Monday, September 05, 2005

Elite? Essence? 精英?精华?

I am writing in response to the recent Saturday Straits Times Insight article “Who’s afraid of Chinese Poetry?” It was an article that reached into me on multiple levels, as I love the Chinese Language deeply. One part of the article talked about the differences between “jing hua” and “jing ying”, and it got me thinking a lot about my own experience in both languages and my observations with the Chinese standards of Singapore. PM Lee mentioned that “the best is yet to come” and cited Mr Lim, a 31 year old businessman as an example of the "new generation" of Singaporeans who will excel in both languages. But Mr Lim do not represent what Mr Jack Neo said was a disappearing group of Chinese who are not just proficient in Business Chinese only, but proficient in Chinese Language on the whole. I disagree with PM Lee that the best is yet to come. I personally feel that the “best” will never hit the critical mass as what we saw in the previous generations. Here are my thoughts, in Mandarin:

这海峡时报所写的文章,给于我的感觉, 好似在为那些中文水平较低的“精英分子”,讨一个借口来反映新加坡的中文程度有“进步”的趋向。其实实际情况并非这报道以及李总理所说的乐观。梁智强说“精英”只适属所受英文教育者,而“精华”才适于其中文教育者用。李总理说他不同意这样的说法,还说“好戏还在后头”。总理也指出了31岁的林先生为这新一代的新加坡生意人,不仅能听,说,读,还能写商业华文。但总理不了解,林先生的出发点是从商,而不是因为他热爱中文。梁智强所称的“精华”为那些热爱中文以及中华文化者。中文及中华文化是息息相关的,一个人不能说只要已英语来学中华历史,就能完全掌握那中华历史的精粹。相同的,一个人单单为了从商的角度而学习中文,是无法体会到那中华文学的奥秒。在我所看得到的新加坡中文程度来说,只有每况愈下的趋势,而不是“好戏还在后头”。一下是些例子:
1)933 是新加坡人最多人收听的电台,虽然这是个中文电台,但那些DJ们所运用的中文都穿插了许多“不合格”的新加坡“中文”(Sing-darin?)。有一个八卦新闻的单元,就是已这“新加坡式”(变质)的中文,通过一个叫“不小心小姐”的人物来报道。这种节目在不受观众反对的情况下出现,只显示了这社会对中文程度大跌的容忍程度,已到达了一个令人失望的阶段。
2)新加坡社会仍把英文放在较为重要的地位。虽然这是作为一个多种族社会所必要的,但也很显然的,我们10年来推广“讲华语”运动的进度,未及一个“讲“好”英语” 运动的来的强。也许我国的政府觉得只要能讲华语,能做生意,不管是标准或不标准都不重要?
3)如果“好戏还在后头”,那学校的中文课本,怎么变得越来越简单?而我们的中文教学,更是走向以“读,讲”为重点,而把“写”给忽略了呢?如果一个新加坡人华人只会听,读和讲中文,但不懂得写,那也只能算是个“精”,而不能称“华”。所以梁智强大哥说那四十多岁一背的“精华”就快消失了,其实也不是没有道理的。
4)李总理所用来显示中文在新加坡的“地位”有擢升的例子,还算是海底捞针,不是比比皆是。
5)新加坡电视台中有好中文的艺人,多数都是上一辈(陈树辰,黄文永,向云 等),或是外国“进口”的(权怡凤,郭亮),新一代本地艺人有中文好的(锺琴,欧菁仙),却是寥寥无几。


其实那些梁大哥所说的新加坡最后的“精华分子”,他们的存在是因为过去有华校及英校之分。那也算是我们新加坡华文的“黄金年代”。而今日已没有所谓的华校所以现今的“精华”也不可能会到达当年的数目。因此我觉得李总理所说的“好戏还在后头”,还欠缺说服力。

11 comments:

Beng said...

Yeh, Singaporeans do speak bad Chinese, even those TV artistes. And dialects like Hokkien, Teochew and Cantonese? You're seeing an even worse scenario here...

putitthisway said...

很可惜的是,精华越来越少。 人们已经把中文从母语的原点改变了。从之前的升学用语到今天的经商用语。并没有所谓的热诚。真的是我辈之悲。

Anonymous Craven said...

