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3.1 流利(Fluency)

学习另外一种语言,总是要处理很多与母语不一样的细节。

Learning another language always involves navigating a myriad of details that differ from native tongue.

凡是和母语发声方式不一样的地方,都是语音塑造的重点

Any differences in pronunciation from your native language should be the focus of speech training.

在语音中,最重要且最普遍被忽视的差异是:

One of the most important and often overlooked differences is:

英文的音节绝大多数情况下读出来都比亚洲语言的许多……

English syllables, in most cases, are pronounced much longer than the individual characters in Asian languages...

首先,英文的元音有长短之分,除了 6 个基础元音 ʌeəɪʊɒ 是短元音之外,剩下的十几个都是相对更长的元音;而亚洲语言的元音都是等长的。

Firstly, English vowels have variations in length. Aside from the 6 basic short vowels ʌ, e, ə, ɪ, ʊ, and ɒ, the remaining more than dozen vowels are relatively longer. In contrast, vowels in Asian languages are all of equal length.

除此之外,在英文中,当一个短元音处于重音音节的时候,会出现因强调而发生的短元音变长的情况。比如,你可以试着说一下 This is a big city! —— 为了强调 big,你会不由自主地将它读成长长的 biːg,而不是 bɪg,如果强调 city,它的第一个 也会稍微变长一点点(你可以把 s 拉长)……

In English, a short vowel in a stressed syllable can elongate when emphasized. For example, try saying, This is a big city! You'll notice that to emphasize big, you naturally stretch it into a long-sounding biːg, instead of the short bɪg. If you stress city, the first will also lengthen slightly - you can stretch the s sound.

而英文的音节构成也相对更为复杂,元音前有可能是两个辅音。亚洲语言的音节(字)几乎没有两个辅音作为开头的情况,在英文中这种情况却非常普遍。亚洲语言的音节同样没有两三个辅音作为结尾并且还要发声清晰的情况,在英文中这种情况同样非常普遍。每个辅音都要发声清晰的话,就会占用一定的时长。比如,flexed, flekst,虽然整体上只是一个音节(ccvccc 的结构),可即便这个音节中的元音 e 是短元音,整体发声时它也比任何一个亚洲语言中的 “字”(同样是一个音节)都长。

English syllables can also be more complex, often with two consonants in the beginning of a vowel. This contrasts with Asian languages, where syllables (or characters) rarely start with two consonants. Similarly, English often ends syllables with two or three clear-sounding consonants, while this is less common in Asian languages. Each consonant requires a certain amount of time to articulate clearly. For example, the word flexed, pronounced flekst, although technically one syllable (ccvccc structure), takes longer to say than any single syllable (or character) in an Asian language, even though the vowel e in flexed is short.

平均来看,英文的音节中辅音数量可能是亚洲语言的两三倍以上 —— 这造成的结果就是,说英文的时候,舌头比说其他语言的时候相对要忙太多…… 并且,因此英文单个音节的发声时长也相对更长 —— 不是长一点点,而是长很多。

On average, the number of consonants in English syllables is likely more than double that of Asian languages. This means that speaking English requires our tongues to be busier than when speaking in most other languages. Moreover, this causes each English syllable to be pronounced in a relatively longer duration - not just a bit longer, but significantly longer.

音节上的长短差异会造成语音在韵律和节奏上的巨大差异。

The difference in syllable length can lead to a significant difference in speech prosody and rhythm.

若是忽视了这一点,那么,在节奏韵律上的巨大差异会形成一个无法逾越的障碍。很多人压根就不知道这里有一个巨大的障碍,于是,从来就没有可能跨越它 —— 请问,你如何跨越一个你不知其存在的障碍呢?

If this is overlooked, the resulting significant difference in prosody and rhythm can become an insurmountable barrier. Many people are oblivious to this huge obstacle, hence, they never get the chance to overcome it. After all, how can you overcome a barrier you don't even know exists?

还有另外一个比较隐蔽的却也同样重要的差异:

There's another less noticeable yet equally crucial difference:

英语的自然语音中有大量的塞音存在于音节之间。这些音我们虽然听不到,也看不到发声器官的动作,但这些动作却是完整完成的 —— 也就是说,它们也是占用时长的。

In natural English speech, there are numerous stop sounds interspersed between syllables. We may not hear these sounds or see the articulator in action, but the actions are fully completed, meaning they also take up time.

还没有完…… 记得吗?两个元音直接连在一起的时候,还有可能存在加音j/w),以及很常见的 l 之前的加音 ə……

And there's more... remember? When two vowels are connected, there might also be a glide sound (j/w), and that common schwa ə added before l...

所有这些细节加在一起,造成了一个格外普遍的现象:

All these nuances combined result in a particularly common phenomenon:

亚洲人讲英文的时候速度都过快……

Asian people often speak English too quickly...

常常把长元音双元音,以及美式英语特有的半长元音读成更短的版本(尤其是 æ),很多辅音没有清楚地发音,很多实际存在的微妙停顿(比如塞音)全都忽略,甚至可能在某些辅音之后插入了原本不存在的元音,但是,反过来常见的加音却实际上缺席……

Asian speakers often shorten long vowels and diphthongs, as well as the unique half-long vowels in American English, especially the æ sound. Many consonants aren't clearly pronounced, and subtle stops that should be there are often overlooked. Sometimes, vowels are added where they don't exist, yet, ironically, added sounds that should be present are often missing.

