您现在的位置: 纽约时报中英文网 >> 纽约时报中英文版 >> 观点 >> 正文

人人都有口音

更新时间:2018-7-17 20:06:26 来源:纽约时报中文网 作者:佚名

Everyone Has an Accent
人人都有口音

I have an accent. So do you.

我有口音。你也有。

I am an immigrant who has spent nearly as much time in the United States as I have in my home country, Spain. I am also the director of Dartmouth’s language programs in Spanish and Portuguese. Both facts explain, but only partly, why I feel a special fondness for the FX drama “The Americans,” in which Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys play Elizabeth and Philip Jennings, a husband-and-wife team of undercover K.G.B. agents living in suburban Washington. I can’t be the only one who nodded approvingly when they were both nominated for Emmys last week.

我是移民,住在美国的年头快赶上之前在祖国西班牙的时间了。我还是达特茅斯学院的西班牙语和葡萄牙语教学中心主任。这两个事实说明了(但只是部分解释了)我为什么喜欢FX台的电视剧《美国谍梦》(The Americans),在剧中,凯丽·拉塞尔(Keri Russell)和马修·瑞斯(Matthew Rhys)扮演的伊丽莎白和菲利普·詹宁斯夫妇是生活在华盛顿郊区假扮夫妻档的两名克格勃特工。上周他们获得艾美奖提名时,我不会是唯一一个点头叫好的人。

What interests me as a linguist is that the Jenningses are, as the pilot tells us, “supersecret spies living next door” who “speak better English than we do.” Even their neighbor, an F.B.I. agent on the counterintelligence beat, suspects nothing.

作为一名语言学家,我感兴趣的是,正如该剧第一集告诉我们的,詹宁斯夫妇是“住在隔壁的超级间谍”,他们的“英语说得比我们还好”。就连他们的邻居,一名从事反间谍工作的FBI探员,也没有怀疑。

Living as I do, deeply immersed in the work of teaching and learning second languages, it was fun to watch a TV series in which the main characters’ aptitude for them was so central to the plot. Nonetheless, the premise that you can speak a language without any accent at all is a loaded one. You can’t actually do this.

像我这样一心扑在第二语言教学的人,看一部主角的语言天赋对情节的发展至关重要的连续剧,是一件很有意思的事情。尽管如此,说话完全不带口音这样的设定存在问题。你其实是不可能做到这一点的。

Worse, when we fetishize certain accents and disdain others, it can lead to real discrimination in job interviews, performance evaluations and access to housing, to name just a few of the areas where having or not having a certain accent has profound consequences. Too often, at the hospital or the bank, in the office or at a restaurant — even in the classroom — we embrace the idea that there is a right way for our words to sound and that the perfect accent is one that is not just inaudible, but also invisible.

更糟糕的是,当我们喜欢或者讨厌某些口音时,会导致在工作面试、绩效评估和获得住房方面出现真正的歧视,这里列举的是具有某种或者没有某种口音会产生深远影响的几个领域。很多时候,在医院或者银行,在办公室或者餐馆,甚至在课堂上,我们都相信存在一种让我们所说的话听来正确的方式,相信完美的口音不仅是听不见的,也是看不见的。

If you look at the question from a sociolinguistic point of view, having no accent is plainly impossible. An accent is simply a way of speaking shaped by a combination of geography, social class, education, ethnicity and first language. I have one; you have one; everybody has one. There is no such thing as perfect, neutral or unaccented English — or Spanish, for that matter, or any other language. To say that someone does not have an accent is as believable as saying that someone does not have any facial features.

如果你从社会语言学的角度来看这个问题,没有口音显然是不可能的。口音不过是一种受到地理、社会阶层、教育、种族和第一语言等因素合力影响的说话方式。我有口音,你也有口音,人人都有口音。没有完美的、中立的、不带任何口音的英语、西班牙语或者任何一种语言。说某人没有口音就像说某人没有五官一样不可信。

We know this, but even so, at a time when the percentage of foreign-born residents in the United States is at its highest point in a century, the distinction between “native” and “nonnative” has grown vicious, and it is worth reminding ourselves of it again and again: No one speaks without an accent.

