Thoughts on Writing

虽不能至, 心向往之 – 我教英文寫作的心得


書法大師沈尹默(1883-1971)總是勸友人不要學他的字,”如果真要學,就找我的娘家去學”,沈的意思是,如果友人直接模仿他所景仰的書法家,他們得益將更多。沈的建議雖然有道理,但他一個學生卻認爲行不通: “老師,你的娘家家族可大呢,叫人一時如何學得了。”

作爲英文寫作導師的我,挺能從這個沈尹默故事得到啓發。在學生專注力下降的互聯網年代,指望他們多看書是不現實的,老師能做到的,是自己多看書,並努力模仿優秀作家的風格,這樣學生能通過模仿自己,間接地吸收來自衆多優秀作家的養分。

下面有三段文字,第一段是學生寫的一篇關於school lunch 的作文,第二段是我對學生文章的重寫,第三段來自我”娘家家族”成員之一,美國作家Michael Paterniti的一篇食評。

雖然你們能從我的重寫,看到 Paterniti 的影子,但我和他的差距不是一般的大。當然,我不會因此感到氣餒,因造詣高超如沈尹默也覺得自己比娘家成員遜色 – 這應是他老是勸友人直接向他娘家學習的原因!

Student 

My favourite time of the school isn’t lesson time, but lunch time. Lesson time is a torture, with maths being the most difficult and history being the most boring; lunch time is heavenly, best when roast chicken is served. On days when roast chicken is on the menu, before the lunch bell rings, we children can already smell its scent in the air. We then hear our hungry tummies rumbling.

My rewrite

Fire the school cook.

This is what my school would have to do if teachers want students to remain attentive in the period preceding lunch time, for our school cook is so adept at whipping up memorable meals that our minds and bodies begin yearning for his creations long before the lunch bell rings.

We already begin imagining the satisfying sensation of dislodging with our teeth the crispy skin off a roast chicken and having its warm juices burst in our face; the visual delight of a serving of lasagna so loaded with cheese that it arrives on a plate with cheesy strings clinging on all fronts; the pleasure of having our senses overpowered by whiffs of chicken korma as we place a spoonful of creamy curry near our lips. 

If only my teachers were as brilliant as the school cook in designing lessons and assignments that appeal to my interests and tastes, the entire school day would be my favourite time. 

Michael Paterniti:

“There was dried quinoa in a paper cone, and, when I tilted it back into my mouth, the quinoa lightly pelted my tongue and echoed in my ears like a fine rain turning crunchy.”

“The meal  ended in a strange, caramelized cube that I lifted with my thumb and forefinger and gently slid onto my tongue. Only after shattering it between my teeth did the object reveal itself: yogurt bursting from its candied shell in a warm, smooth flood.”

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