如何写出音乐般节奏的英语

爱英语爱翻译 2019-05-10 07:53:25

中国人,尤其是英语初学者,喜欢写很长的英文句子,似乎一个句子不长,便说明自己水平不高。有些老师来判断学生作文水平的时候,也是看学生是否能够写出比较长的、语法上还正确的句子来。这是一种误解,也是一种误导。


就像一个人说话,如果始终保持一种语速,就容易让人犯困。写作(翻译)也是如此,如果都是短句子或者长句子,也容易让人感觉无聊。如果都写短句子,让人觉得你是小学生水平;如果都写长句子,又容易让人觉得你装腔作势。那么比较好的处理方法就是让句子的长度有层次感。


先看下面这个例子,这个例子读起来就比较单调:


I got up in the morning. I brushed my teeth. I finished my breakfast. Then I went to school. I don’t like history. I hate that teacher.


但是如果把上面的句子调整一下,读起来就会舒服很多:


After I got up in the morning, I brushed my teeth and finished my breakfast. Then I went to school. I hate that teacher of history, as I don’t like the subject.


其实句子长短也很有时代特色,比如有外国人研究发现,在1896年时,William Jennings Bryan在成为民主党总统候选人发表演讲时,每个句子的平均长度为104个单词。但是今天,政治演讲平均句子的长度则不到20个单词。既然英语句子的平均长度在当今社会已经有了大幅度缩减,我们中国人也应该适应形势,尤其是当全世界都在主张使用plain English的时候。


但是,除了要尽量缩短句子长度以外(当然也有一些特殊的情况,比如翻译合同的时候,我们必须写很长的句子,否则无法做到严谨),我们还要注意句子长度的变化。也就是说,在一个篇章中,我们既要让读者看到长句子(比如25-30个单词以上),也要让读者看到中等长度的句子(15-20个单词),也要让读者看到短句子(3-10个单词左右)。这样才能做到句子长度的层次感,提高篇章的readability。


为了展示句子长度变化的重要性,Gary Provost在100 Ways to Improve Your Writing中给出了这样一个例子,读完之后,你会感觉句子长度的变化会产生音乐的节奏感,现把这段话摘录如下:


"This sentence has five words. Here are five more words. Five-word sentences are fine. But several together become monotonous. Listen to what is happening. The writing is getting boring. The sound of it drones. It's like a stuck record. The ear demands some variety. Now listen. I vary the sentence length, and I create music. Music. The writing sings. It has a pleasant rhythm, a lilt, a harmony. I use short sentences. And I use sentences of medium length. And sometimes, when I am certain the reader is rested, I will engage him with a sentence of considerable length, a sentence that burns with energy and builds with all the impetus of a crescendo, the roll of the drums, the crash of the cymbals--sounds that say listen to this, it is important.


由此,他提出这样一个观点:"Varying your sentence length is much more important than varying your sentence pattern if you want to produce clear, interesting, readable prose."


许多中外语言专家都认为,英语句子的平均长度应该控制在20个单词以内。如Bryan A. Garner在Legal Writing in Plain English说:"Not only do you want a short average; you also need variety. That is, you should have some 35-word sentences and some 3-word sentences, as well as many in between. But monitor your average, and work hard to keep it to about 20 words."


北外高翻的李长栓教授也曾经在课堂上表达过类似的观点。同时,他也非常强调,因为翻译是写作的另外一种形式,所以所有的写作原则在翻译中都是适用的。但是,我们在处理客户稿件的时候,有时候会发现有些客户喜欢用大量的短句子,而有些客户通篇又喜欢用长句子,所以这个时候作为负责任的译者,我们就需要根据具体情况,对句子做出必要的调整。如果长句子太多,本来可以连接在一起的句子可以拆开;反之,如果短句子太多,也可以把有关联的短句通过合适的连接词串起来。


所以,在介绍上文以后,如果你要翻译下面这句话:


更让他们兴奋不已的是,通过这个项目,公司进入了中国顶级标杆医院的品牌认可圈中,这对于公司在华东市场乃至全国市场都有着举足轻重的影响。


如果你把这句话处理成一个句子,语法上是没有错误的:


More exciting is that, through this project, the company is now accepted by China’s top hospitals that are considered national benchmarks, which will have great positive implications for the company in east China as well as the rest of the country.


但是,从readability角度来看,不如拆分为两个句子:


More exciting is that, through this project, the company is now accepted by China’s top hospitals that are considered national benchmarks. This will have great positive implications for the company in east China as well as the rest of the country.


再看另外一个句子:


国庆节回家,那个黄河边上的乡村,开小汽车的乡亲开始多见,虽然他们穿衣打扮还没有太多的改变,但当我看到他们开上价值20多万的汽车时,我很是欣喜。


这句话可以处理为:


Over the National Day Holiday, I went back to my village on the banks of the Yellow River. I noticed that though villagers still dressed the same way as before, many of them now drove cars, some even as costly as 200,000yuan. This made me very happy. (本例来自李长栓与施晓菁合著的《理解与表达:汉英翻译案例讲评》)


如果你在翻译这段话之前,许多句子也是写得比较短,就可以把这几句话整合起来,如下:


When I went back to my village on the banks of the Yellow River during the National Day Holiday, I was really delighted to notice that many of villagers now drove cars, some even as costly as 200,000 yuan, though they still dressed the same way before.


反之,如果之前的长句子已经写得比较多,这句话也可以拆分为一些短句。所以总结一下:写短句子不代表水平不高;写出长句子也不代表水平很高。我们要学会的是该写短句子的时候写段句子,该写长句子的时候写长句子,尽量让我们的文章或者译文呈现出音乐般的节奏感,但这绝非一朝一夕可以做到,尤其是对我们非母语人士来说--所以,外语/翻译学习永远在路上。