我们很清楚这一点,但即便如此,在外国出生的美国居民的比例达到世纪最高点的时候,“土生土长”和“外来”之间的分野所滋生出的恶毒,值得我们一再提醒自己:没有谁说话是不带口音的。

When we say that someone speaks with an accent, we generally mean one of two things: a nonnative accent or a so-called nonstandard accent. Both can have consequences for their speakers. In other words, it is worth acknowledging that people discriminate on the basis of accent within their own language group, as well as against those perceived as language outsiders. The privileged status of the standard accent is, of course, rooted in education and socioeconomic power.

当我们说某人说话带口音时,通常指的是这样两种情况中的一种:不是本地口音或者不是所谓的标准口音。两者都会对说话者产生影响。换句话说,值得承认的是,在自己的语言群体内部,人们根据口音来做区分,同时歧视那些语言上的外人。当然,标准口音的特权地位植根于教育和社会经济力量。

The standard accent is not necessarily the same as the highest-status accent. It is simply the dominant accent, the one you are most likely to hear in the media, the one that is considered neutral. Nonstandard native accents are also underrepresented in the media, and like nonnative accents, are likely to be stereotyped and mocked. Terms like Southern drawl, Midwestern twang or Valley Girl upspeak underscore the layered status attached to particular ways of speaking.

标准口音不一定与社会最上层的口音相同。它只是最主流的口音,是你最有可能在媒体上听到的口音,被认为是中性的口音。非标准的母语口音在媒体中也没有足够体现,而且像非母语口音一样,可能会遭到刻板印象归类,或是遭到嘲笑。南方拖腔、中西部鼻音或山谷女孩升调等词语强调了与特定口音相关的社会分层状态。

Such judgments are purely social — to linguists, the distinctions are arbitrary. However, the notion of the neutral, perfect accent is so pervasive that speakers with stigmatized accents often internalize the prejudice they face. The recent re-evaluation of the “Simpsons” character Apu provides an important example of how the media and popular culture use accents to make easy — and uneasy — jokes.

这种判断纯粹是社会性的——对于语言学家来说,这种划分方式很武断。然而,中性的完美口音这个观念是如此深入人心,说话者如果带有令人羞耻的口音,往往就会认同和接受他们所面对的偏见。最近对《辛普森一家》(Simpsons)中的角色阿普(Apu)的重新评估提供了一个重要的例子,说明媒体和流行文化如何使用口音来创作廉价和令人不安的笑话。

When you are learning a language, a marked accent is usually also accompanied by other features, like limited vocabulary or grammatical mistakes. In the classroom, we understand that this is a normal stage in the development of proficiency. My family back in Madrid would have a hard time understanding the Spanish of my English-speaking students in my first-semester classroom.

学习语言的时候,明显的口音通常伴随着其他特征,例如有限的词汇量或语法错误。在课堂上,我们明白这是语言熟练程度进步的正常阶段。我那些母语是英语的学生们在第一学期课堂上说的西班牙语,我在马德里的家人肯定很难听懂。

Later, these same students study abroad in Barcelona or Cuzco or Buenos Aires, and often struggle to make themselves understood. But such is the privilege of English — and this is key — that nobody hearing their American accents presumes that they are less capable, less ambitious or less honest than if their R’s had a nicer trill. Yet this is exactly the kind of assumption that a Spanish accent — and many, many others — is likely to trigger within the United States.

