冯亦代《我的第一位美国老师》 -经典散文英译-中英双语赏析

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我的第一位美国老师

冯亦代

如今,每逢我打开一本英文书时,眼前马上会浮起我那第一位美国老师的神态。一九二九年我从初中毕业,考进了杭州闻名的美国浸礼会学校——蕙兰中学。这个学校以学风端正见称,而特别引人注意的是,它请美国老师直接教授英语。我初中是在杭州安定中学毕业的,这个学校也以英语教学出名;不过它只是一所初中,没有高中,所以我不得不去投考蕙兰中学的高中了。

在蕙兰,英文开始读的书,读本是(1)英国作家查理·兰姆的《莎士比亚故事集》,和商务印书馆的《泰西五十轶事》,以后则是厚厚的一本《现代世界》。最后一本书我们读了三个学期,是本世界地理书,这除了读英语,还培养了我关心世界大事的习惯。

文法书则读《纳氏文法》第三册。这几本书除了《现代世界》,都是英国人(2)编写的,水平比当时一般中学读的较为高深(3)。

我对查理·兰姆的《莎士比亚故事集》特别感到兴趣,老师还没有讲完,可是我自己却念完了,所以每次老师测验,我总名列前茅,因此受到老师的注意(4)。我们的美国老师姓埃德加,名字则现在已记不清。她那时已有三四十岁了,身材不高,而体型已经开始发胖了(5)。她性格十分和善,即使对着我们这批毛孩子,她也是十分腼腆的。但是她教书很严格,每逢学生没有准备好功课,或是测验的成绩不好,她总涨红着脸,数说学生们不用功。她的口头禅:“祷告上帝,饶恕这批孩子们。”

她是美国浸礼会派来教书的,兼带着传教的任务,所以每逢礼拜日下午,她组成了一个查经班(Bible class),选了一批英语较为用功的学生去参加;因为她自己不会讲中国话,所以班里都要用英语对话。

我在查经班里曾经闹过一个笑话,这个笑话对于我以后学英语应注意的地方,是十分有用的。那天我们上班时,天忽然乌云四合,不久便下了瓢泼大雨。我当时正在学副词,只记了个副词可以形容动词。于是我说:It’s raining hardly。这时埃德加小姐便说:It’s raining hard。可是第一次我还没有听明白,再说一句It’s raining hardly。埃德加小姐严肃地看了我一眼,又说一句It’s raining hard。我猛然感觉到自己一定把hardly这个字用错了,但还不知道错在哪里。当时我没有再说话,可是心里很不安。下课后埃德加温和地对我说,读书时要勤查字典,明白各个字的不同变化。她不是在班上直接指出我的错误,如果这样做,肯定我下不了台。但是她要我自己发现错误,并由自己改正。这个故事给我的教训颇为深刻,导致我以后勤查字典的习惯。事情已经过去半个多世纪,但这个教训还深深埋在我的记忆里。每逢我读书不求甚解时,便提醒自己快去查字典,不但对英语如此,就是对汉语也是如此。

从此我和她的感情极为融洽。高中二三年级时,正是中国的“九一八”和“一二八”,学生大都投入爱国救亡运动,我则更是忙碌,担任着杭州学生联合会的宣传工作,但我对于学习英语还是不放松,当然查经班是没有时间去了。有次课后她要回宿舍,我陪她走了一程。她说:“我知道你很忙,但我希望你不要把英语荒废掉(6)。对于一种第二国语言,你不用,便很容易忘掉。不过我也觉得你参加学生运动,是应该的。我只有为你祈祷上帝,降福于你。”她曾经希望我做个基督徒,但那时我已接受了一些新思想(7),因此认为并无必要,她也只能长叹一声,自责她的祈祷不诚,所以我还不是个基督徒。

一九三二年她回国,我到码头送行,她含着眼泪对我说:我将天天给你祈祷,愿上帝降福于你。我和她一直通信到一九三六年,这以后我各地奔波,便断了音讯。但我始终怀念着她。

一九八〇年我去美国,曾向浸礼会探询她的消息,他们给我去查,最后告诉我她已于一九四六年去世。

她是我第一个美国教师,但使我永远不忘的,是她对于我的一番情谊。现在我老了,我总觉得我欠了她些什么,也许就是我不同意她的信仰吧(8)!

My First American Teacher

Feng Yidai

Whenever I open an English book,the image of my first American teacher will immediately appear before my eyes.In 1929,on finishing junior middle school,I was admitted after an examination to Huilan Middle School in Hangzhou.Established by the American Baptist Church,it was known for its good academic atmosphere.Strikingly enough,it had English lessons taught solely by American teachers.Anding,my junior middle school,was also known for its English language teaching,but,to complete my entire middle school education,I had to get transferred to Huilan,a senior middle school.

At Huilan,my English lessons began with the following as textbooks:Charles Lamb’s Tales from Shakespeare,50 Famous Stories from the West,published by the Commercial Press and finally the thick-volumed Modern World,which,actually a book on world geography,took us three semesters to finish learning.It helped me not only improve my English but also build up the habit of caring for world affairs.

The English grammar book we learned was Nesfield’s Grammar,Book III.All the above-mentioned textbooks,except Modern World,were authored by Englishmen and hence of a higher level than those used in ordinary middle schools at that time.

