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Dreaming in Chinese: Mandarin Lessons In Life, Love, And Language Paperback – September 13, 2011
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“Dreaming in Chinese is chatty and colloquial, with helpful photographs and drawings, as well as a pronunciation guide. The eager student will learn a fair bit about the history of the language and how its array of characters and tones were systematized, all the while gathering insights into the country's customs and culture. Rather than draw sweeping conclusions Fallows sticks to her own experiences and observations, which makes her book all the more valuable. China hands will have many moments of recognition. For others, Dreaming in Chinese will be a fascinating introduction to a foreign culture.” ―Lesley Downer, New York Times Book Review
“You don't have to know Mandarin to be captivated by Deborah Fallows's Dreaming in Chinese…. Forget Berlitz – that just teaches words. Deborah Fallows shows us that the cultural implications of those words teach us about each other.” ―Sara Nelson, O: The Oprah Magazine
“Fallows has a good ear for aspect, the way of stressing certain words and syllables to change or add layers of meaning to a simple word or phrase. She veers to the gentle, seeing the generosity behind brusque gestures, the intimacy and friendship behind rudeness and the priorities that language reveals. Playfulness, respect, affection and the virtues of solidarity with the common people -- a different traveler might miss all these but not Fallows.” ―Susan Salter Reynolds, Los Angeles Times
“While it isn't necessary to know the language of a foreign country when you live abroad, studying that language can infinitely ease and illuminate your entrée there. Deborah Fallows underscores this lesson again and again in this compelling account of her own trials and triumphs with studying Mandarin while residing in Shanghai and Beijing. A linguist by training, Fallows shows how even small advancements such as mastering a single word or phrase can unlock grammatical and cultural secrets…. Over the course of her three-year immersion, her ever-deepening insights immeasurably enrich her engagement with China--and ours as well.” ―Don George, National Geographic Traveler
“Reading Dreaming in Chinese, we follow an intelligent, analytical, sympathetic -- and humorous -- guide who knows it's the journey, not the destination, that counts.” ―Patricia Hagen, Star Tribune (Minneapolis)
“For anyone with a connection to China (and particularly for anyone who has attempted Mandarin) her book is a gift: it's all the thoughts that escaped you in your travels and studies. It's as revealing of the way a Western, English-speaking mindset perceives China as it is of what "makes a billion people tick." For readers hoping to truly journey in China (rather than just plant your feet firmly on the Great Wall), Dreaming in Chinese is mandatory reading.” ―KJ Dell'Antonia, Double X
“Thinking of learning Mandarin? Read this…. For beginners, Dreaming in Chinese is an easy entry into an ancient land.” ―Tish Wells, McClatchy Newspapers
“Fallows manages to take the relatively dry subject of translation and create a warm and witty memoir…. [taking] readers on a ride through Chinese culture that is as entertaining as it is informative.” ―Colleen Mondor, Booklist
“Any traveler who shudders at the prospect of deciphering Chinese should be armed with a copy of this book.” ―Evan Osnos, former Chicago Tribune Beijing bureau chief, and staff writer at the New Yorker
“China seems an impossible mountain to climb, yet Deborah Fallows takes a less traveled path, climbing the mountain from the inside. She recounts her journey with a perfect balance of wise observation and wit. To follow her climb yields startling insights about the Chinese people and culture, the kind of insights lugubrious China essays rarely yield. Dreaming in Chinese is both vital and a joy to read.” ―Ken Auletta
“Dreaming in Chinese is a little gem, sparkling with wonderful tales about China, its language and its people.” ―Rob Gifford, former NPR Beijing correspondent, and author of China Road
“In Dreaming in Chinese, Deborah Fallows opens up a window onto Chinese urban life through its notoriously difficult language. A charming and insightful book.” ―Susan Shirk, author of China: Fragile Superpower
“While all too many books on China try to make sense of this infinitely provocative country from the top down, Deborah Fallows looks at it from the bottom up, trying to figure out what makes the place work through personal encounters, the language and everyday occurrences. She has written a refreshing and insightful book.” ―Orville Schell, director of the Asia Society's Center on U.S.-China Relations
“Dreaming in Chinese is original, entertaining, gracefully written and provides important insights into life and culture in contemporary China. Deborah Fallows is a gifted linguist who helps her readers understand the complexities of the Chinese language. But she does much more. She is an astute observer and through simple yet compelling anecdotes she helps her readers experience everyday life in China. This is a terrific book for anyone who wants to improve their understanding of this extraordinary country.” ―Laura D. Tyson, Professor of Global Management, Haas School of Business, University of California at Berkeley
“Deborah Fallows' sparkling memoir of her three years in China makes us feel we are on the streets with her in Shanghai and Beijing--haggling with merchants and cops and learning to be rude and friendly, Chinese-style. The joy of this book is its sense of humor and adventure: Deborah decided to live outside the expatriate ghetto: learning the language, drinking the water, living the real Chinese life like a laobaixing (ordinary person).Whether it's learning not to say ‘please,' or understanding why Chinese hate the number ‘4' or ordering take-away at a Chinese Taco Bell, Deb jumps in head-first and makes us laugh at her often comical embrace of this culture. I can't think of a better book for someone who wants to understand the lovable, infuriating and hilarious country that is China.” ―David Ignatius, columnist for the Washington Post and author of Body of Lies
Top Customer Reviews
I could continue talking about the specifics, but her book overall provides valuable insight and is a great foundation for anyone trying to learn Chinese, understand Chinese culture or is planning a visit to China. I wish Ms. Fallows book had been written five years ago when I started learning Chinese - it would have vastly shortened my learning curve. Get this book today - you'll be glad did.