The trend of emphasis of English over Chinese cannot be totally blamed on the government… even if they did play a big role in it.

It starts from the early age of the child – most parents understand that a strong proficiency in English is important in securing the ‘future’ for the child. A strong grasp of English helps the child to understand the subjects taught in English better. A strong proficiency in English is far more important than a strong grasp of Chinese in gaining employment in most areas of Singapore too.

Hence most parents push and expose their kids to English, in the hope that the kids will have a bright future.

I do not think that most parents want their kids to hate Chinese. But humans are not like instruments to be calibrated at will. By constant and indiscriminate exposure to the English medium alone, kids are sometimes molded such that they look down on the Chinese language and the Chinese culture. They have not only lost contact with their cultural heritage, but are hostile to their origins.

Such cases are the tragedies of our English as a first language system – the makings of the Chinese Singaporeans that are ashamed that they are Chinese.

Yee-Wei Chai said...

putitthisway 的“我辈之悲”。。。确实一针见血,后辈也感同身受

farewellwaltz said...

spot on. your comments about our political leaders' efforts to paint a rosier than reality picture of our chinese standard. Coming from the chinese media industry, it is a plesant surprise to read your post.

Karate Kid IV said...

[读者:请原谅我这么低级的中文水准,好象十年没写字了]

我个人觉的"精华"是一个私人选择. 学校的中文课程只能教最基本的语言功能, 而苦读或是几百钟头的补习班只能帮人过考试之馆, 无法在人们的心中繁殖热爱"精华"的态度.

一个社会, 如象新家坡一样, 缺席高级用者之部分, 很难有真正真正的"精华"水平. 如果我们跟中国比较, 我们平均水平当然比一半的内地人好.跟台湾人比,是另外一回事了.

给你一个例子: 我上个月跟高中朋友一起到台湾游玩, 顺便联络我们的台湾交流朋友. 十年不见,我们终于了解新家坡人无法追上他们的程度. 一个研究生, 一个经济生, 在台湾不算这么了不起,但十年的大学中文教育真是紧要.以前, 还能顺利的沟通, 现在我们有困难. 也许 是少用的关系, 词汇差.

或也许跟南大拆毁,是没有华校的因素...

Yee-Wei Chai said...

Hey karate kid! ... Bravo! Well done :) though some words wrong here and there (Eg. Singapore is 新加坡,not 新家坡) but overall coherent and made sense! :) And you are right ... All we need is practice. But too bad not much chance here on this island. :)

putitthisway said...

not really that much older than you.
And to Karate Kid IV,

很多白字,有点火星文的味道。

Karate Kid IV said...

Chee Wei: Thanks you for your kind words.

My written mandarin is horrible and I know that much. But you guys reading it should now understand what a thankless job my Chinese teachers had, since it's my first time since JC writing any extended piece of mandarin and despite the help of an electronic dictionary, QuanPin typing input and tablet PC with Chinese OCR transcription, it just doesn't get any easier.

I can think in the language now, so comprehension and spoken is far better,thanks to a month or so in Shanghai where I'd go for weeks without speaking English.

Yeah, the 新家坡 thing is probably a freudian slip, how I've slowly and improbably come to think of this place as home. How long that frame of mind will last, no one knows.

Anyway, it's impossible to find someone capable of discussing political economy in Mandarin in Singapore - it's usually the benchmark of how strong your grasp of the language is.


Putitthisway: I can say I've tried, considering that my written and spoken English is at native speaker level.

Let's see you write an equally long critique in Mandarin.....don't just sympathise with the loss of the language, use it!

Anonymous said...

"...Karate Kid IV said
My written mandarin is horrible and I know that much. But you guys reading it should now understand what a thankless job my Chinese teachers had..."

我相信你也知道问题主要不是华文老师们的错,他们只是巧妇难为无米之炊(qiao fu nan wei wu mi zhi chui == A skilful woman could do nothing without rice)。让我们记住他们的无奈吧。

新加坡人在离开学校后要维持华文的水平,或许两个有效的方法是坚持长期阅读华文报章(例如早报),以及多看一些华文电视节目。

当然若能在工作上用到华文,日常生活上有心,有机会常常多讲华语,那就会更好了。

而这些都是能办到的。Putitthisway不就说了,“...don't just sympathise with the loss of the language, use it! ...”。

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