德伯拉·法洛斯（Deborah Fallows）和她的丈夫——为《the Atlantic》杂志撰稿的詹姆斯·法洛斯（James Fallows），对于异国的生活早已习以为常。职业生涯中，他们不断移居各地；从非洲到东南亚，都留下了他们的足迹。但对于中国这样重要而又复杂的国家，法洛斯夫妇多年的侨居经验并不足以为他们在中国的三年生活提供多少帮助。作为哈佛大学语言学的博士，法洛斯女士撰写了《中文梦：关于生活、爱和语言的汉语一课》一书。在书中，她详细描述了自己在学习世界上最艰深的语言之一——汉语时的努力与收获。她向《时代周刊》介绍了汉语学习是如何帮助她理解中国式生活的，以及中国那令人目眩的改革，还有学习语言的重要性。
DeborahFallows and her husband, the Atlantic's James Fallows, are no strangers to lifein a foreign country. Over the course of their careers they've upped sticks andmoved to foreign lands, from Africa to Southeast Asia. But even their manyyears as expatriates could not have prepared them for what they wouldexperience throughout their three years living in a country as overwhelming andchaotic as China. In her book, Dreamingin Chinese: Mandarin Lessons in Life, Love, and Language, Fallows, whoholds a Ph.D. in linguistics from Harvard University, details the struggles andtriumphs she had while learning one of the world's most difficult languages.She spoke to TIME about what her study of Mandarin taught her about life inChina, the country's dizzying transformation and the value of learninglanguages.
Why did youchoose China?
It just seemedthat there could be no possibly more interesting place in the globe right thenthan China. It was a no-brainer that this would be a fascinating place to be.We had been through China in the mid-1980s and we knew that if we went back itwould be enormously different, but also that the country was at a reallyspecial moment in its evolution and development.
China in themid-'80s must have been fascinating.
Back thenChina was still coming out of the Cultural Revolution. You knew that this wasthe beginning of a change, but it was unrecognizable in every way. There wasvery little in terms of commercial life. The stores were empty, the shelveswere bare. Everyone was still dressed in the sort of drab uniform of theCultural Revolution or just starting to wear these really cheap newWestern-style clothes. We had our two little boys with us and everyone wantedto touch their blonde hair, pick them up and take pictures with them.
And what wasthe China you encountered upon arriving in 2006?
It bore verylittle resemblance to anything we had seen before. You had all of the old andall of the new trying to share the same space. We saw a few old buildingsnestled in with 80-story high rises. Fast cars on roads that had beenpractically empty before. For the first couple weeks I felt like I washyperventilating. Everything was so fast, so big, so sprawling, so foreign.
How didlearning the language change your experience of living in China?
At first Ithought it was just going to be functional, to help us through everyday life.But after I got to be a little bit better in Mandarin, I realized that this waschanging my life entirely. Daily life remained so overwhelming that I felt likethe one place where I had a grip on something was the process of studying thislanguage. Learning the language became my way to understand and explain allthese things that I was seeing every day.
Can you givean example of something you learned about China from Mandarin?
Their tablemanners seemed very normal or even excessively polite. You would never think ofpouring tea for yourself until you had poured it for everyone else at thetable. But there was a kind of contrast between that politeness and what Iwould see in public — the pushing and shoving on the street, for example. WhatI noticed from a linguistic point of view was that the appropriate way to saythings in Chinese was to be extremely abrupt even to the point of being rude."Please" and "thank you" is heard very little. If you're ina restaurant and the waiter asks if you'd like some more water, you just saybuyao (don't want) — you don't use any of the normal softeners that make ourlanguage polite. I asked some of my Chinese friends, and they told me that in Chinawhen you insert words which we consider polite, they consider it as inserting aformality between you and your good friends or family members. It actually setssome kind of distance. So, in fact, saying "please" to your child or"thank you" to your best friend is heard as something that is veryformal, very icy and like, "What did I do wrong?"
And how didthat help you understand the pushing and shoving on the street?
It helped me understandthe pushing to the extent that you think, I also don't understand this. Ithelps me understand that there is something going on here between behavior andlanguage that I just don't get. It made me want to sort out all the impressionsthat were going on inside my head.
What do youthink is important for Americans to understand about China?
答：去中国前，我以为那是一个拥有13亿人口的巨大而又单一的国家——一个辽阔而统一的国度，所有人朝着同一个方向迅速前行。但当我踏上这个国家的土地后，我发现实际上中国的13亿人民都在用他们各自不同的方式改善他们的生活。相比国家式的统一行动，中国的日常生活更像一场乱哄哄的换座游戏（Chinese fire drill）。重要的是尽可能多地去了解这个国家，而不是对她产生畏惧。在我们与中国的关系中，需要畏惧的比我们想象中的要少，而可以接纳的则更多。
Before wewent, I thought this is a massive country of 1.3 billion people and it's like amonolith — one big, unified nation of people who are all moving in the samedirection very fast. But after being there on the ground in the country, Ilearned that it is actually a country of 1.3 billion individuals who are allworking in their own personal way to try to make their lives better. The dailylife of China is much more like a Chinese fire drill than it is a nation actingin unity. It's important not to be fearful of this country, but rather to learnas much about it. We have less to fear and more to embrace in our relationshipwith China than we might think.
What about thelanguage? Should more Americans be learning Chinese?
More Americansshould be learning any language and more languages, not just one. But certainlyfor this generation of kids, it would be a really wise choice to start to learnsome Mandarin because it will open such a world to them. Not that Mandarin isgoing to take over the world, but that it will open opportunities to work, tolive, to communicate, to understand a country that is going to be so importantin our future.
2010-12-16 14:01 编辑：kuaileyingyu
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In some foreigners eyes', the learning of Chinese has become the most difficult thing for them. The tones of Chinese and Chinese characters all seem to be a difficulty. Then what h