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投资未来:美中语言交流的重要性 Investing in the Future: Let's Start with Language Learning

中美聚焦网 2018-07-17 14:50


美国国务院为我提供了大约2.5万美元学习汉语。作为高中NSLI-Y奖学金和大学“重要语言奖学金”获得者,我在中国同寄宿家庭一起生活了两个夏天,每天学习九小时汉语。读本科时,我花了大约2000小时的课堂时间坚持学习汉语。说实话,我在我的汉语能力上还是小有投入的。

The U.S. State Department has invested some $25,000 in enabling me to study Mandarin Chinese. As a recipient of the NSLI-Y scholarship in high school, and then the Critical Language Scholarship in college, I lived in China for two summers with host families, studying Mandarin for nine hours a day. Tack on to that the approximately 2,000 classroom hours I spent learning Mandarin as an undergraduate, and it seems fair to say that a small fortune of resources has been invested in my Mandarin ability.

然而,即使有这一大笔钱,我仍然用了很大力气来达到流利的程度。目前还不清楚,将来我的职业生涯中会不会经常用到我的语言技能。这让我思考,国务院是希望有什么样的投资回报呢?到底是什么驱使我练习发音,记住汉字呢?

Yet even with this hefty sum, I still have strides to make in achieving fluency, and it's unclear whether I'll use my language skills regularly in my career. This leads me to reflect: what return on investment was the State Department hoping for? What is it that drives me to drill tones and memorize characters?

许多人一下子就能指出,语言技能在竞争日趋激烈的职场中的价值所在。确实如此,但我不太情愿把学习汉语所带来的收入上的好处,与我自己的目标和打算绑在一起。这项投资的意义,最好是在更大的关系——联系我们两个国家的政治、文化,当然还有经济——背景下来理解。

Many people are quick to point out the value of language skills in an increasingly competitive workforce. While certainly true, I am reluctant to perceive of the primary benefit of learning Mandarin as a financial one tied to my own ends and means. The significance of the investment is best appreciated within the context of the larger ties –political, cultural and yes, economic– that bind our two countries.

今天,约3.5亿中国学生在学英语,相比之下只有20万美国学生在学汉语。2009年,奥巴马总统试图通过推出“十万强”计划,在五年内送10万美国学生到中国学习,从而解决这个巨大差距。2015年,奥巴马总统和习近平主席共同宣布“百万强”计划,建议到2020年使美国学习汉语的学生人数增加到100万(约占美国学生总数的2%)。双方对语言交流的承诺力度很大,但却经常缺少具体的办法进行有关的理性对话。

Today, about 350 million Chinese students are studying English, compared to 200,000 American students studying Chinese. In 2009, President Obama sought to address this massive discrepancy by launching the “100,000 Strong Initiative” to send 100,000 American students to study abroad in China within five years. Then, in 2015, President Obama and President Xi jointly announced “1 Million Strong”, a proposal to increase the number of Americans studying Chinese to 1 million students (about 2 percent of the total number of U.S. students) by the year 2020. This bilateral commitment to language exchange is powerful, but the surrounding dialogue on rationale often lacks a nuanced approach.

人们交谈中最先提到的,是语言交流的经济意义。做个快速调查,“为什么对美国人来说学习汉语很重要”?绝大多数回答都在强调说,要在美国培养一代“中国通”领导者,以便抓住中国经济蓬勃发展的机遇。中国是美国超过1100亿美元产品的出口目的地,中国人民大学教授李泉说的简单明了:“我们现在是主要经济体……全世界明白,中国很长时间内会是一个强国,因此学习语言是必需的。”

The economic implications of language exchange are at the forefront of the conversation. Do a quick search, “Why is it important for Americans to learn Mandarin?” and the vast majority of the results emphasize creating a generation of 'China-savvy' American leaders ready to seize the opportunities of the burgeoning Chinese economy, slated as a destination for more than $110 billion in U.S. exports. Professor Li Quan of Renmin University put it succinctly when he said, “We are now a major economy…The world understands that China is going to be a force for a long time, so learning the language is essential.”

