English, or Chinese?
February 13, 2007 1:52am CST
Scene I, I select a course of Western Economics. I open my textbook. It's a work of a famous American economist, written in English. My teacher is speaking in a high mood, also in English. Scene II, I select a lesson of Chinese literature. I open my textbook only to find all the famous people of China labeled with their names in letters. Furthermore, there is not a single Chinese character in the book and my teacher is reciting a poem of Tang Dynasty in English. Now, given the question "Do you agree that in Chinese higher education, textbooks should be written in English and the language used in class should also be English?" Can you answer it just by "yes" or "no" simply? As is known to all, English is gaining an increasingly important position in today's China. Even kids in kindergarten have begun to learn simple words. That's a good phenomenon, for English is essential nowadays. As we college students are concerned, one benefit of learning this language is that we can read the original works directly. This is because even the most excellent translator is no more than a person, who can never totally a void adding his own opinion to the original. Therefore, the Chinese versions we read usually differ from the original ones, and in some cases the two versions are even opposite in meaning.Learning English provides us with a possible tool to solve this problem as we master the writer's language, we can explore his thoughts on our own. Then, can we just say "yes" to the question given above?Just imagine the second scene at the beginning, will you agree to replace all our books with their English version? That's more than a joke. English does help us read English original works, but Chinese helps us learn a true China. Chinese characters are an inseparable part of Chinese culture. Only by characters can Chinese literature send off its brilliance. Some modern translators have tried to translate classical Chinese literature into English. I was unlucky enough to have heard a so called "poem" of Li Bai. I still doubt even now whether it is a poem of Li or just a prose created by the translator himself. I want to cry, for Li Bai, for Chinese literature and also for the ignorant "translator". Maybe, he just wanted to introduce Chinese culture to the whole world, but what he has done is just killing it. To learn a country's culture,especially its classical culture, the first thing is to learn its language. Opinions through translators sometimes can be helpful,but sometimes, they can be fatally misleading. Since we are Chinese, why do we give up our mother tongue and learn our own culture through a foreign language? If so, several years later,not only the foreigners but we ourselves will be unable to understand our culture. By that day, Chinese culture will die, China will die, and we will just be a group of "foreigners" with dark eyes and yellow skin. By now, I think I have found the answer to the question.We had better use the English original works when we learn courses like western economics and western philosophy. As for the Chinese culture or the Chinese history, we should stick to our own language.