薛涌 | 百日攻克《时代》周刊的英语学习法

续前

当我理解了这套方法并尝到甜头后,这套方法就成了新的常规。我于是又开始对这套方法寻

 

求突破。要知道,美国老师特别强调速读,强调碰到不认识的字时根据上下文猜一下,只要

 

不严重地影响阅读理解就跳过去,为了速度而牺牲一些精确性。我则觉得这对我们攻克单词

 

关并不好。于是自己发展出一套通过阅读记忆单词的办法。最近我因为当了新东方的顾问,

 

看到新东方的一位学生报告说,老师叫他们“一天新背320个单词,复习1800个,每天到了

 

晚上我看见英文字母就有呕吐的愿望。”我的方法绝对不是这种让你呕吐的方法。相反,我

 

的方法会给你带来许多快乐。用这样的办法,我一天能够记忆150个左右新单词。以下不妨

 

先把方法简介一下,并进行简单的示范。

第一,你要找一篇英语媒体上的文章。这篇文章最好图文并茂,讲的是你最感兴趣的内容。

 

你对内容越是有兴趣,在阅读过程中查关键单词就越有动力,查出来的单词记住的机会也就

 

越大。相反,如果对内容不感兴趣,读起文章来昏昏欲睡,你就无法记住里面的单词。

第二,在阅读过程中,每遇到一个不认识的单词,都要在那个单词下画一道醒目的线,然后

 

查字典。查出来后,把单词抄写在笔记本上,并尽可能努力记住词义。要注意:这里说的努

 

力记住,指的是一瞬间的努力,不能反复背那个单词。这只是一次性地看一眼、记一下。另

 

外,你也不要写下单词的中文意思。一来是写下中文意思让你心理有依赖感,在那一瞬间就

 

不会以绝望式的努力去记住那个单词了,二来也花费太多时间。你必须保证阅读是你的主要

 

活动,尽可能快地往前走。这种记忆生词的努力,和在上面那个词汇表中阅读B栏词汇时填

 

空补缺所用的努力和时间应该差不多。最后我还必须提醒你:绝不能歧视不同的单词。有些

 

人想当然地认为有些单词重要,有些单词不重要。错矣!千万不要这么自以为是。你在和一

 

个完全不同的文化打交道。不要觉得你知道哪个词在这个文化中常用、重要,哪个不常用、

 

不重要。什么重要,什么不重要,我这一阅读式的单词记忆法自然会告诉你。我后面马上会

 

讨论这一点。

第三,随着你这样不停地阅读,不停地在单词本上一次性地记录所碰到的生词,单词就会自

 

然积累下来。当你看到本子上的单词已经有三四行之多时,就停下来,把每个单词一次性地

 

读一遍,看看是否还记住了其中的意思。如果发现有些词已经忘了,就再查一下字典,再一

 

次性地记一次(不必重新抄写)。这里的原则是,你要在你短期记忆消失前将之巩固一下。

 

以后的阅读还是要重复同样的过程:到有六七行单词时,还要从头阅读一遍,把忘记的词查

 

出来。这时,前三四行已经是“二进宫”了,我一般也是要再度记一遍,不过那时这些词很

 

少有忘记的,费时不会太多。当然,完成这个过程,要根据个人的能力不同而调整。如果你

 

短期记忆力强,可以到四五行时温习。如果你短期记忆力弱,就两行时温习一次。

第四,我一天这样工作8小时,一天结束时一般能积攒一百五十甚至二百个单词左右。临睡

 

前把所有单词温习一遍,发现大致一百二十个左右的词还记得。另三十个左右忘记的词要再

 

查出来进行一次性记忆,然后可以安睡。

第五,第二天早晨起来,重新温习所有的单词。以我的经验,此时你还是能记住一百到一百

 

二十几个。你只需把忘记的词再查一遍,进行一次性记忆,然后吃完早饭,开始下一轮的阅

 

