Monday, May 30, 2011

Book Review: Dreaming in Chinese by Deborah Fallows

I found Dreaming in Chinese: Mandarin Lessons in Life and Love by Deborah Fallows to be quite an interesting read. Fallows is a linguist who derived some wonderful lessons during the process of learning Chinese.  Now, these lessons are not overly deep or profound. I guess I wouldn't really call them lessons but rather observations.  Nonetheless, the book was an easy and enjoyable read and it served as a great opportunity to learn a little bit about the Chinese language and culture. I found Fallows' writing to be very fluid and comfortable.  It was quite accessible and very funny at times.  Every time I sat down to read it, I was able to read through one chapter--they were short and to-the-point. That helped me to get through the book and really engage with it.  

As for the Chinese language, let's just say that it's a language I hope I never have to learn. Fallows really helped me appreciate how complex it is but I also found it to be very beautiful. She talks about a poem called Lion Eating Poet in the Stone Den that uses the same word to tell a whole story. The only difference is tones. She points out how difficult it is for Westerners to even hear the tones and I've found that to be true.  Igbo is also a very tonal language and it's funny sometimes when I say a word and the hubby repeats it and I say it's not the same word and he gives me a confused look.  But I don't think Igbo is anywhere near as tonal as Chinese so I think it would be challenging for anyone to learn.

Linguistics is a fascinating field and I'm always intrigued by how much language is a window into the life and culture of a people.

A short, interesting interview with the author.

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