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Language 美国语言

  What do you call someone who speaks three languages? Trilingual. What do you call someone who speaks two languages? Bilingual. What do you call someone who speaks one language? An American.

  你如何称呼能说三种语言的人?三声带。能讲两种语言的人又如何称呼?双声带。那么,只会一种语言的人呢?美国人。


  To people in many countries, being bilingual or even trilingual is a way of life. But since the mother tongue of most Americans is English-a language widely spoken around the world-they often don't feel the need to learn a foreign language. Moreover, people who live in the heartland of America have little contact with other linguistic groups, making foreign language skills irrelevant.

  对许多国家的人而言,说两种或三种语言,是家常便饭。但在美国,由于大多数人的母语为英语--一个世界上广泛通用的语言--因此美国人都不觉得有必要学习外语。此外,居住于美国大陆内地的人,较少与其它语言族群接触,因此外语能力更显得无关紧要。


  Actually, though, this "land of immigrants" has always had people of many different nationalities-and languages. The 1990 census indicates that almost 14% of Americans speak a non-English language at home. Yet only 3% reported that they spoke English "not well" or "not at all." That means that slightly more than one out of 10 Americans could be considered bilingual. Besides that, many high school and college students-and even some elementary school students-are required to take a foreign language as a part of their curriculum. In addition to old standbys like Spanish, German and French, more and more students are opting for Eastern European and Asian languages. Of course, not all students keep up their foreign language abilities. As the old saying goes, "If you don't use it, you lose it." But still, a growing number of Americans are coming to appreciate the benefits of being multilingual.

  事实上,在美国这块「移民之地」,一直住着来自不同国籍、说不同语言的人口。一九九○年的人口普查显示,几乎百分之十四的美国人,在家里不讲英语。只有百分之三的人宣称他们英语「说得不好」或「根本不会说」。这表示十分之一强的美国人可视为双声带。此外,许多中学生、大学生,甚至小学生在校的学科都必须加修一门外语。除了西班牙文、德文与法文等常选的第二语言外,愈来愈多的学生选修东欧和亚洲语言。当然,并非所有学生都能够学以致用。套句老话:「不用就会丢掉。」尽管如此,愈来愈多的美国人已经开始意识到会说多种语言的好处。


  Ethnic enclaves, found particularly in major metropolitan centers, have preserved the language and culture of American immigrants. Some local residents can function quite well in their native language, without having to bother learning English. Regions such as southern Florida and the Southwest have numerous Spanish-speaking neighborhoods. In fact, Spanish speakers-numbering over 17 million-compose the largest non-English linguistic group in America. But Chinese, Vietnamese, Italian, Polish and many other ethnic groups add to the linguistic flavor of America. Foreign languages are so commonly used in some ethnic neighborhoods that visitors might think they are in another country!

  在主要大都市里,有许多族群居住的社区,都还保存着移民的文化传统和语言。有些当地人在生活上只讲母语就够了,根本不需要学英语。佛罗里达州南部以及美国西南部等区,有许多说西班牙语的社区。事实上,说西班牙语的人口超过一千七百万,是美国最大的非英语系族群。不过,还有中国、越南、意大利、波兰与其它很多种族的族群,更使美国语言增色不少。在许多外来民族的后裔社区里,由于外语的广泛使用,甚至会使访客有身置异国的感觉。


  Although some Americans welcome this linguistic and cultural diversity, others have begun to fear that the English language is being threatened. Since the 1980s, the "English Only" movement has sought to promote legislation which would establish English as the "official language" and restrict the use of non-English languages. However, some groups, including TESOL, the organization for Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages, object to such "language restrictionism." Their view, known as "English Plus," suggests that Americans should have respect for people's native language and culture, while promoting the teaching of English to help them fit into the mainstream of society. But so far, 19 states have passed English Only legislation, and the topic is the focus of an ongoing debate.

  虽然有些美国人欢迎这种语言与文化多元化,也有些人担心英语已经受到威胁。从一九八○年代以来,「唯用英语」(English Only)运动即试着开始推动立法,将英语订为「官方语言」,并限制其它语言的使用。但有些团体,如「教导母语为其它语言学生的英语教师组织」(简称TESOL),就反对这种「语言限制主义」。他们提倡的「英语与外语」(English Plus),建议美国人应尊重其它族群的母语以及文化,同时也推广英语教学,帮助其它族群融入社会主流。但是到目前为止,已有十九个州通过「唯用英语」一法;该议题也一直是辩论的焦点。


  Whether or not English is the official language of the United States, it remains the "language of wider communication." Nearly everyone recognizes the need to develop proficiency in English in order to do well in America. To help those who want to brush up on their English skills, English as a Second Language (ESL) classes abound. Cities with large numbers of recent immigrants often set up bilingual education programs to teach students content subjects in their native language while they improve their English. Language educators often have strong and divergent views as to which approach helps learners achieve better results: a bilingual approach, an ESL approach-or even a pure immersion ("sink or swim") approach. However, all these teachers share a common commitment: to help students function well in English.

  无论英语是否是美国的「官方语言」,它仍是「广泛沟通的语言」。在美国,几乎每个人都了解,若想要出人头地,必须精通英语。为满足那些想精进英语能力的人的需要,教导英语为第二语言的机构(ESL)到处都是。拥有大批新进移民的一些大都市,都设有双语教学课程,在移民们加强英语能力的同时,用移民们的母语教授普通科目。语言教育学家对何种方法才能帮助学生更有效地学习英语--利用双语教学、ESL教学、或让学生完全浸入一个英语的环境(认输或强学--),都拥有强烈并分歧的看法。但这些教师都拥有共同使命:帮助学生流利地使用英语。


  Americans recognize that English is the de facto international language, and people with good English skills can get by in many international settings. On the other hand, in a world growing increasingly smaller, second language skills can be a great boon. They can build cross-cultural bridges and give people an edge in a variety of career fields. Indeed, lack of foreign language proficiency can limit one's chances for advancement-and keep one in a cultural cul-de-sac. As many people in America are discovering, being monolingual is no laughing matter.

  美国人了解,英语就是一个实际的国际语言,若能操流利的英语,在许多国际场合都能派得上用场。另一方面当国际间的距离越变越小时,拥有第二外语能力极为有利。外语能力可以建立文化交流的桥梁,并且使人们在不同的专业领域里,占得优势。的确,缺乏外语能力不仅限制个人的擢升,并且把个人限制在文化的死胡同内。很多美国人都逐渐发现,只会一种语言,不再是一件好事了。

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