Dreaming in Chinese: Mandarin Lessons in Life, Love, and Language

Dreaming in Chinese: Mandarin Lessons in Life, Love, and Language

Deborah Fallows

Language: English

Pages: 119

ISBN: B0092J9D44

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


Deborah Fallows has spent a lot of her life learning languages and traveling around the world. But nothing prepared her for the surprises of learning Mandarin, China's most common language, or the intensity of living in Shanghai and Beijing. Over time, she realized that her struggles and triumphs in studying learning the language of her adopted home provided small clues to deciphering behavior and habits of its people, and its culture's conundrums. As her skill with Mandarin increased, bits of the language - a word, a phrase, an oddity of grammar - became windows into understanding romance, humor, protocol, relationships, and the overflowing humanity of modern China.
Fallows learned, for example, that the abrupt, blunt way of speaking which Chinese people sometimes use isn't rudeness, but is, in fact a way to acknowledge and honor the closeness between two friends. She learned that English speakers' trouble with hearing or saying tones-the variations in inflection that can change a word's meaning-is matched by Chinese speakers' inability not to hear tones, or to even take a guess at understanding what might have been meant when foreigners misuse them.
Dreaming in Chinese is the story of what Deborah Fallows discovered about the Chinese language, and how that helped her make sense of what had at first seemed like the chaos and contradiction of everyday life in China.

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you pronounce “nǒ” with a falling-then-rising tone (like the third tone in Chinese, which seems to have a kind of gravely-sounding pause at the bottom of the dip), it means something more like “No, but … ” as though there could be consequences or complications in not going. Knowing this helps outsiders understand about tones, but it doesn’t help us much in actually hearing tones and pronouncing them. Mastering tones shouldn’t be as hard as in practice it seems to be; there is no physiological or

general term of address. So, I went around Shanghai in our early weeks greeting everyone I met with this old word tóngzhì, which was heard either as a die-hard Communist throw-back or as New Age ultra-hip slang. I had no idea what I was doing. I wondered how I could get beyond the word and the definition of lǎobǎixìng to the nuances of how they live and what they want. Perhaps I could poke around the edges of lǎobǎixìng life and try to mingle my life with theirs. I thought my best shot for

means behind in time and down in space also means ahead in time—these are some of the points where East meets West. Wǒ, Nǐ, Tā, Tā, Tā I, you, he, she, it 8. Disappearing pronouns and the sense of self THE VILLAGE OF Xizhou is nestled in a verdant strip of land in China’s southwestern Yunnan Province. To the east lies Erhai Lake, where cormorants play. To the west, hills rise to the Tibetan Plateau, where herders graze their yaks. During World War II, Xizhou offered a first contact

comic, foliage, imbecile, mountain, simple … Borrowed words provide great clues for tracking how, when and where people bumped into (or pillaged and plundered) each other and influenced (or dominated and subjugated) each other when roaming around the early world. People moved around the earth, leaving their words behind for others, or picking up new ones. Chinese has just a meager collection of borrowed words. And because of the limited syllable structure in Chinese, it is difficult to “sinify”

Rebecca Mackinnon, Roland Soong, Andy Switky, Sun Zhe and Nina Ni. My special crew of Chinese language helpers who really stepped up: John Flower and Pam Leonard, who also took us all over Sichuan Province, Sarah Jessup, Chris Livaccari, Orville and Baifang Schell, who have provided endless help in countless ways. My sister, Susan Garau, shares my obsession with language and was always ready to chat about Mandarin. And my many language teachers, from Meng Laoshi to Danny. Our wonderful friends

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