Michelle's Reviews > Dreaming in Chinese: Mandarin Lessons in Life, Love, And Language

Dreaming in Chinese by Deborah Fallows
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's review
Sep 03, 2010

really liked it
bookshelves: firstreads, biographical, non-fiction, work-in-translation, books-i-own, 2010
Read in December, 2010

In Dreaming in Chinese Deborah Fallows describes her experiences living China through her process of learning to speak Mandarin, the most common dialect in China. For those of you looking for an in-depth discussion of Chinese linguistics, this is a memoir told through the veil of her language study, not a study of the language.
The format of the book, as anecdotes related to various Chinese terms, grammatical complexities, or those ever present Chinese tonal variations that cause so much miscommunication between Westerners and the Chinese. My favorite stories involved Fallows' "christening" of a Chinese hairdresser by giving her the English name "Sasha". Apparently, this is a common and important step for most workers in the service industries. Conversely, Deborah has to receive a Chinese name, and the one which is chosen and sounds most like her English names translates to "can i borrow a pencil?", a not-so distinguished sounding name. Most of the stories are along this line, light-hearted, but representative of a deeper quality ofm life in China.
All in all, this was a quick, nice read. It was pretty straightforward; each chapter is titled with a Chinese phrase and an English translation or interpretation, and I enjoyed it. Fallows did a nice job of bringing China to a Western population in her book, and presenting it in an interesting and balanced way.

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