Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers” as Want to Read:
A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers

3.46  ·  Rating Details ·  3,893 Ratings  ·  542 Reviews
When a young Chinese woman, newly arrived in London, moves in with her English boyfriend, she decides it’s time to write a Chinese-English dictionary for lovers. Xiaolu’s first novel in English is an utterly original journey of self-discovery.
Paperback, 354 pages
Published March 27th 2007 by Chatto & Windus (first published 2007)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Jason Pettus
(My full review of this book is much longer than GoodReads' word-count limitations. Find the entire essay at the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography [].)

So first, a confession from my personal life that is relevant to today's essay; that like many others, I too once fell in love with someone while on a foreign trip, in many ways precisely because it was a foreign country and she was a foreigner within that country. And like many others, it wasn't just simple lust that ma
Jul 02, 2016 Ghazaleh rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
سبک نوشتنش برای من تقریبا جدید و خلاقانه بود، با اینکه داستان ها معمولی و خیلی ساده بودند و شاید گاها تکراری.
نویسنده خیلی خوب تفاوت زندگی شرقی ها و غربی ها رو نشون داده.
فقط برام یه سوالی پیش اومده اینکه آیا واقعا همه چینی ها (شاید از روی سادگی زیادشون باشه) به اندازه شخصیت همین رمان روی اعصاب هستند؟ :))
Blurb: When a young Chinese woman, newly arrived in London, moves in with her English boyfriend, she decides it’s time to write a Chinese-English dictionary for lovers. Xiaolu’s first novel in English is an utterly original journey of self-discovery.

Here and there a highlight, particularly when the girl compares her own use of English with Shakespeare's and walks out the winner! (Rightly so!)
One thing, even Shakespeare write bad English. For example, he says “Where go thou?” If I spe
Things I liked:

1)The title of this book, which is named after an actual Chinese to English dictionary.

2)Z's unintentional humor, like--"I not understanding what she saying. Mrs. Margaret have a neatly cut pale blonde hair, with very serious clothes. Top and her bottom always same colour. She not telling her age, but I guessing she from 31 to 56."

3)Z's language reflections, like--"I thought English is a strange language. Now I think French is even more strange. In France, their fish is poisson, t
Ahmad Sharabiani
A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers, Xiaolu Guo
عنوان: فرهنگ فشرده لغات چینی به انگلیسی برای عشاق؛ نویسنده: کوئو شیائولو؛ مترجم: ریحانه وادی دار؛ تهران، ققنوس، 1394؛ در 344 ص؛ شابک: 9786002782069؛ موضوع: داستانهای نویسندگان انگلیسی قرن 21 م
داستان زنی چینی به نام «چیائو شیائو تسوانگ» است؛ زنی که از پکن به لندن در پرواز است؛ زنی که مشکل انگلیسی صحبت کردن را میشود در کلامش که در نگارش رمان نیز نهادینه شده، به روشنی دید و خواند: «...من در هواپیما 25000 کیلومتر بالا به زمین بود و تلاش کرد
Lately I’ve been obsessed with stories about impossible loves, those unrequited, betrayed, or starcrossed loves. I read books about two characters who’d die for each other but somehow cannot live for each other. I watch romantic movies with endings that are never happy, often sad, if I’m lucky hopeful. And I ask my friends about their loves and their friends’ loves and their friends’ friends’ loves: have any of them found someone and had it work out? has anybody found a love that is possible?

I w
MJ Nicholls
A bleak romance tale between a Chinese student and an arrogant vegetarian van driver, narrated in oddly distancing Engrish. Like Guo’s other künstlerroman Twenty Fragments of a Ravenous Youth, it paints a painful picture of immigrant life abroad, and kicks One Day so far up its sanctimonious arse, one can barely glimpse Anne Hathaway’s goofy grin from Ursa Minor. The style is slightly similar to Palahniuk’s Pygmy, though this came first, and the humour is less bourgeois satire, more Chairman Mao ...more
Mar 10, 2008 Lee rated it it was amazing
I completely identified with this book because it brilliantly captures the feeling of immersing oneself in a foreign language and culture. What happens when you begin to fluently speak, live and love in another language is fascinating. What the author conveys so well here is how the beliefs impregnated within the language alter how you interact with people and conduct relationships.

