Parents under scrutiny
[ 2006-11-13 14:56 ]

Dear Xin:
This is Jack who works with a foreign trading company in Guangzhou. I have just graduated from college. My major was Business English. I like English grammar very much. No matter what English articles I read, I pay more attention to sentence structures and usages of words than other contents.

Today I find this sentence confusing. This sentence, I think, is wrong. What is your opinion?

Title of the news article: 广州鼓励独生子女夫妇生二胎
Sentence: Parents who are the only children of their families are being encouraged to have a second child in a major effort to balance the city's aging population.

我觉得这个句子有问题. parents 是中心词。who are the only children of their families 是定语从句, who 代替parents , 如果把parents 放在这个定语从句里, 就是parents are the only children of their families. 显然这句话是有问题的, 要不parents = the only children了。 根据句子本来要表达的意思,我觉得改成以下两句比较好一些.

1. Parents (of / who have) the only children in their families are being encouraged to have a second child in a major effort to balance the city's aging population.

2. Parents in whose families there are the only children are being encouraged to have a second child in a major effort to balance the city's aging population.

I am looking forward to your reply.

- Jack

Dear Jack,
You've done a great exercise. You'll learn from it. I'll just point out a thing or two to help you learn.

Unlike most people, you've encountered a confusing sentence in English and have chosen to clear up the confusion by making an extra effort. Keep it up.

Your conclusions are wrong, but your grammatical analysis is correct. Parents, like you say, are the subject matter in the article (I found the article in full via Google). "Who are the only children of their families", like you say, is the attributive clause modifying "parents".

And yes, parents are the only children of their families ("parents = the only children"), which you say is not as it should have been. It should.

That is where you got it wrong. If I understood you perfectly, your confusion might have arisen from your failing to grasp the main point of the article.

You thought a new regulation was introduced in regard to parents of all one-child families. That is incorrect. The regulation in fact addresses only those couples who had themselves been an only child (before they grow up, got married and had their own families). So far, each of these couples has one child. They are encouraged to have one more.

You've done a great exercise in that after this lot of work you put in, you won't forget the lessons to be learned.

Praises aside, let me offer you a piece of advice.

When reading, focus on meaning. You say you "pay more attention to sentence structures and usages of words than other contents". I think you should pay at least as much, if not more, attention to "other contents".

In what is called extensive reading, which is what you'll be doing most of the time as a foreign trade businessman, you skim (casting broader looks) through texts rather than scan (examining and scrutinizing every word in print). You must learn to extract meaning quickly and correctly.

Now that you're out of school, you won't have the time to do what you used to do in school - "intensive reading", that is, whereby you get to tear sentences apart and to analyze how and why some words work better when they are bundled in a particular way. You may continue to do that, of course, so long as you find the time for inking foreign trade deals.

Besides, if you focus on meaning you'll actually find it easier to do what you enjoy doing - taking sentences apart and scrutinizing words for their grammatical significance. Once you've got the main points, the rest just falls into place.

Or in the spirit of your writing (mixing English with Chinese), this is what the Chinese call 纲举目张。

Thank you, Jack, for sharing.

 

About the author:
 

Zhang Xin is Trainer at chinadaily.com.cn. He has been with China Daily since 1988, when he graduated from Beijing Foreign Studies University. Write him at: zhangxin@chinadaily.com.cn, or raise a question for potential use in a future column.

 
 
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