读和记忆。在这个时刻,你和头一天的那个词汇表不是要说再见,而是要永别。你再不必回

 

头温习。

你最好利用长假期的机会开始这样的强化,看看用这样的方法,一天8小时的练习量能维持

 

多久。能维持两个月就两个月,能维持三个月就三个月。能一天8小时就8小时,不行7小时

 

也不算太差。只要维持了一段时间,许多奇妙的变化就会发生。我前面说过,你绝对不能搞

 

“词汇歧视”,对所有单词都要一视同仁。要知道,你这么阅读,每天接触的生词就150

 

以上,读过的词汇(包括那些认识的词汇)则是成千上万,而且你读的是真实的英文媒体。

 

有些生词即使你在第二天早晨起来检查时仍然能记住,如果不在以后的文章中出现也会被忘

 

记。你维持着如此大的阅读量,总碰不到的词自然属于很少用的词,忘了就忘了,用不着遗

 

憾。常用字忘了怎么办?放心。只要保持这么大的阅读量,真正的常用字隔两天就会再出现

 

,你还是依照这套方法记忆一遍就行了。有些单词,你可能重复记忆十几遍甚至几十遍。有

 

时你阅读中碰到一个不认识的词,心里会惊呼:“天呀,我记得我查了多少次了,怎么还是

 

不认识?!”这时你的大脑会非常警觉、兴奋。当你知道自己碰到了困难但重要的词汇时,

 

你记住这个词的机会就增加了许多。这其实就是“深练”中一个核心内容:重复。但这不是

 

机械重复,而是不断失败、挫折以后的重复。一般的重复,会随着次数增加而降低你大脑的

 

警觉度,能重复到让你麻木的程度。但在“深练”的重复中,你的大脑的警觉度会随着重复

 

(挫折)次数的增加而提高。当然,你也用不着听有些英语教材告诉你哪些是重点词、哪些

 

不是。生活本身会自然告诉你的。

你做个简单的算术:假设你起步时只有3000的词汇量(高考的英语词汇量要求也在此以上)

 

,这样工作100天,一天150个单词,那么就先后记忆了15000次新单词。当然,这15000次的

 

词汇记忆中,有许多是重复的:你学了忘、忘了学,有的甚至被你重复记忆了十几次。不过

 

,也有不少词你只学了一次,当天就在文章中不断重复,一下子就记住了。让我们打个折扣

 

,就算你这100天总共学习并记住了5000个新词汇(150001/3)。那么,加上你原有的

 

3000词汇,你就有了8000词汇量。美国新闻记者写文章的常用的词汇就6000。《时代》周刊

 

比较特别,以用词丰富著称。但8000词汇,大致能够涵盖其主要的词汇。在这种状态下,你

 

读《时代》周刊还会有许多不认识的字,但至少可以不用词典看个大概了。

看到这样吓人的训练计划,有人也许会说:这是应试教育给学生的又一重折磨。错矣!对于

 

有动力的学生,这是个比看起来轻松得多的过程。你可以挑你最喜欢的内容去读。难道我们

 

不记得小时候废寝忘食地读《三国演义》的情景吗?比如,如果你是迈克尔·杰克逊的粉丝

 

,你就读他的传记。当你碰到moonwalk时,一查字典会惊喜地发现:原来这就是“太空步”

 

!你会忘吗?当然,这种方法在开始时要多查些字典而已。开始时你词汇量少、单词多,是

 

最枯燥、最难的阶段。但是,开始时也是你精力最旺盛的时候。只要你顶过这一段,以后则

 

越读越快,吸收的信息量越来越大,整个过程也就越有兴味。这样训练一段时期,词汇量丰

 

富了,你还可以分主题地阅读,把每个主题所涉及的词汇一个一个地攻破。等冲到一百天的

 

终点时,你基本上可以不用词典阅读《时代》周刊。那种成就感、那种兴奋,会让你欲罢不

 

