Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Book Review: Dreaming in Chinese by Deborah Fallows

Title: Dreaming in Chinese: Mandarin Lessons in Life, Love, and Language
Author: Deborah Fallows
Enjoyment Rating: ***
This book would be rated: PG
Source: Library Copy

Last year I bought a CD called "Simple Chinese for Adoptive Families," planning to listen to it every day on the way to and from school. I popped it in the CD player a couple of times, and pretty soon I was hopelessly lost. It hadn't been this way when I was learning French and zipped through hundreds of vocabulary words in a night. I gave up, reasoning that since I was adopting a baby, she probably wouldn't need me to have a huge vocabulary, and I haven't given learning Chinese a second thought.

One of the things I've gleaned from both Kosher Chinese and from Deborah Fallows's Dreaming in Chinese is that it wasn't just me-- Chinese is a hard language for Americans to learn. What I appreciated about Dreaming in Chinese is how Fallows relates what she's learned from her fledgling language studies to larger patterns she sees in Chinese culture. It sounds like she's making a lot of generalizations, but that's not how the book feels. She focuses on experiences from the years she and her husband spent living in Beijing and Shanghai to show how language and culture are related.

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