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(Dreaming in Chinese: Mandarin Lessons in Life, Love, and Language) By Fallows, Deborah (Author) Paperback on 13-Sep-2011 Paperback – 13 Sep 2011


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Paperback, 13 Sep 2011
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Product details

  • Paperback
  • Publisher: Walker & Company (13 Sept. 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B005ONKWT2
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 4,029,946 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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20 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Mandarin Student on 23 Jun. 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Short review: shallow and disrespectful

This book is a real disappointment. It is stated that the author has a Ph.D in Linguistics and from this you could have hoped for some good reflections and analysis. At least that was what I expected when I bought the book. Sadly, the book is a collection of erroneous statements and what appear to be random recollections of her time in China. Her reflections seldom go beyond the most obvious.

Time and time over she conveys her ignorance and lack of cultural understanding. The highlight of disrespectfulness: It took two years in China before the author understood that Chinese people care about each other (the chapter about the earthquake).

She claims that since Chinese characters are written with uniform spacing reading Chinese is as awkward as reading English with no spacing between words. She admits that she cannot read and write Chinese. I do, I can assure that her statement is nonsense.

She suggest "..the Chinese should learn to imagine words without the proper tone". Since tones in Chinese in effect provide different sounds, finals (a part of a syllable that contains vocals) with different tones are as different as different vocals are to English speakers. Try this: Yas thut us I vyri geed adoa! ("Yes that is a very good idea").
Her lack of understanding of Chinese characters and the importance of these as an important cultural heritage is remarkable. In this context she characterize the "deconstruction" (yes, "deconstruction" in the meaning of understanding a character) of characters as "complete madness". And this is even though she does not read or write these characters. Madness, - I will not comment her statement.

There are plenty of other issues I could mention. However, I believe the examples above give you an understanding of the qualities of the book.
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Format: Hardcover
As someone who has spent some time in China (a total of fourteen months, including an eleven month stint), many of Debbie's experiences certainly ring true, and are in no way limited to just one region of China. She's also done a very good job of trying to explain some of her encounters, or the phenomenon she witnessed, but I really think this book is of most use for those who have never been to China, or are just about to go for the first time, and is squarely in the "interest only" category for those who have been and seen it for themselves. The book is a little inconsistent in its use of chinese characters, pin yin, Debbie's own transliteration system (which I don't think is terribly accurate, unless she's been taught a very strongly accented regional type of Chinese), and this is quite annoying for someone (anyone) with knowledge of how the language works.

In short, I would recommend this book, even to those who have been, if only to serve as a refresher of experiences, and I would definitely advise first-timers to have a read, though if they already know Chinese they should just be aware it is definitely not a language guidebook, more a day-to-day life survival book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Ian Kennedy on 1 July 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Enjoyed the book well written light and amusing. BEWARE. author has another book listed on Amazon which by inference is list as "a peolple who bought this also bought" Its the SAME book with slight title modification. Save your money
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By abclaret on 1 Feb. 2011
Format: Hardcover
Part linguistic anecdote, part travel writing, Deborah Fallows documents a few insights into the Chinese, their culture and their fascinating language. I am now better for knowing why he/she causes immense problems for the Chinese, who the Laobaixing are, some tried and tested learning techniques for the asailing Chinese learner, the evolution of Hanzi (Chinese characters) and some of the well-worn characteristics of the people. For a brief read it was well worth delving into but was underwhelmed by some of the sociological insights. There are masses of literature about the changing makeup of China, and it would have done well to draw from that.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By N. Bennett on 11 Aug. 2010
Format: Hardcover
This is an excellent book to read if you're attempting to learn Chinese. It's a great relief to find that someone who is an experienced linquist has encountered exactly the same problems that you're struggling with. Reading the book is a strange mixture of recognition - yes, I also fail at distinguishing tones - and new information which gives a glimpse of a land that most of us are unlikely to be able to visit in person. Each chapter uses a word or language concept as a starting point to explore a particular section of Chinese life. These are usually entertaining as the author has sudden breakthroughs which seem obvious in retrospect, but they can also be touching, particularly in the chapter concerning the earthquake of May 2008.

I have a couple of criticisms, the first being a backhanded compliment in that it seemed too short for me; I could easily have read a book twice the length. And the second that it's unlikely to be such an interesting read for people with no knowledge of Chinese.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By J. Baldwin VINE VOICE on 27 Aug. 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I'm currently studying Chinese with the OU and enjoying it immensely. I've been reading quite a few books on China but this is one of my favourites because it's written by a Westerner trying to get to grips with the culture and the language. If you've ever been to China you'll recognise many of the situations she finds herself in, and if you're learning the language you'll identify with some of her questions (why is the future "down" and the past "up"? Why do they use the same word for "him" and "her"?)
Even if you've never been, and never intend to go, or have no interest in learning the language, this is still a very entertaining book.

The writing is journalistic and easy to take in, and the chapters are short enough that you can finish one in 10-20 minutes. In fact I read the whole book in one day, over a few sessions. That leads me to my only complaint - I wanted more!

If you're visiting China, or learning the language, read this book. If you're not, read it anyway.
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