整体结果就是,同样一句话,亚洲人总是能够做到更快、很快、甚至太快地讲完。可问题在于,从理解的角度来看,在英文母语使用者耳中,几乎所有的韵律和节奏全都是错的。用错误的韵律节奏,讲的速度越快,就越难以被理解。

The result is that Asians tend to speak English much faster than native speakers. The problem, however, is that from a comprehension standpoint, the prosody and rhythm are all wrong to native English ears. The faster you speak with incorrect prosody and rhythm, the harder it becomes to understand.

还没有完……

The story doesn't end there...

另外一个影响初学者讲英文时语速不正常地快的原因,更微妙,来自于一种基于普遍误解的心理压力。在这一点上,全世界的人都一样,当人们听到自己听不懂的另外一种语言的时候,总是误以为对方说话速度很快

Another subtle factor that often makes beginners speak English unnaturally fast originates from a psychological pressure based on a widespread misunderstanding. This is a universal experience: when people hear a language they do not understand, they often mistakenly believe that the speaker is talking too fast.

可这就是因误解而生的幻觉。之所以幻觉对方语速快,是因为自己听不懂。听母语的时候,大脑甚至可以以句子为单位处理信息,可突然之间,要退回到音节级别,又因为那声音里充满了自己并不习惯甚至没听过的音素,不习惯的韵律和节奏,当然需要更多的精力…… 听不懂,当然记不住。于是,大脑更不够用,更是误以为对方说话太快。

However, this perception is nothing but an illusion born out of misunderstanding. The reason we perceive foreign speakers as speaking quickly is simply because we don't understand what they're saying. When we listen to our native language, our brain can process information on the sentence level. Suddenly, when faced with a foreign language, we're thrust back to the syllable level. With unfamiliar phonemes, prosody and rhythms, we, of course, need more mental effort... If we don't understand, we certainly can't remember. As a result, our brains struggle more, enhancing this illusion of rapid speech.

其实,全世界的人在说话的时候,不管使用任何语言都一样,都会不由自主地划分意群,下意识地选择轻重,并且都会有意无意地适当停顿,不仅是在句子之间,句子之内也有。

In reality, all speakers, regardless of the language they're using, instinctively chunk phrases, choose stress levels subconsciously, and take deliberate pauses. These pauses are not only between sentences but also within them.

可是,突然之间,只是因为听不懂、记不住,大脑就像一台同时运行了太多软件的电脑, CPU 过热,内存溢出,恨不得当场死机。于是,不知不觉之间产生了幻觉,就是觉得对方说话快,即便对方正在以再正常不过的语速讲话。

But then, all of a sudden, just because you can't understand or remember, your brain starts working like a computer running too many apps at once. The CPU overheats, memory overflows, and it feels like it's about to crash right there and then. Without realizing it, you start to imagine that the other person is speaking too quickly, even though they're speaking at a perfectly normal pace.

基于上面这个普遍误解的下一个误解,同样微妙,人们常常误以为语速够快就能构成讲得足够流利。其实,流利的构成与语速快慢几乎全无关系。是否流利更多是发音是否正确,措辞是否准确,句法和用法是否符合习惯,逻辑是否顺畅,等等等等 —— 以及,很多人可能并未意识到的另外一个很重要的东西,叫做节奏**。

Building on the common misconception mentioned above, there's another subtle misperception often held: people tend to equate speaking fast with being fluent. In reality, fluency has almost nothing to do with the speed of speech. True fluency hinges on accurate pronunciation, precise choice of words, adherence to customary syntax and usage, smooth logical presentation, and so on. What's more, something many people may not fully realize is the crucial role rhythm plays in fluent speech.

所以,刚开始的时候,要刻意放慢自己的语速。记住,流利不靠语速,起码不只靠语速。语速过快,容易出错,越快出错越多。再说,流利也不是一上来就需要追求的东西,速度更不是。

So, in the beginning, it's crucial to deliberately slow down your pace of speech. Bear in mind, fluency doesn't depend solely on the speed of speech. Speaking too quickly can lead to mistakes, and the faster you speak, the more errors you're likely to make. Besides, fluency isn't something you need to aim for right off the bat, and speed is even less so.

好莱坞动作明星阿诺德·施瓦辛格口音很重但表达清楚且流利 —— 这是怎么回事呢?一般来说,决定一个人讲话流利与否的因素,从听众角度出发,如果能够按照重要性排列的话,大抵应该如下:

Consider Hollywood action star Arnold Schwarzenegger. His accent is heavy, but he communicates clearly and fluently - how can this be? Generally, the factors that determine whether a person's speech is fluent or not can be lined up in terms of importance from the audience's perspective, roughly as follows:

  • 语意完整
  • Complete in meaning
  • 上下文足够丰富
  • Rich in context
  • 符合习惯
  • Conforms to common usage
  • 逻辑清晰
  • Clear in logic
  • 语法正确
  • Correct in grammar
  • 措辞准确
  • Accurate in wording
  • 节奏
  • Rhythm
    • 停顿
    • Stop
    • 轻重
    • Emphasis
    • 缓急
    • Pace
  • 韵律
  • Prosody
    • 高低
    • Pitch
    • 起伏
    • Tone
  • 音素
  • Phonemes
    • 元音
    • Vowels
    • 辅音
    • Consonants

即便是到了相对最不重要的音素层面,也有重要性上的先后顺序,元音比辅音更重要。然而,绝大多数人在整个练习过程中,在最不重要的层面上就被卡住了…… 越是重要的越没机会练习,越是重要的,越没能力去关注 —— 这才是失败的关键吧?

Even at the seemingly least important level of phonemes, there's a hierarchy of importance: vowels are more critical than consonants. However, most people get stuck at this least significant level during their practice... The more crucial something is, the less opportunity they have to practice it, the less capacity they have to focus on it. Isn't this the real crux of failure?