能。

完成这一训练,在我看来就是登上了英语阅读的最重要的一个台阶。试想,当你能不借助字

 

典阅读《时代》周刊这种高词汇量的期刊时,你即使停止学英语,也会好奇地拿起《时代》

 

周刊或其他英文读物看看。当然,你也很容易养成每天阅读英文报刊的习惯。英语成了你日

 

常生活的一部分,你不用有意去学也会持续提高。你的英语这样上了路,也会对你的生活和

 

工作有实际的帮助。俗话说:“一鼓作气,再而衰,三而竭”。这个台阶晚上不如早上。要

 

知道,按我们常规的强度学英语,学的速度比忘的速度仅仅快一点,甚至差不多。你总是不

 

能达到不用词典就可以阅读的程度,也不能把英语转化为日常的语言工具,一读英语仿佛就

 

是要上学、用功、去忍受不得不忍受的枯燥功课。这样时间一久,厌烦、疲倦就都会出来。

 

1989年以前,我学英语就是这个状态,学一个月,放半年;结果学了10年,还是《新概念

 

》第一册。后来一强化,几个月就能阅读《时代》周刊,对英语的态度马上有了本质性的转

 

变。

 

阅读单词记忆法过程演示

 

下面我用《华尔街日报》的一篇我在本书中引用过的文章展示一下这样的方法。我在生词下

 

加线,并在文后记下词汇表:

On a summer day inside a Stanford University
classroom a blonde 12~year

 

old girl rises to confront her professor. “You’re
wrong” she cries and storms

 

out in tears. The professor an ethics teacher at the
school is trying to

 

make the case that it’s morally permissible to
kill one innocent life to save

 

five. Still later that night over dinner the professor and the girl sit side

 

by side working out their ethical differences thinker to
thinker. The young

 

girl even smiles.

Welcome to book camp. With the close of this
summer the Great Books Summer

 

Program as it is formally called will have had its most successful year

 

according to Peter Temes its academic director. Each
summer students ages 12

 

to 17 gather against the idyllic backdrop of
either Stanford University or

 

Amherst College. They attend
lectures participate in discussions eat meals

 

and live together as a community of precocious
-thinkers.

Reading the works of Homer Virgil Voltaire Thomas Jefferson and so many

 

others the students are pushed to grapple with questions
that have preoccupied

 

the great thinkers of the past
2500 years. What is the good life? How should
I

 

face injustice? What do I owe my
neighbor?

The program started eight years ago with a group
of 30 students many of whom

 

were underprivileged meeting on weekends. Today the camp enrolls around 600

 

students and its overlapping
one—, two and threeweek sessions run from

 

late June to the beginning of -August.

Mr. Temes recalls the inspiration he had to start
the great books initiative. “

 

There was a brilliant middle schooler in the
South Bronx whose teacher one day

 

said to him I bet youre really excited for high
school. The kid stared

 

back at her blankly and said ‘I don’t think I’ll
go.’”

Realizing that there were many young students who
shared a love of literature

 

and ideas but lacked the carrot of college dangling in front of
them,” Mr.

 

Temes and several others began the Great Books
Summer Program “to give these

 

kids a precollege college experience.”

Unfortunately a great-books curriculum is in short supply even
at many

 

colleges today. But recently a small but vibrant
group of important professors

 

have been working to restore the great books’
prominence in a liberal arts

 

education. In the past decade educators at Princeton Dartmouth and Brown

 

to name just three schools have erected centers specifically designed
to

 

give students an education in the fundamental
texts of the Western canon.

 

Princetons James Madison Program Browns Political Theory Project and

 

Dartmouth’s Daniel Webster Project offer or
sponsor classes on Medieval and

 

Renaissance political thought Civil Liberties Politics and Religion and so

 

on.

