常常被問到一個問題:我們非講那麼正確的英文不可嗎?講英文真的就不能犯錯嗎?答案既是又不是。

講英文時可能犯錯誤分成兩類,一類是「印象式的錯誤」。印象式錯誤是即便使用的英文不正確,卻不會造成嚴重誤解。例如,把he用成she,複數名詞忘了加"S",大部份時候,聽你講話的人可以自己判斷,不至於影響溝通內容。


第二類是「溝通性的錯誤」,誤嚴重會造成誤解:工作協調出錯、丟掉客戶、失去訂單、談判關係破裂。

一位朋友到機場接機,眼看所有乘客都走光了,她還是沒有接到人。問題出在哪兒呢?她看到人就問 "Are you from Chicago?" 因為她要接的人是從芝加哥轉機飛來的,事後很久她才知道原來她問錯了──"Are you from Chicago?"是問「你是芝加哥人嗎?」被接機的那個人如果在華人社會裡待過,也許就會猜得出來吧!
其實,"Are you from Chicago?"這句話真的錯得很離譜嗎,也未必,只差了一個字,正確的說法是:

"Are you coming from Chicago?"

以下一起來看幾個很容易犯的英語錯,不只是容易錯,而是錯了還經常不自知。


(1) Cost reduction vs. Cost down
一想到降低成本,在英文裡,大部份人會聯想到"cost down",所以就說"Our company wants to cost down. 或者問how to cost down? 老外都覺得很怪,因為他們認為這樣說文法不太通,但他們和老中溝通時,老中都覺得「怎麼可能不對?」太常用cost down夾雜在中英文的表達裡,習慣而成自然,也不覺得它錯,甚至有一本中文書就叫《Cost Down,這樣做就對了!》。中文人口之多,勢力之大,將來積非成是,英文字典說不定會接受"to cost down"。不過現在還是先學學正統的說法:
降低成本,英文可以用:
reduce the cost 或是keep the cost down  
如降低30%成一,就可說成achieve a cost reduction of 30%.

  • 例句:We've put out a cost-reduction challenge to all of our vendors. (我們已經對所有的廠商發佈降低成本的要求。)


(2) What is your job?
問別人工作是什麼,很多人直接問:「What is your job?」
這說法也不太好,What is your work?也不對。因為人家不會回答你"my job is....."或"my work is....."
比較正常的說法是

  • What do you do?
  • What do you do for a living?

另外,job和work也有一些不同;他最近在銀行找到一份工作。就不要說成

  • He has recently found a work at the bank.

Work 作「工作、職業」解時,為不可數名詞;job 為可數名詞,正確的說法應該是 find a job.

(3) Personnel vs. Personal
這兩個字都是從Person變化來的,請注意它們的字尾拼法及重音!
"Personnel" 是「公司員工」或「人事部門」。All personnel of the company are eligible for the retirement plan. (公司員工都有資格參與退休計劃)
Personnel [ ] 重音在字尾。
"Personal" 是形容詞,指「私人的」或是「親自的」。 It's all a matter of personal taste.(這純屬個人興趣)"Personal"的重音在第一音節。

(4) Executive vs. Execution
一位 "executive" 是指公司的主管。CEO執行長是"Chief executive officer"的縮寫,executive的唸法是[ ],注意重音。

  • Watson Pharmaceuticals Inc. said its founder and chief executive officer will retire next month and be replaced by a top executive from rival generic drug maker Barr Pharmaceuticals Inc

和Executive很像的一個字是execution,執行或執行力。重音在"U",它的動詞是"execute" ,既是執行,也有處決的意思,把執行長講成 "execute" - 有置人於死地的錯覺,不要用錯了。

  • He will lead the execution of the company's corporate strategy, collaborating with the executive team on company-wide initiatives such as strategic ventures and business development.

(5) Discuss & discussion
工作場合裡整天都有大大小小的討論在進行中。但討論discuss或discussion這個字卻經常被用錯。

  • When I discuss with my client, I cannot say the things that I want to say because of my English.

看出來這句話哪裡錯了嗎?
中文的「和....討論」,最容易聯想到的英文就是discuss。Discuss是一個及物動詞,不能用discuss about、不能說"They are discussing" ,也不能用"discuss with somebody",discuss後面一定要加一個討論的主題。像discuss the topic、discuss the proposal......。所以這句話要改成
(O) When I talk to my client, I cannot say the things that I want to say because of my English.
同理再比較下面兩句
(X) They'd like to discuss about what to do next.
(O) They'd like to discuss what to do next.
They'd like to discuss what to do next.也可以寫成They want a discussion about/ on what to do next.

(6) "I look forward to hearing from you."
這個片語通常使用在商業書信的結尾。有些人會寫成,"I look forward to hear from you."這是錯的,因為look forward to的to是介係詞,後面一定要用V-ING動名詞型式。
• I look forward to our meeting.
• I look forward to meeting you.
其他和look forward to類似的用法是Be/get used to /Get around to /Object to
• He couldn't get used to driving on the other side of the road.
• I'm not used to getting up so early.
• I'll get around to doing it. (我會找時間做)
• I object to unpaid overtime work. (反對加班沒有加班費)

(7) Headquarters and Information
很多人自動會去掉 "headquarters" 的 "s",又莫名其妙地幫 "information" 加上 "s"。
Headquarters 是單數名詞,指的是總部: Brussels, which is the headquarters of the Common Market, is an attractive city.
總部這個字字尾是"s",很容易讓人以為是複數名詞。其實它是單數,去掉 "s" 就成了動詞 "to headquarter."

  • 例如:The European correspondent will headquarter in Paris。

這句話也可以寫成
The European correspondent will make Paris her headquarters

很多人也會在information字尾加上 "s"。大部分的人推斷如果他們需要很多資訊,他們就會改為複數,例如,"The book contains many useful informations." 但是資訊是不可數名詞。 這句話要改成"The book contains much useful information."

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