I was particularly interested in Lamb’s Tales from Shakespeare,so much so that I finished reading each tale before the American teacher had explained it.I attracted her attention by always coming out on top in an exam.Her last name was Edgar,but I’m unable now to recall her first name.She was then in her late thirties,short of stature and already beginning to be on the plump side.She was very kind and gentle,and shy even with kids like us.But she was very strict about teaching.Whenever students failed to perform well in doing lessons or in exams,she would,with a flush in her face,criticize them for not studying hard enough.The pet phrase she often used was,“God forgive you,my children!”

She was sent to China by the American Baptist Church to do teaching and meanwhile missionary work.On Sunday afternoons,she would pick some students diligent in English studies to join her Bible class,in which all members had to converse in English because she herself couldn’t speak Chinese.

A ridiculous error I made in the class turned out to be of great help to me in my later studies.One day,when I was in class,it suddenly clouded over and rained heavily.I was then learning English adverbs.Thinking that an adverb could modify a verb,I said,“It’s raining hardly.”Miss Edgar responded by saying,“It’s raining hard.”But I failed to understand it and repeated my own sentence,“It’s raining hardly.”She gave me a stern glance and said once more,“It’s raining hard.”Then I suddenly realized that there must be something wrong with the word“hardly”though I didn’t know why.I kept quiet and felt very uneasy.After class,she told me very gently that in order to know the different functions of a word,I should frequently look up a dictionary.To avoid embarrassing me,she had chosen not to directly point out my error in the classroom.She wanted me to discover and correct the error by myself.The small incident,however,gave me a deep lesson.It has resulted in my habit of consulting a dictionary frequently.This lesson I learned more than half a century ago is today still deeply engraved in my memory.Whenever I do reading without understanding it thoroughly,I will remind myself to look up a dictionary quickly.That applies to Chinese as well as English learning.

From then on,she and I were on very friendly terms.During the time when I was in the second and third grade of the senior middle school,most students joined the patriotic national salvation movement at the outbreak of the September 18th Incident[1] and the January 28th Incident[2].I got very busy doing propaganda work for Hangzhou Student Association and had no time to attend the Bible class,but I didn’t slacken my efforts in English studies.One day,when after class I accompanied Miss Edgar on her way to her home,she said,“I know you’re very busy,but I hope you keep your English from getting rusty.A second language,if not often used,will soon be forgotten.However,I don’t think it’s wrong for you to take part in the student movement.Let me pray to God for blessings on you!”She hoped I would become a Christian,but I,having embraced new ideas,chose to remain a non-convert.She felt regretful and blamed impiety on her own part for failing to convert me.

In 1932,when she was leaving China for home,I went to the wharf to bid her farewell.She said to me with tears in her eyes,“I’ll pray for you every day.May the blessings of God be on you!”Then we corresponded regularly until 1936 when I began to live an unsettled life.Nevertheless,I always cherished her memory.

In 1980,on my visit to the United States,I contacted the American Baptist Church with inquiries about Miss Edgar.They told me,after checking up,that she passed away in 1946.

Miss Edgar was my first American teacher.Her friendly feelings towards me will always remain in my memory.Now that I’m old,I often feel I’ve treated her somewhat unfairly.Perhaps I shouldn’t have kept myself aloof from her belief.

[1] September 18th Incident refers to the seizure of Shenyang on September 18,1931 by the Japanese aggressors,as a step towards their occupation of the entire northeastern China.

[2] January 28th Incident refers to the invasion of Shanghai by the aggressor troops of Japan on January 28,1932.The local Chinese troops put up a stiff resistance to the invaders and anti-Japanese sentiment ran high throughout China.The hostilities lasted until May 5 of the same year when Chiang Kai-shek,who had persistently followed a policy of non-resistance,signed a truce with Japan.

冯亦代(1913—2005),浙江杭州人,中国翻译协会常务理事及北京市翻译协会副会长,是我国著名作家、翻译家、报人。《我的第一位美国老师》是他写于1990年10月2日的一篇叙谈师生情的佳作。

注释

(1)“在蕙兰,英文开始读的书,读本是……”可按“在蕙兰,英文课一开始就用以下教科书:……”译为At Huilan,my English lessons began with the following as textbooks:…。

(2)“英国人”译为Englishmen。如译native speakers of English并非完全不可,只是与原意略有出入。

(3)“水平比当时一般中学读的较为高深”译为and hence of a higher level than those used in ordinary middle schools at that time。也可译为and hence more advanced than those used in ordinary middle schools at that time。

(4)“每次老师测验,我总名列前茅,因此受到老师的注意”译为I attracted her attention by always coming out on top in an exam。也可译为I attracted her attention by always coming out ahead of others in exams(或by my excellent performance in exams)。

(5)“体型已经开始发胖了”译为already beginning to be on the plump side或already on the plump side,其中on the…side是成语,作“倾向于”、“过于”、“相当”等解。

(6)“但我希望你不要把英语荒废掉”可译为but I hope you keep your English from getting rusty或but I hope you won’t let your English get rusty,其中rusty常用来指技能、语言等的“荒废”。

(7)“接受了一些新思想”译为having embraced new ideas,其中embraced意同accepted或started believing。

(8)“也许就是我不同意她的信仰吧”可按“也许我不应该对她的信仰表示冷淡吧”译为Perhaps I shouldn’t have kept myself aloof from her belief,其中aloof作“表示冷淡”解,belief意同religious faith(belief)。此句也可译为I shouldn’t have disapproved of her Christian faith或I shouldn’t have been so standoffish toward her religious faith。

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