So Many Points
Having read much of what I have said about points of usage, some readers have given me to understand1 that they think it simply impossible to remember so many points, about which there seem to be no rules at all. They wonder whether all who2 write correct English know them all by heart3 and pay regard to them whenever they write, and whether it is at all possible for one to learn to write English fairly well without bothering about4 these tiny points.
Yes, most of the points seem to be tiny ones5. But it is just these points that show whether one is really at home in6 English or not. Occasional errors in grammar, which should of course be avoided by all means7, may most probably be due to mere carelessness and not at all peculiar to8 those whose English is imperfect. But lapses in idiom always betray9 one’s unfamiliarity with10 correct English. It follows that11 the seemingly trifling12 points of usage are well worthy of the attention of13 all who wish to write English corretcly.
As to knowing them by heart, those who are born to the language14 may not need to make any conscious effort. They learn correct usage by intuition, so to speak15. They speak English every day, and the use of many idiomatic expressions and constructions are second nature16 with them, so that when they write they cannot possibly be17 incorrect where they are correct when speaking18.
The case is certainly different with19 Chinese learners of English, who are most of them English-reading rather than English-speaking. They must take care to master many points of usage that are quite natural to those whose mother tongue is English.
What I call points of usage, however, are not so formidable20 an enemy as they may seem to you. Close attention to them helps to conquer them. Besides, what English-speaking persons get from speaking you may get from reading aloud21, which will help you in the same way as speaking would22, though perhaps less quickly. And there is an advantage in reading aloud over speaking23 in the fact that in reading good written English you are not in danger of24 getting those common solecisms, barbarisms, and improprieties in the speech of persons of limited culture.25
- given me to understand 使我知道
- all who … 所有……的人
- know them all by heart 牢记它们全部
- bothering about 因……而操心
- at home in 精通……的
- by all means 必然
- peculiar to ……所特有的
- betray 暴露
- unfamiliarity with 对于……的不熟悉
- It follows that … 因而有……的结论；所以……
- seemingly trifling 似乎不重要的
- well worth of the attention of 很值得……注意的
- are born to the language 生出来就用这语言；把这语言用作本族语言
- so to speak 可以这样说
- second nature 第二天性；习惯
- cannot possibly be 绝不会
- when speaking=when they are speaking
- with 关于
- formidable 难以对付的
- what English-speaking … reading aloud=you may get from reading aloud what English-speaking persons get from speaking
- would=would help you
- advantage in reading aloud over speaking 朗读胜于谈话的地方
- in danger of 有……的危险
- of limited culture 所受教育不多的