有些人很快指出,汉语取代英语作为国际商务语言的可能性微乎其微,理由是,英语已在全球普及,众多中国学生已经学习英语,而非母语人士学习汉语困难重重。也因此,汉语兴起之说未免显得夸张。但这些怀疑者不得不承认,学习一门外语有许多无法量化的好处。

Some are quick to point out that the odds of Mandarin ever replacing English as the language of international business are slim to none, citing the prevalence of English globally, the high volume of Chinese students already learning English, and the difficulty non-native speakers have in learning Mandarin as reasons why the rise of Mandarin appears hyperbolic. Still, these skeptics will begrudgingly admit, learning a foreign language has many benefits that are less quantifiable.

语言远不仅是沟通的能力。外语学习还可以提升同理心、加强认知发展,并更有创见性地洞察人类状况。越来越多的研究表明,这些裨益也适用于接触多种语言的人,而不只是语言说得流利的人。

Language is about much more than just the ability to communicate. Foreign language study is tied to increased levels of empathy, enhanced cognitive development, and more creative insight on the human condition. Increasingly, research shows that these benefits also apply to those with exposure to multiple languages, and not just those who achieve fluency.

语言学习带来的技能,特别是同理心,可以让商务会谈和外交国事访问有更好的结果。当你在谈判桌上讲别人的语言时,就是在含蓄表达你的合作愿望。在日益全球化的世界上,美中关系仍然是首要话题,确保合作,增进了解,比以往任何时候都更重要。

The skills that come with language study, especially empathy, can lead to better outcomes in business meetings and diplomatic state visits alike: when you come to the table speaking the others' language, you implicitly demonstrate your desire to cooperate. In our increasingly globalized world, where U.S.-China relations continue to be a topic of chief concern, ensuring cooperation and increased understanding is more important than ever.

作为动荡时代的标记,今年早些时候,哈佛大学肯尼迪学院的格雷厄姆·阿利森教授出版了《注定一战:美国与中国能否避开修昔底德陷阱》。古希腊历史学家修昔底德注意到,灾难性的伯罗奔尼撒战争,“正是雅典崛起,而斯巴达为此内心恐惧,战争才不可避免”。在这本书中,阿利森把修昔底德的框架,扩大到500年来崛起国家对守成国家的16次类似威胁。在这16次当中,有12次发生战争。对那些接受阿利森观点,认为中国和美国适用这一模式的人来说,这是一个令人沮丧的,不,是可怕的统计结果。

As a sign of the tumultuous times, earlier this year Professor Graham Allison of the Harvard Kennedy School released Destined for War: Can America and China Escape Thucydides's Trap? The ancient Greek historian Thucydides observed of the devastating Peloponnesian War, “it was the rise of Athens and the fear that this instilled in Sparta that made war inevitable.” In the book, Allison extends Thucydides's framework to include sixteen times over the last 500 years in which a rising power similarly threatened an established state. Of those sixteen times, war occurred in twelve: a dismaying, nay, terrifying statistic for those who adopt Allison's view that China and the U.S. fit into this mold.

如果觉得阿利森的说法耸人听闻,就不必相信美中必有一战,而要相信美中可持续的关系才是稳定世界秩序的关键。同样显而易见的是,中国的迅速崛起让美国不“舒服”,最近几届政府模棱两可的言辞证明了这一点。特朗普总统对中国的第一个行动是与台湾总统蔡英文通电话,公然反抗北京的“一个中国”政策,几个星期后他屈服了,公开承认他在电话里向习近平主席承诺遵守“一中”政策。即便那些以前认为搞实力外交是正当手段的人,这个先例也让他们忧心不已。

If Allison's argument feels sensational, one need not believe in the imminent prospect of a U.S.-China war to accept that sustainable relations between the U.S. and China are crucial to a stable world order. It is also clear that the U.S. is not yet 'comfortable' with a rapidly rising China, as evidenced by the hedging discourse of recent administrations. President Trump's first move with China was to brazenly refute Beijing's 'One China' policy through a phone call with Taiwanese president Tsai Ing-wen, only to cave a few weeks later when he publicly affirmed his commitment to the policy on a call with President Xi. This precedent should worry even those who previously thought that diplomacy through strength was a sound approach.

