Saturday, September 4, 2010

Dreaming in Chinese by Deborah Fallows

One of the nice things about publishing reviews is occasionally getting ARCs like Dreaming in Chinese in your mail. It made me go OOoooo, because it is a book about learning about Chinese language and culture, written by a British author-linguist who had the good fortune to live in China for a few years.

I am about to make myself sound impossibly nerdy by announcing that I study Chinese for fun. Look, it takes all sorts, OK? And since I subscribed to ChinesePod I have learned that I'm by no means alone in just wanting to study Chinese because it's there, and because it's incredibly difficult.

And yet you really don't have to be a language buff to enjoy reading this little (188-page) book. If you like to take mental vacations to exotic places; if you want or need to learn more about Chinese culture, perhaps to make it easier to work with Chinese colleagues; or if you simply like well written nonfiction, Dreaming in Chinese will entertain and educate you. It focuses on Mandarin, the main language of China (what we usually mean when we say "Chinese") but touches on the bewildering variety of languages, cultures and dialects in the country.

The language, culture and personal experience topics are arranged into short chapters that each loosely deal with one aspect of Chinese life and language, and are associated with a Chinese word or phrase. The writing is excellent; the style is relaxed and chatty, accompanied by illustrations, Chinese characters and photographs. Pinyin (the romanized version of Chinese, which is much more accessible to English speakers than the characters) is used throughout, and there is a pronunciation guide at the end so if you've never encountered Mandarin before, you won't be overwhelmed.

The whole book was an easy, entertaining read and I thoroughly enjoyed it. My one warning is that if you're not already studying Chinese, you will probably want to by the time you reach the end of Dreaming in Chinese.


smallkucing said...

this sounds like a great book. How I wish I can get ARC of this too. Envy you

Claire Dawn said...

I live in Japan, and Chinese scares me! lol.

smallkucing said...

have recommend my friend to your site. She'll be contacting you soon LD

Page said...

Sounds like a great read and I added it to my pile of books that I want to read.

Jane Steen said...

Thanks for the comments! Claire, Japanese scares me. Three sets of characters? You have to be kidding.

Page, I hope your TBR pile is not as big as mine.

Smallkucing, this isn't my site - it is owned and tended by the wonderful Moon Rat, who allows us to post on it.

This is, btw, my favorite book review site because it's small and cozy. And I love that you don't have to be some bigshot reviewer/reader/critic to post. Personally I like to see reactions from all kinds of people, and could care less if they can spell or not!

moonrat said...

Jane: per your last comment: me too :)

Now, I have a lot of Chinese language background (studied through college-level and lived in Taiwan). Do you think I would enjoy this book because it's up my alley, or that maybe it's meant more for people with no background and I might find it boring?

Jane Steen said...

Absolutely not, Moonrat. I think it's still a fun read for people who know China, because they'll relate to a lot of the experiences Fallows describes. Give it a read.