又中又英——Nagging Feeling

  There is a nagging feeling in my mind which I cannot shake off. This nagging feeling hit me after I realized I’ve been in the US for over a month now. I have hardly spoken any Cantonese for over a month. My relatives and I speak mostly English even though they still remember some Cantonese. To “nag” someone means to always complain or criticize. Some parents always nag their children for having poor grades in school. But to have a nagging feeling used this way means to have a continuous worrying feeling. To “shake off” used this way means to try to get rid of something that is bothering you.

  If something “hits you” it means it suddenly occurs to you. After it suddenly occurred to me I’ve been out of Hong Kong for over a month, the nagging feeling hit me. The nagging feeling I have is that if I continue to only speak English I will gradually not be able to speak Cantonese as fluently as I can now. This means I now continuously worry I will soon lose my Cantonese fluency and understanding of new Cantonese slang words. I worry I could reach a point when I use it or lose it. As I explained some years ago, the expression “use it or lose it” means if you don’t use something, such as a language, you will gradually not be able to speak it well.

  My problem is I have no one to speak Cantonese with. When I am on a plane flying from one relative’s home to another, the flight attendants can only speak English. It’s the same thing when I am in a supermarket or ordering food in a restaurant. I had many Cantonese-speaking friends when I lived and worked in Washington DC and Seattle many years ago. But I have lost contact with all of them. I sometimes call my Hong Kong friends for a long chat on the phone but the time difference makes that difficult.

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        我心中有個糾纏不休的感覺(nagging feeling),揮之不去(cannot shake off),這個纏繞的感覺(nagging feeling)襲來(hit me),是在我意會到自己已經待在美國超過一個月之後。超過一個月以來,我幾乎沒有說過廣東話,我的親戚主要都跟我說英語,即使他們還記得一些廣東話的會話。To “nag” someone意即去嘮叨、不斷抱怨或責罵某人;有些家長會常常嘮叨抱怨着(nag)子女在校成績不佳。但to have a nagging feeling在這裏是指持續地有一個擔憂的感覺縈繞在心。To “shake off”在此是指去擺脫一些令你煩擾的事情。

  若某事物“hits you”,那即是你突然意識到、明白到。我忽然想到自己已經離開香港超過一個月後,那個纏繞的感覺(nagging feeling)隨即襲來(hit me)。在我心頭糾纏不休的感覺(nagging feeling)是,若我一直只說英語,便逐漸不能像我現在般說流利的廣東話。這即是說,我現在持續地擔憂我的廣東話很快便不再那麼流利,也不再能明白那些新的廣東話俚語。我擔心我會去到一個地步是use it or lose it。正如我許多年前解釋過的,習語“use it or lose it”是指你要麼就用,要麼就作廢了;若你不用某事物,例如語言,你會慢慢地變得不那麼流利。

  我的問題是我沒有可以說廣東話的對象。當我坐飛機由一個親戚的家飛往探訪另一個親戚時,那位空中服務員只能說英語。我到超市又或在餐廳點食物時,情況也是一樣。我許多年前在華盛頓特區和西雅圖居住和工作時,也曾有過許多說廣東話的朋友,不過現在跟這些朋友已全都失去聯絡了。我有時會打電話給我的香港朋友,「煲電話粥」長談,但時差令這件事變得困難。

中譯:七刻

Michael Chugani 褚簡寧


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