Dreaming in Chinese, Mandarin lessons in life, love and language.

Deborah Fallows, 2010

Reviewed by Graham Mulligan

 

Deborah Fallows is a linguist married to a journalist, James Fallows. They have lived in Shanghai and Beijing and struggled to learn some Mandarin. This is her collection of fourteen useful, commonly-heard words or phrases and some cultural tales that they inspired her to relate.

Wo ai ni – I love you! (the grammar of romance)

Bu yao – Don’t want, don’t need! (When rude is polite)

Shi, Shi, Shi, Shi – Lion, ten, to make, to be (Language play as a national sport)

Dabao – Do you do takeout? (Why the Chinese hear tones, and we don’t)

Laobaixing – Common folk (China’s Ordinary Joe)

Ni hao, Wo jiao Minyi – Hello, my name is Public Opinion (A brief introduction to Chinese names)

Dongbei – Eastnorth (Finding your way in China – the semantics of time and place)

Wo, Ni, Ta, Ta, Ta – I, you, he, she, it (Disappearing pronouns and the sense of self)

Renao – Hot-and-noisy (Think like the Chinese think)

Ting bu dong – I  don’t understand. (A billion people; countless dialects)

Hanzi – Characters (The  essence of being Chinese)

Bu keyi – Not allowed (Rules to follow and rules to break)

Dizhen – Earthquake (Out of calamity, tenderness)

Ni de Zhongwen hen hao! Your Chinese is really good! (A little goes a long way)

 

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