s sudden return to visibility”. I suspect the author meant to use “may well explain”, but she had also heard of the expression “well-explained,” and she somehow got the two mixed up.

Note the incongruity of putting in the same paragraph Lam’s reappearance in public and her request to the Financial Secretary that he should consider offering contingency aid to businesses affected by the protests. Lam’s weeks-long disappearing act was a serious issue, as it meant no one was at the helm of one of the world’s major financial capitals while it was in crisis. Lam’s truancy and a stray provisional financial aid scheme — these two matters are of such a different order of importance that second sentence strikes the reader as a random afterthought the author added for reasons known only to her.

中醫師徐文兵說,用心把脈的中醫,能觸碰到病人的心神,當一個中醫的治療一步一步被證實是有效的,他就能每天沉浸在天人合一、替天行道的感覺,享受發自內心的喜悅。這種喜悅是這麼多中醫長壽的原因。 此觀點不來自徐本人,而是來自《黃帝內經》裏一段有關把脈的說明,徐只是把那段文字用最通俗易懂的話解釋。原文為「故善為脈者,謹察五臟六腑,一逆一從,陰陽表裏,雌雄之紀,藏之心意,合心於精……是謂得道」,看起來似乎虛無縹緲,但經歷過教學生活後,這句話反而成了我教授英文寫作的心法:借用望聞問切的理念去教,去診斷病句,雖然很費神,但一直做下去,說不定哪天能「得道」!

I'm Michelle Ng (吳若琦), an Oxford-educated bilingual political writer and English writing coach based in Hong Kong. I'm currently an English columnist for Apple Daily and Ming Pao, and a Chinese columnist for 眾新聞. I have written for Hong Kong Free Press, The Wall Street Journal and The Vancouver Sun. 

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