Sunday, October 18, 2009

开场白 爱上巴别塔


从前,在电扇咿呀转动的中学课室里,受过英殖民地教育的英文老师,重复告诉我们这些懵懂而又对世界充满好奇的小瓜,英语是一扇通向世界的窗。微微上翘的嘴角,难掩英式自负。我曾对老师的话深信不疑。

后来,我到过了许多地方,开始发现,原来英语不是一本畅游全球通行无阻的护照。在马来西亚、香港、斯里兰卡,在这些曾是英国殖民地的国家,英语地位凌驾本土族群语言。英语隐然是第二官方语言,连贩夫走卒都会几句。泰国、中国不曾经历殖民统治,也经常被人讥笑英语烂,但在这些地方,只要会说英语,生存还是没有问题。更重要的是,在以上地方,一句当地语言都不会说也不要紧,只要会英语,马上获得额外尊重,名牌店柜台小姐变得格外殷勤,出租车司机也多了几分耐性。

在一些曾经被英国统治过,而又受欧美文化影响颇深的国家如科威特、卡塔尔等等,我也碰上了和当地人沟通不良的窘境。中东海湾国家拥有大量印度、巴基斯坦、菲律宾外劳投身服务业领域,因此,身为一名旅人,在外搭计程车、用餐,不必担心语言不通。可是,阿拉伯人本身,一般英语很差,而他们的处事方法又大异其趣,要和他们交流,了解他们的想法,殊不简单。

法国人对英语又是另一种态度。许多法国人会说英语。可是,他们对一开口就讲英语的游客却非常反感。在路上以英语向法国人求助,往往只会换来冷冷一句,“I don’t speak English。”不过,只要掌握了法国人心理,开口时先来两句法语,还是可以轻易赢得他们的心。

让我深深体会到英语无用的,是中亚国家。在中亚,英语甚至不是一种受欢迎的语言。对哈萨克斯坦、吉尔吉斯斯坦这些曾是苏联一份子的国家来说,俄语才是他们的国际语言。这时,如果你还抱着我会英语我怕啥的想法,那就得准备受一番罪了。

尚未启程前往中亚国家时,我联系上一些在当地工作的外国人,他们知道我一句俄语都不会后,都会好心问我需不需要他们介绍翻译员。我哪有经费聘请翻译,因此总是婉拒他们的好意。他们相当惊诧,问我,“那你怎么出门?怎么吃饭?怎么搭出租车?” 对他们大惊小怪的态度,我有点不以为然。又不是没见过世面,有什么好怕的,我想。

我带着一本《Lonely Planet》,高高兴兴飞往中亚。到了那片辽阔的大地,我才意识到,原来,我已经成了彻底的聋哑人士。在这些国家,你不要指望能轻易在路上拦下一个略通几句英语的人,给你指路,告诉你餐厅或洗手间在哪里。你甚至连路名也念不出,路牌也看不懂,因为这里的路名只用俄语字母拼写的当地文字书写,完全没有英文字母。

有人认为凭手语就可以解决生活基本需求。其实,无论是用手语或画图和人沟通,都比想象中困难。我曾在蒙古吃腻了牛羊,想点一份鸡肉,比手划脚了老半天,餐厅老板和服务员仍不明白,最后甚至扮演鸡叫,结果只引来了整个餐厅哄堂大笑。

而我恰恰在这些国家,有过好些“坎坷”的遭遇。行李遗失、被拒登机、被官员威胁要求贿赂等等,而一句俄语都不会的我,完全迷失在陌生的语言里。经历了这些事情后,我想,与其迷信英语万能,不如在旅行中积累经验。一个旅人赖以生存的,不是语言,而是经验与态度。

其实,我何止在陌生的语言和街道里迷失,我还迷失在陌生的文化、观念、生活方式里。这个专栏,便是我游走于不同国境之时,种种的“迷失”与“发现”。走过每一个地方,我都把我所熟悉的世界——一个马来西亚华人身处的社会——和当地文化逐一对照。我不尽然喜欢每一个我所走过的地方,可是,每一个地方,也都有令我留恋的美丽。

圣经上有个故事,说狂妄的人类试图建造巴别塔以通往天堂。上帝为了阻止人类,遂使人类有了不同的语言,彼此难以沟通,建塔计划因此失败,人类从此各散东西。虽然人与人之间的不同带来了诸多不便,可是,我还是感谢上帝创造了这许多不同,要不,这世界将多单调乏味。

p/s:走过这些地方,我发现,马来西亚人还是和善而可爱的。而且,原来马来西亚,已经可以算是英语程度相当不错的国家。


图说:
1 吉尔吉斯斯坦曾是苏联一部分。独立后,俄语仍是吉国人和中亚人的国际语言。
2 蒙古的歌剧厅,苏联时期留下的遗迹。粉色油漆、希腊式柱子,典型的俄式建筑。
3 科威特和美国关系密切,虽然表面西化,可是科威特人英语普遍很差。
4 阿曼的Mutrah Fort。这座山头上的城堡由葡萄牙人建造。阿曼曾先后遭葡萄牙与英国势力入侵。
5 伊朗卡扎尔王朝时期的宫殿,是波斯文化与欧洲文化的结合体。

已刊登于19/10/2009《星洲日报》

10 comments:

  1. i read it in the newspaper yesterday! tat's y i'm here! nice sharing~

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  2. Hi 旅人,

    Hope you enjoyed reading it. There are more to come...

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  3. i get to know u in newpaper as well
    quite interesting..
    nice for sharing....hope can get some info for u

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  4. hi Alan,
    U want to get some info "from" or "for" me? I think u mean from, right?

    Sure, what info do u need?

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  5. i like backpacking actually...
    when travel in asia country such as thailand, laos, vietnam...what mostly problem we will encounter actually?thankss

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  6. should i face the visa problem if i apply visa in that country??
    thankss

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  7. Hi Alan,
    beware of pickpocket when traveling in southeast asia. other than that, i think thailand, vietnam and laos are tourist-friendly countries.

    for your second question, which country are u planning to travel to? you don't need a visa for above countries that you mentioned.

    however, if you are referring to central asia, then it's a complicated issue. you are required to apply for visa prior to your trip, but it's very likely that their customs will still give you all sort of troubles, and even deny your entry. The reason is simple: they want you to bribe them. the governments in central asia are very corrupted.

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  8. thanksss!!given some info!
    i prefer going to southeast asia first!
    only the thing is how can we budget our financial?
    if i start from kuala lumpur going down to thailand..all the way by bus..is it possible??
    next where i have to go? laos ,mynmar, vietnam...
    actually i want get know the lifestyle,culture there....
    can u explain ur experience how to make friend with them??
    comunication will be one of the problem?

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  9. think u are quite busying recently....
    anyway hope can get answer for u...
    thankssssssss

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  10. Hi alan,
    yes, it is possible to take a bus from KL all the way to bangkok. alternatively, you can take the train.

    as for the budget, that really depends on how much you can afford, the price of hostel and meal vary greatly. get a copy of "lonely planet Southeast asia", you will have a better idea on how much you are going to spend as this travel guide lists down the prices of accommodation, meals, and all practical information you need.

    communication could be a problem when you are traveling abroad, but never afraid to give others your biggest smile. take initiative to chat with people around you. you'll find that language is not really that important when making new friends in foreign countries.

    good luck and have fun!

    ReplyDelete