I was at a New Year’s Eve shindig and got into a good conversation with this girl who’s moving to China to work on an English teaching venture. We talked about her former experiences in China, her passion for the Chinese language, and how a foreign language can open a door to another realm of thought and social constructs. At that point, she recommended that I read Dreaming in Chinese by Deborah Fallows (bio and blog). A few days later I stopped by a book store and picked up a copy.
Dreaming in Chinese is not a novel. Its chapters are not linked together by plot or character development or something of that sort. Rather, the book is a series of linguistic and cultural experiences organized into chapters by their topic or some overarching theme (sort of like vignettes).
Having a Ph.D. in linguistics, the author has a lot of fun musing about Chinese culture and language. She clearly has lots of enthusiasm for the language learning process and this struck a cord with my own interests. In terms of writing style, it is very pleasant and leisurely so you don’t have to worry about struggling with technical linguistic terms like “paradigmatic lexical relation” or “metonymy”.
While the cultural concepts that are encountered may not serve to enlighten those of you who are advanced sinophiles or have had long exposure to the Middle Kingdom, the book is entertaining and will help those who are unfamiliar with China to become more knowledgeable. It is a good book for someone who is just becoming interested in China and a must read for those who are about to get on the plane Beijing or Shanghai and aren’t exactly sure about where they’re headed.