However, the type-setting in the Kindle edition was VERY disappointing. About half of the Chinese characters show up as little boxes. Another 25% are weirdly big and pixelated. It's as if they weren't aware that the book had non-Roman characters in it, or didn't proof-read. I expect better from the Kindle experience.
While language learners and linguists will enjoy the book, it might seem to others that the book is somewhat shallow. The author's life abroad, while a definite challenge, can come off sounding rather privileged. Learning a language is not easy and Fallows doesn't portray it as such, but she constantly references their travels and multiple homes which can make the trials of learning Mandarin seem like a luxury rather than a necessity.
As another reviewer mentioned, her presentation of Chinese varies and the lack of consistency can be disruptive to the flow of the text as well as the whole of book. If possible, the Chinese should be presented with the character, pinyin, and translation.
The book is very readable, mostly enjoyable, and well thought out.
On the other hand, if you have studied Chinese formally for a few months, you probably wouldn't learn much by reading this book. Many of the "surprises" that the author encountered are quite beginner-level knowledge, such as the order from big units to smaller units, the importance of tones, the lack of inflection, family name first, and the writing system. You would not have the same "surprises" as the author did if you took a formal course in college.
All in all, it is a good book that you should pick up and read before going to China or on your way to China. If you only have a vague interest in studying Mandarin, this book should be a good starting point.
Finally, pardon my nitpicking tendencies here.
The author mentions that the street signs in Xinjiang are written in four languages: Chinese, English, Arabic and Russian. It is actually wrong. Most street signs in Xinjiang are written in both Chinese and Uyghur only, as required by the relevant laws there. The Uyghur language uses a version of the Arabic script. So just as many languages use the Latin alphabet, they are not all "written in Latin". In some tourist destinations, you can see English signs. I guess that's normal. As for Russian, it might be for tourists only.
The author also tells a story about ordering takeout from a Taco Bell in Shanghai.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I bought this book after hearing about it on my local National Public Radio station. I love learning new European languages, and although I have little interest in speaking... Read morePublished 1 month ago by Dr Lissy
For me, who expected, according to the marketing PR, much more, this was a shallow, useless book that is about this rich woman's idea that the cuteness she found in China is, in... Read morePublished 1 month ago by jimsecor
Written with a clear, conversational voice with many insights both common and uncommon into the Chinese culture in relation to the Chinese language. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Amazon Customer
a great book, very readable, for teachers and students and anyone interested in the foreign culture of China and the experiences of a fascinating, highly educated and personable... Read morePublished 2 months ago by Bernadette Ferriter
After living in Hong Kong and China since 2009, I could say that this book is a great cultural and language resource for anyone coming to spend at least one day in China.Published 9 months ago by Michael Ross
Interesting book about learning Chinese. Good read. I got a bargain on this paperback from Book Outlet, and it was shipped quickly.Published 11 months ago by TW
For anyone who has been to China for any length of time, and has struggled with Mandarin, this is a delightfully amusing account.Published 12 months ago by Karen L. Taylor
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book, and felt that the author provided a lot of humorous and insightful glimpses into daily life in China. Read morePublished 13 months ago by Ksenia
This is an interesting, informative book for those who are curious about some of the inscrutable details of Mandarin Chinese. Read morePublished 13 months ago by Sheri Bergen