Tác giả :

I’ve been teaching foreign languages at this university for over 33 years, and I’ve noticed many of my students obsessively striving to get good grades in their subjects. Having said that, few of them have managed to retain the knowledge gained from the courses. Even worse, very few of them have succeeded in putting that knowledge into practice! Does all this seem rational? Don’t they realize that knowledge is much more important than high marks? Oh, dear high-mark lovers, can I give you a friendly word of advice? Don’t study merely for high scores, study for knowledge –and for the fun of it!  

Be systematic

Adopt a systematic view in judging  everything. Try to find the interrelationships between the various phenomena around us – be they temporal or spatial, causes and effects, or whatever. Take the same systemic attitude in approaching our training curriculum. Its beauty is that there is nothing superfluous. All the subjects included in the course are inextricably interrelated and designed in such a way as to provide you students with all the necessary knowledge and skills for you to succeed in your later career life. The first two years of the English major programme focus on language skills and the last two are devoted to language theory, culture and literature. Master these foundation and specialized disciplines since they constitute your professional expertise. And what about those “side subjects” –History? Philosophy? Are they “worth” studying? … Uh-uh… Uh-oh! … Uh-huh. Absolutely! You will find such provision indispensable to your future career as a translator or interpreter, which requires as large a knowledge background as possible. So, conscientiously accumulate all the wisdom offered, so as not to regret later not having studied this or that. Also, rest assured that the sea of knowledge will never run dry, and that very few people have ever died from too much studying!

Language is a system of systems. And there is a certain pleasure in figuring out how the language system works. Take Syntax for example. There is something ludic about the very act of parsing. You try to chunk its functionality into smaller and smaller pieces. And then, at the very bottom, you will find this distinctive unit with a definite function. It’s like a puzzle to which you know there must be a solution. And then when you find it, there’s a great feeling of instant power and gratification. Once you’ve started doing it, it’s very, very addictive!

Be curious!

Always ask the question “why”? Assume that there’s more to everything than meets the eye. Start small. Why is it that learners learn but lawyers don't law, and ladders don't lad? If the plural of mouse is mice, why isn't the plural of grouse grice? More intriguingly, why do roosters crow so differently in different languages? “Ò-ó-o” in Vietnamese, “kokekokkō” in Japanese, and “cock-a-doodle-doo” in English! Do animals really speak different languages in various parts of the world? Talking about speaking animals, comes to mind the European fairy tale Cinderella. How is the name translated into Vietnamese? “Cô tro bếp” in the north, and “Cô bé lọ lem” in the south? What accounts for the different translations? What impact do they have on the readers/ listeners? By the way, do you know that thousands of variants of this folk tale are known throughout the world, among which is our Vietnamese “Tam Cam”? These are interesting issues you could delve into when studying literature, culture and translation.

If you get into the habit of asking “why”, you will start to identify problems automatically. And don’t forget to be scientifically skeptical.  Not cynical , but critical. Don’t always take things at face value. However good something appears, there may still be some flaws –and there is always room for improvement. Scientifically credulous dummies are known to have hindered the progress of humanities for ages!

Be inspired!

I consider it a privilege to be living in the age of the Internet and the advent of such wonderful social networks as Facebook and Twitter. In my schooldays, from textbooks, I got to know the great Leonardo da Vinci, the multitalented Mikhail Vasilyevich Lomonosov, and the eminent physicist Lev Landau, whose lives and works have always been sources of inspiration for me. Nowadays, thanks to the Internet, I can always “follow” my idols –modern-day Renaissance genii, such as Bill Gates and the departed Steve Jobs, Alicia Keys  and the late Leonard Cohen. By some queer magic, I “have met” some of these most incredible people, and we have been “connected”. How can they be so talented, so philanthropic? Where do they draw their inspiration from, and how do they maintain such a formidable array of interests and passions? I am just humbly happy that among the over seven billion people currently living on earth, there exist such amazing people –certainly more than “a few good men”, embodying human virtues, who always try to make a difference! And I have never ceased to be mesmerized by their achievements! You too, choose your hero of the day!

Let’s now apply all three of our Be- maxims in practice. Have a look at these verses by Abraham Cowley, in which the poet wished for a solitary retreat.

“May I a small house and large garden have;
And a few friends,
And many books, both true.”

What do you find peculiar about this stanza in terms of grammar, prosody? What effect did the writer achieve by using pairs of antonyms “small – large”, “a few – many”? What is his mood? Semantically, are there any figures of speech? Syntactically, how many sentences are there in the above verses? Can you draw the phrase markers for it/them?

Well, as they say, “a journey of a thousand steps begins with one”. So, isn’t it high time you took the first step and changed your mindset? Rather than harbour your insatiable hunger for good marks, why not nurture an unquenchable thirst for knowledge?

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