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American educators learn Chinese to respect Chinese students

学好中文 尊重彼此.jpg

If there was any question about one of the most dominant issues in international education, consider this: Several hundred people packed a ballroom here to mangle Chinese vowels.

要是提到国际教育议题中最显著的问题,想想这样的场景:数百人挤在一间舞厅内,努力“糟蹋”着汉语的韵母。

One in every three international students on American campuses today is from China, and their numbers continue to surge.

如今美国校园里每三个国际生中就有一个来自中国,并且人数还在持续攀升。

What’s not necessarily growing is American educators’ ability to pronounce Chinese names. In fact, when Jennifer Vos, the panel’s organizer, surveyed Chinese students at Fordham University, where she is an international-student adviser, she found that 75 percent of them had adopted English names. But almost all said they would have preferred to use their given names, if only non-Chinese speakers were able to pronounce them.

然而,美国教育工作者对中国名字的发音能力却并没有自然而然地跟着提高。会议组织者珍妮弗·沃斯在福特汉姆大学担任国际学生指导教师,她通过对福特汉姆大学中国学生的调查发现,75%的被调查者使用的是英文名。但几乎所有人都表示,如果不会讲中文的人也能正确读出中国名字的话,他们更愿意用中文名。

In addition, of the 200 students surveyed by Ms. Vos, nearly half said that in situations in which they had to use their Chinese names — for example, when dealing with student-visa issues — they didn’t even attempt to say their names. They just spelled them for Americans.

此外,沃斯调查的200名学生中,近半数表示在不得不使用中文名的场合下——比如处理学生签证问题时——他们会直接把中文名的拼音念给美国人,甚至不会尝试让他们听清自己的名字。

Ms. Vos, who speaks Mandarin and has a background in linguistics, decided about two and a half years ago to put together a primer to help her fellow advisers get their tongues around twisty Chinese pronunciation. She’s since given the tutorial to professors, staff members, and administrators, on her own campus and elsewhere.

两年半前,会讲普通话并有语言学背景的沃斯决定举办汉语发音的入门课程,让她的同事们也能发出那些拗口的读音。从此,她开始在本校和其他地方,指导教授、教职工和行政人员练习发音。

On Tuesday afternoon, she and her fellow presenter, Kate Zheng, a program coordinator in the University of Michigan’s international center, led a full house of international educators through unfamiliar phrasing: "xi" (said like "shee"), "zh" (sort of like an English "j"), and "Huang" (rhymes with "pong," never "pang").

周二下午,她和她的合作演讲人,密歇根大学国际中心项目协调员凯特·郑,领着一整个屋子的国际教育工作者学习了陌生的发音:“xi”(听起来像“shee”),“zh”(有点像英文里的“j”),以及“Huang”(像“pong”的韵脚而非“pang”的)。

Pronounce "Yu," common as both a first name and a surname, like the English pronoun, and you’ll confuse a Mandarin speaker, Ms. Zheng said. It’s drawn out, more like "y eu-ee."

对于中国姓氏和名字中都非常常见的“Yu”,读得像英语代词一样会让说普通话的人感到困惑,凯特·郑说。它尾音比较长,更像是“y eu-ee”。

"What’s the opposite of mastery?" muttered one participant when asked if he was getting the hang of it.

“掌握的反义词是什么?”一位参与者在被问到是否已经掌握了窍门的时候抱怨道。

But Ms. Vos said it wasn’t about nailing perfect pronunciation. Rather, with so many Chinese students pursuing American degrees, just trying can go a long way. It shows respect for students’ background and heritage, and it can help them feel more welcome.

但沃斯表示这不是为了掌握完美的发音。在赴美留学的中国学生如此之多的情况下,尝试学习就会大有稗益。教育工作者的努力显示的是对学生背景和传统的尊重,学生们会更大程度地感受到对他们的欢迎。

"Students," Ms. Vos said, "really do notice your effort."

沃斯说,“学生们真的看得到你的努力。”

2016-06-21

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