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

Dreaming in Chinese by Deborah Fallows
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's review
Aug 25, 2011

liked it
bookshelves: firstreads, contemporary, nonfiction
Read from September 18 to 21, 2011

Deborah Fallows, married to China expert and journalist James Fallows, is a linguist - something that made me feel better upon reading, near the beginning of Dreaming in Chinese, that after a few semesters of Chinese at Georgetown, and then living briefly in China, she was able to chew out a taxi driver, in Mandarin, for overcharging her. She did it effectively enough that he refunded her about $10.

She writes about the Mandarin language, living in China, and the insights languages offers into cultures. In the end, she acknowledges that, along with Russian, Arabic, and Japanese, Chinese is one of the most difficult languages for Westerners to learn.

This is a friendly book. You know, reading it, that you'd like Fallows. She writes in an easy style and offers up interesting tidbits of information. It's a book for those interested in China, Chinese, or linguistics, a book too for those about to visit China. Unlike J. Maartin Troost (Lost on Planet China: One Man's Attempt to Understand the World's Most Mystifying Nation), Fallows gives the Chinese a chance. (My guess is that after reading Troost's book, most would-be travelers to China cancel their tickets, opting instead for someplace less polluted. That leaves the rest of the planet.) Then again, Fallow isn't as funny.

In the end, I was relieved to read that even the Chinese find all those characters hard to remember, but also relieved to see China through a friendlier perspective than Troost's. But.... I still don't want to go. That from someone who has lived in Japan and traveled in Cambodia, Sri Lanka, and the Philippines. Still, I suppose my reaction says something both about me and about the book.

Disclaimer: I received my copy through a First Read giveaway.

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