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為什麼英語聽起來好像一種高級階層的語言?

(Stanley Yeung, 二零一九年三月二十八日)


當我們學習英語的時候,除了難度是一個重大的障礙之外,由於英語世界裡有許多人擁有不同的口音、音調和語言程度,說話時對人們產生出不同的印象,種種的英語類別彷彿也能夠分成不同的社會階級。即使在我們的朋友和親戚的圈子中,我們也時常聽見許多英文字加插在日常對話之中,彷彿這樣說話能夠表現自己的社會階級和智慧。不過,在我們的母語中文裡,由於有較少的口音類別,社會階級的概念就好像不太著顯。所以問題就是,若只有英語是一個存在社會階級觀念的語言,若我不能夠說流利英語的話,這就代表我不能夠表現自己在社會的等級嗎?

在現實世界中,當我們說英語時,人們就已經能夠憑你的口音猜出許多關於你的資料,例如你在哪裡生活過、在什麼文化和環境長大,甚至你住過什麼類型的屋子!但是在我們的母語中文裡,我們就好像沒有那麼多種類的口音。相比英語來說,中文是沒有類似英語的元音那麼變化多端的,還會因應一個人來自哪裡而發音不同。例如,“awesome〞(意思:“很厲害”)這個英文字裡的元音“a”,在美式英語和英式英語比較之下,發音的差別是很大的。其實,對於以英語為第二語言的學者來說,英語裡的所有發音之中,元音可說是最難掌握的。不過,由於英語有較大的發音空間,即使你發音不太標準的話,人們都能夠聽得懂你在說什麼。

因此,由於英語的發音空間那麼大,能夠容納不同能力的學者,英語算不算是一個很厲害的語言呢?當外國人學習我們的母語時,由於廣東話是一個聲調語言,發音不準確會令字詞意思扭曲,學習的難度可說是很高的。即使是住在同一個國家的內地中國人,由於廣東話比普通話有較多的聲調,學習廣東話也是非常之困難的。另外,廣東話的最困難之處就是有許多“入聲”的字詞。概括來說,由於發音錯誤可令字詞的意思扭曲,廣東話本身就好像沒有太大的空間給外來者學習。若我們試想一想英語就像廣東話是一個聲調語言,我們學習的過程會不會變成更加痛苦呢?

儘管如此,當我們長大成人出來工作的時候,除非我們必須要學會一門技術而為了賺錢生存,我們就很難分配時間去做一些與工作無關的事情。除了英語有相當的難度之外,我們的語言發展總是傾向於我們平時喜愛的文化和嗜好,猶如我們平時都比較習慣說母語,因為用母語和別人溝通和說笑話都比較自然得多。另外,語言亦是我們的身份。雖然說流利英語能夠顯現一個人的高尚氣質,但是我們用母語說話時卻是最自然和出自於自己本身的文化身份。最終,和別人溝通時利用的語言應該出自於自己的本身,而不是為了顯現給其他人自己在社會的高級身份。不過,我們怎樣才能夠培養我們年輕的新一代,在這個越來越全球化和多元文化的世界裡生存呢?或許,我們可以一步一步來,彷彿爬梯一樣…





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