The mere existence of these programs suggests an
important trend in student

 

learning habits. The academic radicalism of
recent decades is receding and

 

students are ready to be serious again. Flaky
courses—such as Sociology of

 

Heterosexuality Yale), Philosophy and Star Trek Georgetown), or

 

Whiteness: The Other Side of Racism
Mount Holyoke)—no longer interest them.

 

Instead students from book camp and Princeton are
interested in sitting down

 

with Plato St. Augustine and James Madison to think through the perennial

 

issues of politics and
citizenship. says Robert George a professor and

 

director of Princeton’s James Madison
Program.

Since its birth nine years ago the James Madison Program has
dramatically

 

grown in its offerings and influence on the
Princeton campus. That’s only been

 

possible because “students are very interested in
learning about founding

 

principles. Our class enrollments are very
high,” says Mr. George. In the

 

Constitutional Interpretation
class which has the reputation of being the

 

hardest non-science class at
Princeton 100 to 125 students are typically

 

enrolled. To put that in perspective most classes at Princeton hold fewer

 

than 19 students. The James Madison
Programs numbers along with the Great

 

Books Summer Programs say it all. Students want to learn this
stuff

一篇读下来,积累的词汇如下:

Stanford blonde confront storms out ethics morally permissible

 

innocent ethical camp academic director idyllicbackdropAmherst

 

participate community precocious Homer Virgil Voltaire Thomas

 

Jefferson grapple preoccupied injustice underprivileged enrolls

 

overlapping inspiration initiative brilliant schooler bet stared

 

blankly carrot dangling curriculum vibrant restore prominence

 

liberal arts Princeton Dartmouth Brown erected specifically

 

fundamental canon James Madison Daniel Webster sponsor Medieval

 

Renaissance radicalism receding serious flaky Sociology

 

HeterosexualityYale Trek Georgetown Whiteness Racism Mount Holyoke

 

Plato St. Augustine perennial founding Constitutional Interpretation

 

reputation perspective stuff.

当然,这是一篇非常简单的文章。我标出的许多单词,其实词汇量在两千以下的学生都认识

 

。一天读这么两篇文章,就能积累一百多个词汇。而且你要意识到,这虽然非常简单,毕竟

 

还是《华尔街日报》评论版的文章,是受良好教育的人读的。当然,程度高的大学生或大学

 

毕业生们,则可以从更难的读物开始。

下面让我们看一段《时代》周刊,难度明显提高:

When a baby is born too soon its hard to imagine that the infant would
do

 

better anywhere else in the world than in
America. The most fragile preterm

 

infants are housed in specialized intensive—care
units and cared for by world—

 

class experts. Prematurity cost the country some
$26 billion in 2005 according

 

to the U.S. Institute of Medicine. And yet for
all the technology and expense

 

roughly 30000 American babies under age 1 die each year.
They die at a rate

 

three times as high as in
Singapore which has the world’s best infant
survival

 

long considered a key indicator of a nation’s
overall level of health. In

 

fact the U.S. ranked No. 30 in 2005 lags behind almost every other

 

industrialized nation behind Cuba Hungary and Poland.

What explains such dismal figures? The math is
fairly simple. Babies born

 

preterm — before 37 weeks of gestation — account
for two-thirds of all infant

 

deaths and the number of preemies in the U.S. is
growing. Today 1 in 8

 

American births is preterm — a nearly 20% rise
since 1990. The babies at

 

highest risk are those born “very preterm” —
before 32 weeks of gestation —

 

who account for just 2% of all births but more
than half of all infant deaths

 

by comparison 99% of late-preterm babies born just a week or two early

 

survive. These very preterm births have driven up the
U.S. infant-mortality

 

rate to 6.86 deaths per 1000 live births. If we really want to make progress

 

in infant mortality we have to figure out how to address the problem
of

 

preterm birth,” says Eve Lackritz chief of maternal and infant health at
the

 

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
CDC.

