聊一聊特朗普的英文写作

2018-05-293338

互联网上几乎每天都有关于川普的热点,最近一个是关于他写给金正恩的信件:

这封信一经公开便遭到了不少人的批评,这其中包括国外一些英语老师,但他们关注的点是这封信在遣词造句上的问题。不少人在特推上对这封信打分并给出了修改建议,其中一名用户甚至给这封信打上了F(不及格)的分数。

虽然有部分人是为了黑川普而黑川普,对这封信有鸡蛋里挑骨头的意味,但有一些修改建议还是非常中肯的,可以作为英文写作的案例来学习。比如下面这位名为Michael G. Stone的用户给出的修改版本:

这些修改大部分集中在用词上,其中有不少值得我们借鉴的地方:

原文:We greatly appreciate your time, patience, and effort with respect to our recent negotiations and discussions relative to a summit long sought by both parties, which was scheduled to take place on June 12 in Singapore.

修改:We greatly appreciate your time, patience, and effort on our recent negotiations and discussions for a summit long sought by both parties, scheduled to take place on June 12 in Singapore.

点评:The Elements of Style 一书中有这样的说法:

Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts.

简洁是英文写作的灵魂,为了做到这一点,要学会去掉所有无关的信息,同时还要学会精简表达,一件事情能用一个词说清楚就坚决不用两个词。具体到这封信,with respect to和relative to过于冗长,可以用介词来代替,which was则可以去掉。

 

原文:Therefore, please let this letter serve to represent that the Singapore summit, for the good of both parties, but to the detriment of the world, will not take place.

修改:Therefore, please be informed that the Singapore summit, for the good of both parties, but to the detriment of the world, will not take place.

点评:let this letter serve to represent过于冗余,用be informed代替会更好。for the good of both parties, but to the detriment of the world这句话有点莫名其妙,“对两个国家有利,但对全世界来说有害”,逻辑上说不通。

 

原文:You talk about your nuclear capabilities, but ours are so massive and powerful that I pray to God they will never have to be used.

修改:You talk about your nuclear capabilities, but ours are so massive and powerful that I pray to God they will never be used.

点评:这一句话感觉有点像小孩子吵架,互相吓唬对方,朝鲜有核武器,美国也有,而且威力更加强大。在正式的外交信件中这样恫吓别国领导人并不合适。另外,have to在这里也是多余成分,应该去掉。

 

原文:I felt a wonderful dialogue was building up between you and me, and ultimately, it is only the dialogue that matters.

修改:I felt a wonderful dialogue was building up between us, and ultimately, it is only the dialogue that matters.

点评:you and me改为us更加简洁。

 

原文:That was a beautiful gesture and was very much appreciated.

修改:That was a beautiful gesture and very much appreciated.

点评:第二个was可以去掉,这样更加简洁,同时信件中用了太多的very much,它完全可以用其他副词代替,比如可以改为highly appreciated

 

原文:If you change your mind having to do with this most important summit, please do not hesitate to call me or write.

修改:If you change your mind about this most important summit, please call or write me.

点评:having to do with改为about更加简洁,please do not hesitate to do something是各类邮件里常用的套话,直接改为please do something会更加言简意赅,call me or write不对称,应该改为call or write me.

不少英语学习者可能会有这样的误区:只要是个老外,就能写好英文。但实际情况是,即使是英美人士,能写好英文的人也并不多,因为这是一项有相当门槛的技能,它与阅读量和受教育水平呈正相关。这次的信件就能说明这一点:即使是总统也未必就能写作合格。

 

历史上,美国总统一般都有御用的写作班子(ghost writers),像竞选演讲稿以及国会讲话等重要场合的文字一般都由他们修改润色。例如尼克松的御用写手是纽约时报政治专栏作家William Safire,小布什的御用写手则是华盛顿邮报专栏作家Michael Gerson以及作家Susan Hughes。但从这次的写作质量来看,这封信极有可能是川普亲笔所写,从这一点也可以看出,他确实不是一个按常理出牌的人。

文/魏剑峰




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