对中美两国来说,一个互惠互利的未来是建立在理解、尊重和认同之上的。自从尼克松总统1972年进行了开拓性的访问,美国走过了漫长道路,前方仍有很长的路要走。语言交流可以照亮道路,提供文化洞察力,支撑我们共同的立场。

A mutually beneficial future for the U.S. and China will be built upon understanding, respect and recognition. The U.S. has come a long way since President Nixon's seminal 1972 visit, but there is still a long road ahead. Language exchange can illuminate the path – providing cultural insight and bolstering the common ground we stand on.

作为本科生,我曾在华盛顿的一个两党研究智库实习。头一个月,我参加了在国会的一个论坛,名为“中国新国家安全法意味着什么”。我从国会雷伯恩办公楼拾级而上,为能向尊敬的中国法律学者代表团学习感到兴奋。大约50名代表国会主要办公室的工作人员也参加了论坛。

As an undergraduate, I interned in Washington, D.C. at a bipartisan think tank. In the first month, I attended a forum on Capitol Hill: China's New National Security Law: What Does It Mean? I walked up the stairs of the Rayburn Senate building excited to learn from the distinguished delegation of Chinese legal scholars. Around fifty staff members, representing major Congressional offices, were also attending the forum.

一个小时后,我想起托马斯·杰斐逊给女儿的信中写的:“政治真是一种折磨,我建议所有我爱的人不要掺合进来。”我兴奋地想观察外交行为,聆听世界最复杂、最强大国家代表之间的对话,然而我所目睹的是一个小时的琐碎指责、争论,是固执的个人表达,而没有倾听。这是一次令人沮丧的经历,但也颇有启发,让我思考这种无效对话的根源和改进办法。

An hour later, I was thinking of Thomas Jefferson's line in a letter to his daughter: “Politics is such a torment that I would advise everyone I love not to mix with it.” Where I had been excited to watch diplomacy in action and hear dialogue between representatives from the world's most complex and powerful nations, I had instead witnessed an hour of petty accusations, argument, and individuals constantly trying to assert their opinion, rather than listen. It was a discouraging experience, but also an enlightening one, that gave me cause to reflect on the roots and remedies of this ineffective dialogue.

当我的大脑对花费数小时记忆语法、或译读一段文字发出抗议时,让我坚持下来的,并不是我的语言技能拥有潜在的经济好处。学习汉语是我能想到的最谦逊方式,去接触中国这个拥有5000年复杂历史的国家。

When my brain protests the hours spent memorizing grammar patterns or deciphering a single paragraph, it is not the economic potential of my language skills that leads me to persist. Studying Mandarin is the most humble way I can conceive of to approach China, a nation with 5,000 years of complex history.

作为一个语言学习者,我深深意识到,我们两国的相互依存,要靠以汉语为母语的人们的慷慨与支持。凭借语言优势,我体验了中国的美好、好客以及深奥而精细的不同之处。文化交流和汉语学习并不能为中美面临的严峻政策挑战提供明确的解决办法,但学习汉语的经历养成我持久的好奇心,让我致力于理解和尊重。这就是起点。

As a language learner, I am acutely aware of our two countries' inter-dependency, relying on the generosity and support of native Mandarin speakers. From this vantage point, I have experienced the beauty, hospitality and profound nuance of China. Cultural exchange and Mandarin study do not provide clear-cut answers to the serious policy challenges China and the U.S. face, but my experience studying Mandarin has instilled an abiding sense of curiosity and a commitment to understanding and respect – and that's a start.

(作者:米凯拉·史密斯,来源:中美聚焦网,编辑:Helen)

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