I loved Z and her practical wisdom. Her 5 week solo travel stint through Europe in many ways felt eerily similar t
Xiaolu Guo writes in a beautiful, arresting way. It's as if the reader is swimming, only to be pulled underwater and held there until they need to come up for air.

I read it in gulps, huge chunks of pages slip through my fingers.

I love how detailed this book is, I love that so much thought and effort seems to go into it. This book is about a girl called Zhuang, or "Z", and it is written in a diary format with each chapter titled a new word she learns in that chapter, or, the theme of it. I love
First time I've read a whole book in one day in ages, this was addictive, heartbreaking and, so so interesting. Highly recommend.
This is a charming and surprising book, but one that is also very frustrating to read (which is both a compliment and a complaint).

Note: It's best to read this book in the voice of someone struggring with Engrish. If you do so, it becoming easier adopting the tone and the mindset of the protagonist. (In my immigrant-raised habit of taking what is said and written with entire seriousness and my snobbery about proper grammar and pronunciation, I was initially offended by the author's choice to wr
Aug 11, 2010 Judy rated it it was ok
Shelves: read-in-2010, adult
I'm not quite sure how feel about this book. What I liked, as many people mentioned, was the style. I thought the Chinglish felt natural and I often laughed at how Z misplaced words or made silly assumptions. I liked the progression from broken English to someone with a basic grasp of the language.

What I didn't like at all was Z herself. Her personality and her actions repulse me on many levels. I'm not sure why a country girl who immigrates to England would simply move in with a man she just m
brian tanabe
Feb 28, 2008 brian tanabe rated it really liked it
What a beautiful little book. What a tragic love story. What a sexual coming-of-age tale. What a narrative on the Everyman being a broken man. What an account of the cultural differences between the east and the west. What an illustration of an asian woman in western society.

This is a powerful book about love in a modern relationship told through a captivating narrative.

In the beginning and in the end it is a love story -- a very sad love story but a completely realistic love story, a true lov
Mar 17, 2016 Sonya rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
زنی جوان از شرق دور، سرزمین ماءو وارد دنیای غرب می شود. زنی که ارزشهای زندگی اش با این سفر زیر سوال میرود. خانواده، تلاش برای آینده و بهره بردن از هر لحظه زندگی در تربیت شرقی او مهمترین ارزشها هستند. او عاشق مردی می شود که تنهایی را دوست دارد اما از عشق نیز لذت میبرد.
تصویری که از فرهنگ و عقاید زن در رمان ارایه شده است، بی شباهت به زن ایرانی نیست و علیرغم تفاوت زیاد ما و چینی ها، در مقایسه با غرب تصویر تقریبا مشابهی از انسان جوان شرقی ترسیم شده است.
میلاد کامیابیان
Jan 04, 2015 میلاد کامیابیان rated it really liked it

کز هر طرف که میشنوم نامکرّر است

میلاد کامیابیان

و باز هم قصۂ عشق، این بار میانِ دختری در ابتدای بیستسالگی و پسری که سی را هم رد کرده. دختر از چین آمده به انگلستان، برای زبانآموزی. بناست در بازگشت به وطن عصای دستِ پدرومادرش باشد که از کشاورزی به کفشسازی رو آوردهاند و، خانوادگی، همان رؤیایی را در سر میپرورانند که تمامِ کشور، با هدایتِ حزبِ حاکم، در خیال میپزد: پیشرفت، که یعنی صنعتی شدن. پسر، در واقع، مردِ جوانی است زادۂ روستایی در حومۂ لندن، دلزده از صنعت و دلبستۂ طبیعت، و در آستانهی میانسالی، که سا
"Why do we have to study languages? Why do we have to force ourselves to communicate with people? Why is the process of communication so troubled and so painful?"

