language texts

Publié le par chrislzh

One problem with language textbooks is the texts. Kinda dumb statement, right? But all of us who’ve studied languages, regardless of the language, has had this problem: books full of boring texts, inane dialogues, and characters so devoid of personality you’d rather strike up a conversation with a slice of stale bread. And quite a few language textbooks seem to be have been written by people who collectively can muster less culture than the contents of my fridge.

 

Oh, alright, my fridge would provide some reasonable entertainment (and perhaps a thesis or two), for a microbiologist, but the point stands.

 

Well, the Chinese book I’m using at the moment, 《核心阅读中基本》, edited by 刘颂洁 and 林欢, published by 华语教学出版社,being a reading text, manages to avoid the “characters”, thank God. And the texts are pitched at about the right level for me, but sometimes it can be tough going, like wading through knee deep sand towards an oasis that consistently turns out to be a mirage. Some of the texts are just that dry. The texts are taken from a wide variety of ‘real world’ sources, from ancient to modern, but I guess the fact that in the (bit at the end of each text where they acknowledge the source- what’s the fucking word?!?!?!?!), they almost always write 有改动 should indicate that a lot of the interesting, juicy stuff has been deemed beyond my level and edited out. They’re probably right. Still, it can be a hard slog. And for a fundamentally lazy bastard such as myself, keeping up the motivation can be even more difficult.

 

Hah! But at least it’s not like that Russian video series, produced in about Gorbi’s time, if I remember rightly, my lecturer foisted on us poor, unsuspecting, innocent souls back in the days when Otago boasted the best (and definitely coolest, if slightly twisted) Russian department in Aotearoa. I will never forget this middle-aged, but apparently footloose and fancy-free cartoon American in raptures over the service on Aeroflot (because he couldn’t understand shit, and just repeated ‘da’), then went into absolute ecstasy over what he could possibly see from his room at the Moscow Hotel (only to come crashing back down to earth when he heard St Basil’s would be hidden from view, but ever the optimist/junky with a never ending supply….) and then, having been taken in a crapped out old Lada into the happy Soviet countryside by a ‘friend’, reached positively orgasmic heights at the sight of a milk tanker labeled in big, bright, blue letters: “Vkusno moloko” (Yes, that was ‘vkusno’ as an adverb. I too had doubts about the grammar, but the lecturer shrugged it off and moved on…). The memory of this guy shouting “Vkusno moloko!” as if he were calling the name of his lover just as he reached his climax in the best love-making session of his life is burned in my brain as if the words had been branded directly onto my prefrontal cortex with flaming magnesium.

 

Shudder.

 

Moving right along…..

 

Anyway, over the last couple of days I’ve come across texts in this book whose subject matter I actually find quite interesting. Here they are:

 

From the 课外阅读 at the end of 第五单元:

 

声调的作用

 

汉语是有声调的语言,声调不同,词义也不同。除了辨别词义以外,声调在有的语言里还具有语法功能。尼日利亚南部埃多语的[i ma] 两音节都读低调是“我显示”,前高后低是“我正在显示”,前低后高是“我已经显示”,前后音节高低变化区分了动词的不同时态。古代汉语中不同声调代表不同词类的现象相当普遍,例如“衣”yi1,“王”wang2,“雨”yu3,都是名词,读成去声(第四声),就都变成了动词。 现代汉语也还存在这种现象,北京话“墙上钉着个钉子”“背上背着个包袱”,都是依靠声调来分辨动词和名词。但是在现代汉语里,这种现象并不是系统的存在的。

       (选自林(character I can’t find, again),王理嘉《语音学教程》“绪论”,有改动。北京大学出版社,1992年。)

 

第六单元,课文一:

 

阅读和写作

 

读和写之间,读是写的基础,必须在多读的基础上进行写的训练。什么是读?从语文角度讲,所谓读,一是吸收,一是观摩。学习别人的语言,积累丰富的语言材料,这就是吸收;学习别人的写作经验,这就是观摩。有了语言材料,有了别人的经验,再根据自己的实际需要去写,才能写得好。光写不读,写作能力不能提高。比如唱戏,学唱戏不开口唱固然不行,不常听别人唱也不行;又比如学打乒乓球,不动手打固然不行,光自己对着墙打,不看人家打,技术也不能提高。

       (选自张志公“语法修辞和阅读协作”。《阅读和写作》,老舍,谢冰心等著,语文出版社,1992年。)

 

第六单元,课文二:

 

向名家请教?

 

我青年时,如痴如醉的爱好文艺,也写一点文章投稿。但从来没有想到向名叫请教,给人家写信,更没有机会去拜访名家。也可能是因为当时没有写出像样的东西,更没有出过书,没有资格这样做。若干年以后,能出书了,也没有给名人送过书。编刊物,也很少向名人约稿。只是守株待兔,等候着青年人的投稿。所以身在文艺界,和文艺界的名人接触不多。

       在延安时,我发表几篇小说以后,周扬同志曾到我的住处,看望我一次。也没有地方坐,站着和我说了几句话,就走了。当时我是鲁艺文学系的教员,她是院长。

       那时鲁艺名家如林,我也不记得到谁的住处闲谈了。我自幼性格孤僻,总是愿意独来独往。

       我认为,别的艺术门类,或许需要名家亲手指点,文学一事,只要认真读名家的作品,就可以了。千古名师,也无非叫你多读多写。文学,全靠自身的素质和坚韧的努力。

       (选子孙犁“芸斋琐谈。文宗”。《孙犁散文选集》,金梅编,百花文艺出版社,1993年。)

 

Alright, so there you have it, the three texts in this book I’ve come across so far that interest me most. As you can see, they’re kinda skimpy on details. Well, there probably is a fair bit of subtlety to these texts that I’m missing. I’m trying to drag my reading skills up by their own bootstraps, and I don’t have a teacher to help me understand the intricacies of these texts (lzh helps me with writing and sometimes checks my answers to the comprehension questions, but I don’t think she’s ever done more than scan the texts to check the answers and complain about how vague Chinese writing is). I would certainly like to read more on the subjects raised in these texts, but I have to admit, that’s probably a bit beyond me right now. And it would not be good to get into too specialised an area until I’ve got my general reading going good.

 

But at the same time I often catch myself thinking there could be more out there. Maybe I could pick up a magazine or newspaper or magazine, flip through, find a few articles that interest me, and work through them? Perhaps I could sit down with a few of these bilingual editions of Lu Xun’s, Lao She’s, and Ba Jin’s work I have and work through the Chinese side properly (instead of occasionally glancing at the Chinese when I’m curious about how something was put in the original)?

 

Alright, I know I can’t go jumping ahead of myself. That would be seriously counterproductive. But at the same time, I can’t help thinking back to some advice one of my Russian lecturers gave my class one day: He said one day he decided to just buy some monumentally huge Russian novel, I think maybe it was even War and Peace, sat down with a dictionary, and waded through. He reckoned that approach worked wonders for his Russian. And I certainly would like to expand the range of my Chinese reading and inject a little bit more life into what I read.

 

Hmmmm…. All things to think about. I think for now I’ll just stick with the textbook and the very little Chinese online. Next step would be to make ‘News in Chinese’ a daily habit (what’s the address?). No need to rush, but I certainly need to maintain the momentum.

Publié dans chrislzh

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