But if the reason for the infant-mortality crisis
seems clear what to do about

 

it is not because premature births remain a genuine medical
mystery: in nearly

 

half the cases the cause is unknown. It is well established that
preterm

 

births are more common among very young and very
old mothers and among women

 

carrying multiples — twins or triplets. But rates
have climbed considerably

 

even among singleton births. Preterm births are
also more common in women with

 

upper-genital-tract infections like bacterial
vaginosis in very underweight

 

and very overweight women in women who undergo cesarean-section births and
in

 

women with certain bleeding and clotting
disorders. But taken together these

 

factors still leave doctors stumped in more than
40% of preterm cases.

The enduring dilemma of infant mortality is
prompting experts to revisit one of

 

biology’s longest-standing questions: Why are
babies born when they are?

 

Research teams across the
country including obstetricians statisticians and

 

molecular biologists are working in concert and very slowly beginning to

 

piece together the answer.

我假设读者有四五千的词汇量。读完后积累了下面的单词:

fragile preterm intensive-care prematurity dismal gestation preemies

 

mortality multiples twins triplets singleton genital tract

 

bacterial vaginosis cesarean-section clotting stumped dilemma

 

prompting obstetricians molecular.

当我把读者的英语水平设定得稍微高一些时,生词就少得多。在这一段中,一些生词反复出

 

现,如preemies等,而且不断变换词形,在这种语境中很容易学,学得还很系统。我相信,

 

一个有3000词汇量的高中生,经过100天强化训练,特别是用这100天的最后两周集中阅读《

 

时代》周刊这种变化多端的文体,百天后应能大致阅读这本高词汇量的杂志。

本章以个人经验现身说法,不过是希望证明一个本书反复表达的观点:你能够成为天才当然

 

更好;如果成不了,或者错过了成为天才的机会,你还是有相当的潜力可以挖掘。像我这么

 

一位快30才开始认真学英语的人,按说已经错过了学习语言的“机会窗”很久。但是,我仍

 

然能够在英语世界语言要求最高的行业之一(大学的文科)中生存。这里的关键就是“深练

 

”。我为了解决阅读问题,长年坚持磕磕绊绊的阅读、积累词汇,而放弃了顺顺当当的方式

 

。我想,如今的后辈,应该有更好的条件做到这一点。

现在总结一下。你是不是学外语的料,并不决定于你是否聪明、是否有语言天分。如果你上

 

了一个外语班,总觉得自己比别人慢,这也不证明你“不是那块料”。相反,如果你天资聪

 

明,经常有“听君一席话,胜读十年书”的顿悟,也不说明你一定能学好外语。学好外语的

 

关键还是看你的动机有多强,是否能持之以恒。不能持之以恒就不是学外语的料。这包括那

 

些相当聪明的人。有些人学不好外语,在我看来就是太聪明,忍受不了努力多年还显得很笨

 

的挫折感。

那么,学好一门外语需要多长时间呢?对一般的大学生来说,我看需要10年持之以恒的努力

 

。其中头35年最好是强化训练。等大体能够轻松阅读后,再细水长流。开始时如果投入时

 

间太少,忘的速度就会超过学习的速度,经常会原地踏步。我有位朋友,英语专业毕业,后

 

来当了大学英语教师。她晚上出去代课挣外快,有一次碰到个年纪大的学生。大家熟了后,

 

那人发现这位小老师的年纪居然还赶不上他学习英语的年头。沮丧之下,他干脆就不来上课

 

了。这种症状,流行我们全社会,可谓司空见惯。为什么?我看还是“一鼓作气,再而衰,

 

三而竭”的道理。开始阶段没有运用“深练”原则强化,没有迅速达到使用的水平,英语长

 

期不能成为你生活工作的一部分。日后一忙,今天拿起来,明天又放下,最后还是一无所成

 

。所以,我劝有志的朋友,从生命中拿出100天,照着我的方法试一下,看看你的英语会变

 

成什么样子。

 《天才是训练出来的》选载

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2011年8月30日, 11:30 下午
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