The problem with a boring main character is a boring point of view. Zhuang is the voice through which the story uncovers. She is a Chinese young woman who comes from a family of shoemakers and who's sent to England to learn English, of which she only speaks very few words (thing made clearer by the fact that the book itself starts with
Dec 01, 2009 Josh rated it liked it
Actually three and a half stars. An extremely interesting book. The question is: who does one sympathize with in this love story? I can't figure it out, and my mind kept changing throughout the text. Is the young Chinese woman (abroad for the first time in London to study English and falling in love with an older British man) to be admired for the clarity and simplicity with which she sees the world? Respected for her earnest and hard-fought struggle with a foreign culture? And empowered by her ...more
Jan 26, 2014 Navaneeta rated it really liked it
When I started reading it, I disliked and disdained it. I have had my share of Amy Tan; I use English as second language; I know what it is to get to know a language for the first time. And "Z" here was an insult to all of us.

But then halfway through the book I finally realised what the writer was doing (yes! I am that dense; but then it was difficult to get past the whining, needy voice of Zhuang). In her less than competent English (and perception), Zhuang manages to question and subvert all t
I loved this short little book. At the start there stands the words: "Nothing in this book is true, except for the love between her and him." The depiction of her, Ms Z's, love for him is so true that the book truly shines. This is reason enough to read the book. In addition how it feels to struggle in a new country with a new language is fabulously described. That a land's culture is entwined with its language is another important aspect of the book.Finally there were interesting tidbits about ...more
Well-written coming-of-age story of a dysfunctional cross-cultural romance told with a thoroughly unique voice. Guo nails both Z's evolving language skills as well as her "stranger in a strange land" take on the realities and absurdities of living in a totally alien culture. I didn't develop any particular sympathy for Z's unnamed British lover - and not a huge amount for Z herself, for that matter - but the writing style alone held my interest more than any similar "female novel" has done in a ...more
Sep 19, 2007 Therese rated it did not like it
YAWN.Couldn't finish it. The female protagonist, Z, is so feeble and boring. She has some kind of love affair with some old hippy guy. Blah. Am totally bummed cuz it was really horrible and maybe I'm just not 'getting' what it is all about to be an Asian woman in modern society. This made me angry with Z's timid comformity and neediness. And I thought the boyfriend was really annoying and disgusting. Meh. Read if you must. But there have to be better things out there to spend your time on.
Sandra Bašić
Pomalo je tužno kad zbog ljubavi, jezika, razlike u godinama i kulturi, izgubiš sebe...
Vanessa Wu
Aug 04, 2011 Vanessa Wu rated it really liked it
My boyfriend (who is English and reads the Guardian) gave me this book. My flatmate (who is Chinese and reads Grazia) borrowed it without asking. That's the trouble with talking to your flatmate about books. This week she's gone off to Austria with my copy of Candy (by Mian Mian) because I made the mistake of telling her how much I was enjoying it.

Back to this one by Xiaolu Guo. I avoided it for a while because it's written in bad English. My boyfriend found this cute but it's not good for me. I
May 30, 2008 Cecily rated it really liked it
The diary of a 24 year old Chinese woman coming to London to learn English. Written in broken English (which gradually improves) and using a word and its definition as the "hook" for each brief chapter. Some interesting insights into the differences between the two languages (no verb tenses in Chinese) as well as the two cultures, and indeed how language differences perhaps even frame the cultural differences.

