I Love Composition
◎ Xie Bingying
At the beginning of my first year at Peking Women’s Normal University, our teacher of Chinese said to the class,
“Now that you’re university students, you may write on any subject of your own choice. You must each hand in for each semester at least seven or eight compositions. The more, the better. But, mind you, each composition should be well written, not slipshod.”
“Sir, what if it’s beyond my ability to do so?” a classmate, whose name was not personally known to me, suddenly asked.
“Beyond your ability? Then how did you pass the examination for admission to the university? You’re supposed to have learned composition as long ago as your middle school days. A university teacher’s job is little more than giving you guidance in advanced studies. It’s up to you to improve your writing ability. I’m in no position to do much to help you.”
“You’re too modest, sir,” mumbled another classmate.
“Sir, shall we do the writing in the classroom or after school?”
That was a silly question raised by my humble self, a country girl. Some classmates started giggling at me. But I wasn’t embarrassed at all. On the contrary, I thought their giggling was totally uncalled for.
“Do as you please. It’s OK if you want to do it in the classroom. But write on a subject most favourite to you. Well, see you!”
We watched him passing out of sight around a corner of the long corridor. Thereupon, two thirds of the students also left the classroom. A student sitting on my right asked me in a whisper,
“What are you going to write about?”
“Mother’s Longing for the Return of Her Wandering Child,” I answered without the slightest hesitation.
“A short story?”
“No. It’s a lyrical essay.”
I was overjoyed at the advantages enjoyed by university students. First of all, we were given more freedom to do what we thought best. The composition class was just one example. I remembered what had annoyed me most in middle school was that the teachers of Chinese then never gave us composition subjects in advance. They would write a subject on the blackboard at the last minute when they came to meet the class. Some of them gave two or three subjects for us to choose from. Some gave us only one subject like Learn the New by Reviewing the Old, The Destiny of the Nation Is the Concern of Every Citizen, Thoughts on National Day, etc., all of which I found extremely boring. I preferred our teacher to make public the composition subject several days before the class met. I preferred lyrical, descriptive and narrative subjects to argumentative ones because being enthusiastic, young people are fond of lyrical and descriptive writings and also eager to write about their own emotions and aspirations. Only by giving a true account of our feelings, thoughts and life, can we produce good writings. Forcing students to do hollow theorizing in composition will not only fail to improve their writing ability but also subject them, so to speak, to an ordeal of invisible mental abuse. In my school days, I chose to write on whatever subject I liked best. Later, when I became a school teacher, I, by keeping firmly in mind the maxim “Do not do to others what you do not want done to yourself”, always took care not to impose on my students anything that would cause mental torture. Sometimes, I would set 20-30 subjects for them to select from. Sometimes, I would just let them decide on a subject by themselves so that they could write about anything as they pleased. Occasionally, they even let me polish up the love letters penned by themselves, which, to tell you the truth, would read much more smoothly than the compositions they usually did.
As mentioned above, after I became a university student, there was nothing more agreeable to me than the freedom I enjoyed in writing. During this period, being poor and busy, I lived a hard life. I was so hard up that I couldn’t even afford the streetcar fare. And though I worked nonstop day and night, I still felt hard pressed for time to finish correcting papers and preparing lessons. That was because while I was a first-year student at the university, I concurrently taught Chinese at two middle schools. Just imagine a country girl fresh from middle school having the audacity to teach those husky young northerners! They certainly had every reason to call me “Child Teacher”.
①“女师大”指当时的“北京女子师范大学”，故译Peking Women’s Normal University。
②“现在你们是大学生了”意即“由于你们是大学生了”，故译Now that you’re university students，其中Now that（或Now）作“因为”解，等于Because。此句也可这样处理：Now, as university students …。
③“每学期至少要交七八篇文章”译为You must each hand in for each semester at least seven or eight compositions，其中for each semester也可简化为each semester。
⑤“这是我这个乡下姑娘发出的愚问”译为That was a silly question raised by my humble self, a country girl，其中用my humble self（敝人）代替myself，略带俏皮，符合原文的内涵。
⑥“望断天涯儿不归”译为Mother’s Longing for the Return of Her Wandering Child，是参照作者当时为逃避母亲为她包办的婚姻而流浪他乡的背景而译的。
⑦“温故知新”译为Learn the New by Reviewing the Old，等于Learn New Things by Reviewing What Has Been Learned Before。
⑧“国家兴亡，匹夫有责”译为The Destiny of the Nation Is the Concern of Every Citizen，其中The Destiny也可改用The Rise and Fall。
⑨“如果硬要由脑筋里压榨出一些什么空空洞洞的理论来”意即“如果强迫学生在作文时从事空洞的议论”，故译Forcing students to do hollow theorizing in composition，其中hollow和empty同义；theorizing的意思是“议论”。
⑩“而且对于这些学生，简直是一种无形的精神虐待”译为but also subject them, so to speak, to an ordeal of invisible mental abuse，其中插入语so to speak或so to say是成语，作“可以这么说”、“恕我直言”等解，用以表达原文的“简直”。又an ordeal（折磨）是译文中的增益成分，原文虽无其词而有其意。
⑪“我绝不伤害他们的脑筋”意即“我绝不强迫他们做伤脑筋的事”，故译took care not to impose on my students anything that would cause mental torture。
⑫“说起来真太冒险了，自己还是个刚跨出中学不久的乡下姑娘，去教那些又高又大的北方青年”意即“自己是刚从中学毕业的乡下姑娘，竟敢去教那些又高又大的北方青年”，故译Just imagine a country girl fresh from middle school having the audacity to teach those husky young northerners，其中Just imagine（想一想）是译文中的增益成分；fresh from …的意思是“刚从……毕业的”；having the audacity to …的意思是“胆敢从事……”，用以表达原文的“说起来真太危险了”。
⑬“怪不得他们要叫我‘孩子先生’了”意即“他们完全可以喊我‘孩子先生’”，故译They certainly had every reason (或good reason) to call me “Child Teacher”。