后来,这些学生去巴塞罗那、库斯科或布宜诺斯艾利斯留学时,也往往很难让别人听懂他们说话。但英语就是有这样的特权——这是关键所在——没有人听了他们的美国口音,就觉得他们能力较差、缺乏抱负或是不诚实,只会觉得他们应该把“R”的颤音发得更好。然而,在美国,西语口音——以及许多其他口音——很可能引起对说话者的看法。

It’s certainly true that a marked accent can get in the way of making yourself understood. E.S.L. learners and others are well advised to work on their pronunciation. As a teacher, I do try to lead my students toward some version of that flawed ideal, the native accent. One of the ironies in this is that I — along with most of my fellow teachers from the 20 countries (not counting Puerto Rico) where Spanish is an official language — long ago shed the specific regional, class-shaped intonations and vocabulary that are, or once were, our native accents. My point is not that we need to forget the aim of easily comprehensible communication — obviously, that remains the goal. But we do need to set aside the illusion that there is a single true and authentic way to speak.

毫无疑问,严重的口音会妨碍自己被他人理解。ESL学生和其他初学者被建议注重发音,这是正确的。作为教师,我的确试图带领学生追求那个有缺陷的理想,即本土口音。这其中有点讽刺的是,我——以及我的大多数同事,来自20个以西班牙语为官方语言的国家(不算波多黎各)的老师——很久以前就摆脱了特定的,由区域和阶层所决定的语调和词汇,也就是(或者曾经是)我们的本土口音。我并不是认为我们要忘记方便沟通这个目的——显然,这仍然是我们的目标。但我们确实需要抛弃那种错觉,好像真正、真实的说话方式只有一种。

English is a global language with many native and nonnative varieties. Worldwide, nonnative speakers of English outnumber natives by a ratio of three to one. Even in the United States, which has the largest population of native English speakers, there are, according to one estimate, nearly 50 million speakers of English as a second language. What does it even mean to sound native when so many English speakers are second-language speakers? Unless you are an embedded spy like the Jenningses, it is counterproductive to hold nativelike pronunciation as the bar you have to clear.

英语是一种全球语言,有许多母语和非母语变种。在世界范围内,非母语的英语使用者人数是英语母语者的三倍。即使在拥有最多英语母语人口的美国,根据一项估计,也有近5000万人将英语作为第二语言。如果这么多说英语的人都是把英语作为第二语言,那么听起来像本地人究竟是什么意思呢?除非你是像詹宁斯一家那样的潜伏间谍,否则将你的母语发音视为必须清除的障碍,只会得不偿失。

Accent by itself is a shallow measure of language proficiency, the linguistic equivalent of judging people by their looks. Instead, we should become aware of our linguistic biases and learn to listen more deeply before forming judgments. How large and how varied is the person’s vocabulary? Can she participate in most daily interactions? How much detail can he provide when retelling something? Can she hold her own in an argument?

口音本身就是衡量语言能力的浅层标准,在语言的世界里,就相当于通过外表来评判他人。相反,我们应该警惕我们的语言偏见,在形成判断之前学会更深入的倾听。这个人的词汇量有多大、有多丰富?她可以参加大部分日常互动吗?在复述某些事情时,他能提供多少细节?她能在辩论中坚持立场吗?

Language discrimination based on accent is not merely an academic idea. Experiments show that people tend to make negative stereotypical assumptions about speakers with a nonnative accent. The effect extends all the way to bias against native speakers whose name or ethnicity reads as foreign. Studies show that when nonnative speakers respond to advertisements for housing, their conversations with prospective landlords are more likely to be unsuccessful, on average, than those of callers “without accents.”

基于口音的语言歧视不仅仅是一种学术观念。实验表明,人们倾向于对具有非母语口音的说话者做出负面的刻板印象假设。这种影响一直延伸到那些名字或种族特征看上去像是外国人的母语人士。研究表明,当非母语者回应租房广告时,平均而言,他们与未来房东的交谈比那些“没有口音”的致电者更容易失败。

So I hope you like my accent as much as I like yours.

所以我希望你喜欢我的口音,就像我喜欢你的口音一样。

“全文请访问纽约时报中文网,本文发表于纽约时报中文网(http://cn.nytimes.com),版权归纽约时报公司所有。任何单位及个人未经许可,不得擅自转载或翻译。订阅纽约时报中文网新闻电邮:http://nytcn.me/subscription/”

相关文章列表