See another novel of hers: Twenty Fragments of a Revenous Youth: https://www.goodreads.
Khi đọc quyển sách này tôi lại nhớ về trải nghiệm tình dục đầu tiên của mình, những lần trò chuyện dẫn đến cãi cọ giữa tôi và anh, sự khác biệt trong cách sống và cách nghĩ của chúng tôi, và cả mùi hương lẫn cảm giác trên môi không dễ gì quên được.
Những khác biệt về văn hóa Đông - Tây đã được tác giả mô tả qua nhiều chi tiết rất thân thuộc và tự nhiên. Ngoài ra, sự bộc trực của nhân vật cũng là một điểm nhấn thú vị và lôi cuốn tôi rất nhiều.
Feb 02, 2016 Banafsheh rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: long-stories
Easy to read, but generally a bit disappointing . I was waiting for the moment to feel the love, but couldn't feel it between Z and the man. Couldn't feel sympathy to Z or the man either. Little garden and the details of trees and plants and also sculptures were my favorites. Worth reading from the cultural point of view. Loved the languages comparison.
Bhargavi Balachandran
Sometimes when you read a book that makes you laugh and cry all at once and you wonder what kind of a book that is- a good one, I have realized .Xiaolu's book is a poignant ,yet funny tale of a young Chinese girl who arrives in London with shiny eyes and unending reserves of curiosity to learn English.Written in the first person narrative,almost like a diary,the first 100 odd pages almost reads like a chicklit - breezy and funny. As the protagonist, Z tackles English breakfasts,the infamous" Eng ...more
Chris Chapman
Feb 05, 2016 Chris Chapman rated it really liked it
A book written in bad English.
A book about a Chinese woman who arrives in the UK, meets an English man, has a relationship with him, and struggles to understand him, through the medium of a language that she can barely speak at the beginning.
A book which, despite this, creates that man as a fully fleshed-out, believable human being.
A book which has an obsession with food, sex, living things (animals and plants), the physicality of objects, so much so that it almost feels like it can be tasted, s
Feb 18, 2012 Sookie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Its a story told by many travelers who experience new culture after flying away from the safety of their nest. The longing for familiar and eagerly grasping it when the familiarity grazes your finger tips is a notion these people face one too many times during their early travels.

There is a passion in Z though she claims she is "serious" and "full of expectation for future". There is chaos in her methodology. She navigates through her time in London living with a man who doesn't believe in a st
Apr 20, 2013 Lily rated it it was ok
I was interested in this book as an overseas Taiwanese / ABC (American-born Chinese). The style of writing may be trying for some, but for a Chinese person it's quite easy to read (although I wasn't sure if all the words and phrases she uses really reflect how most Chinese people learning English speak or write). It starts off promisingly and I could identify with some of the cultural issues the main character was struggling with. I also recognized some aspects of her from some people I have kno ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Is the boyfriend an artist or a jerk? 10 118 Feb 22, 2016 12:49AM  
  • February Flowers
  • Beijing Coma
  • Northern Girls
  • English
  • China Witness: Voices from a Silent Generation
  • Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio
  • The Song of Everlasting Sorrow: A Novel of Shanghai
  • Foreign Babes in Beijing: Behind the Scenes of a New China
  • Raise the Red Lantern: Three Novellas
  • The Ginseng Hunter
  • Skeleton Women
  • The Ventriloquist's Tale
  • A Thousand Years of Good Prayers
  • Inglorious
  • The Girl Who Played Go
  • Dream of the Walled City
  • The Dancers Dancing
  • One by One in the Darkness
Xiaolu Guo (Simplified Chinese: 郭小櫓 pinyin:guō xiǎo lǔ, born 1973) is a Chinese novelist and filmmaker. She utilizes various media, including film and writing, to tell stories of alienation, introspection and tragedy, and to explore China's past, present and future in an increasingly connected world.

Her novel A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary For Lovers was nominated for the 2007 Orange Prize f
More about Xiaolu Guo...

Share This Book

“It's the heart afraid of breaking that never learns to dance.” 163 likes
“About time, what I really learned from studying English is: time is different with timing.
I understand the difference of these two words so well. I understand falling in love with the right person in the wrong timing could be the greatest sadness in a person's entire life.”
More quotes…