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英语说得地道有什么优势

 The last time I wrote about the widespread use of English, a reader commented that those who didn’t speak it as a first language often struggled at work.
我上次就英语的普遍使用撰写专栏后,一位读者说,那些母语不是英语的人往往会在工作中遇到困难。
 
“Non-native speakers are at their biggest disadvantage when emotions come into play,” the reader wrote. “In a heated debate, those able to use cynicism, sarcasm or other weapons requiring linguistic mastery have an unfair advantage — and I have seen such unfair advantage being used many times. It can determine the course of corporate careers. Like mine.”
“母语非英语人士在情绪高涨的场合处于最大劣势,”这位读者写道,“在激烈的辩论中,那些能够使用挖苦、讽刺或其他需要语言功底的武器的人有着不公平的优势,我见到过很多次有人利用这种不公平优势。它能够决定企业职场的道路。就像我的历程。”
 
The comment reminded me of two leaders who had made similar points about native English speakers’ advantages.
这番言论让我想起两位曾就母语为英语人士的优势提出类似观点的领袖。
 
The first was Steve Biko, the apartheid-era South African student leader, who split from white leftwing students because he believed blacks needed to develop self-reliance.
第一个是南非推行种族隔离政策时期的学生领袖史蒂夫•比科(Steve Biko),他从白人左翼学生中脱离出来,因为他认为黑人需要依靠自己。
 
Biko, who died in police custody in 1977, spoke excellent English, but it was not his mother tongue. He was acutely aware of being at a disadvantage in English-speaking company. He spoke before his death of the frustration of talking to articulate, intelligent, native English speakers.
比科是在1977年被警方拘留时去世的,他说一口流利的英语,但英语不是他的母语。他清楚地知道自己在周围人都说英语的环境里的劣势。他曾说到与口齿伶俐、聪明、母语为英语的人士交谈的沮丧。
 
“You may be intelligent, but not as articulate,” he said.
他表示:“你可能很聪明,但表达能力没那么好。”
 
In these conversations, a non-native speaker could start to feel intellectually inadequate. “You tend to feel that that [English-speaking] guy is better equipped than you mentally,” he said.
在这些谈话中,母语非英语的人士可能会从智慧上感到不自信。他表示:“你往往会认为,(说英语)的那个人在思想上要比你更高一等。”
 
A very different leader, Percy Barnevik, the founding chief executive of ABB, the Swedish-Swiss company that adopted English as its corporate language, also spoke of the danger of “mistaking facility with English for intelligence or knowledge”.
第二位领袖是瑞典-瑞士公司ABB的创始首席执行官珀西•巴内维克(Percy Barnevik),他谈到了“把英语能力误当成智慧或知识”的危险。该公司采用英语作为公司语言。
 
But does it follow, as the Financial Times reader asserted, that English speakers use their linguistic mastery to dominate discussions deliberately, inserting sarcasm where necessary?
但这是否意味着,就像上述英国《金融时报》读者所声称的那样,说英语的人会利用自己的语言功底蓄意主导讨论,在必要时插入几句讽刺的话?
 
I asked two non-native English-speaking FT readers who have emailed me in the past what they thought.
我问了两位过去曾给我发送电邮的英国《金融时报》读者的想法,他们的母语不是英语,但会说英语。
 
“Actually, I would tend to say the opposite,” Quentin Toulemonde, a Frenchman working in financial services in London, told me. “In an argument, I can pretend not to understand — to force my interlocutor to rephrase, which can perturb him.
“实际上,我倾向于相反的看法,”一位在伦敦金融服务业工作的法国人康坦•图尔蒙德(Quentin Toulemonde)表示,“在辩论中,我可以假装没听懂,迫使和我讲话的人解释给我听,这样可以扰乱他的思路。”
 
“Furthermore, foreigners have a more limited vocabulary which allows them to use stronger and almost tactless words, and to be excused for that.”
“另外,外国人的词汇量较为有限,这使得他们可以使用语气更强烈且近乎得罪人的词汇,而且得到原谅。”
 
Ivan Tejeda, a Spanish reader who has worked in the UK, Italy and France, said he had made strenuous efforts to learn about the local culture as a way of improving his ability to talk to colleagues at work. In the UK, this included watching comedy television programmes such as Fawlty Towers and The Office.
在英国、意大利和法国工作过的西班牙读者伊万•特赫达(Ivan Tejeda)表示,他曾付出艰苦的努力去学习当地文化,借此提高他在工作时与同事交谈的能力。在英国,这包括观看喜剧电视节目,例如《弗尔蒂旅馆》(Fawlty Towers)和《办公室》(The Office)。
 
He had to make an effort in non-English speaking environments too. When he worked in Italy, he kept up with the local football news as it often came up in office conversation.
他在非英语环境里也不得不付出努力。当他在意大利工作时,他会追踪该国的足球新闻,因为这个话题经常出现在办公室聊天中。
 
He did not think native English speakers dominated work discussions on purpose. “I think what your reader is describing is more related to the empathy process than the deliberate use of sarcasm by English speakers.”
他认为,母语为英语的人士并没有蓄意主导工作讨论。“我认为,您的读者描写的情况在更大程度上与同理心过程有关,而不是说英语的人故意使用讽刺字眼。”
 
Both these readers’ English is excellent, so they are perhaps not representative of most people in international companies who have to work in the language.
这两位读者的英语都很有功底,因此,他们或许不能代表多数在跨国公司工作、工作中必须使用英语的人。
 
I have certainly seen English-speaking holidaymakers try to use the language to bludgeon waiters, bus drivers or hotel receptionists into giving them what they wanted.
我确实看到过说英语的人士在度假时叽里呱啦地用英语迫使服务员、公交车司机或者酒店前台为他们额外服务。
 
I do not think I have ever seen it work. And I have never seen such bullying in a business environment. What I have seen is English speakers not being understood because their language is too quick, too garbled or overly colloquial.
我没有看到过这种方法奏效。我从未在商业环境中看到过这种欺负人的行为。我看到的是,说英语的人没有被对方听懂,因为他们说的太快、语法混乱或者过于口语化。
 
Of all the communication and public speaking skills, talking to non-native English speakers is one of the most under-appreciated.
在所有沟通以及公开演讲技巧中,与母语非英语的说英语者交谈是最不受重视的技巧之一。
 
It does not come naturally to most English speakers, but, like all skills, it can be learnt. Rephrasing points in different ways helps. So do avoiding complex metaphors and watching people’s faces to see whether you are being understood.
多数说英语的人并不天生具备这种技能,但与所有技能一样,它是可以学会的。用不同的方法复述要点会有所帮助。还有就是不要用复杂的比喻,以及观察对方的脸,看看对方是否明白了你的话。
 
Because so few native English speakers speak another language these days they have little idea how hard it can be to operate in one.
如今很少有母语为英语的人士会说外语,因此他们几乎不知道说外语有多么困难。
 
A failure to understand how you are coming across diminishes your impact, and can lead some to believe you are being cruel and sarcastic.
不知道别人听没听明白会降低你的影响力,还可能会让一些人认为你刻薄无情。

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