Saturday, September 4, 2010

A visit with my Sister Claudia, and a Look at her New Chinese Textbook Tells me That I Brought Her the Right Gift.

I'm off to visit my mom in Massachusetts, and though I'm rather adept at taking public transportation from the airport, I was lucky enough this time to be picked up by my sister Claudia. We had a very nice lunch at the Sichuan Gourmet on Beacon Street, where we had very good dumplings, string beans, and eggplant, and an ok chicken dish.

After a few errands, we wound up at Mom's place where we looked at her new Chinese textbook, The Routledge Course in Modern Manderin Chinese (there's also a workbook*), written with Baozhang He, Pei-Chia Chen, and Meng Yeh. We played with some of the exercises on the accompanying website (it's got a randomized password, so you really need the book in order to get on), and I was quizzed on character recognition of the numbers one through ten, and tried to recognize whether the voice in an exercise was that of a student or teacher.

Claudia's Schaum's Outline of Chinese Grammar has been successful enough to go into a second printing, and her new supplemental Chinese guide, Chinese Demystified, is coming out in October. There's also The Lady in the Painting, a reader that my niece Jocelyn also worked on, and of course Modern Mandarin Chinese Grammar, which we carry at Boswell.

So it makes sense that my gift to Claudia was Deborah Fallows' Dreaming in Chinese: Modern Lessons in Life, Love, and Language. In short but insightful chapters, Fallows looks at how Chinese culture has affected the spoken and written language of Mandarin, and vice versa. Pleases and thank yous, for example, are almost obligatory in English usage, but they create distance among the Chicnese. It can sound harsh, but repeating words, it turns out, can soften the blow.

Other chapters cover Chinese names, the direction/time connection, compound words, and of course Chinese characters. Fallows has a Ph.D. in linguistics, she came to this project during the three years when her well-known husband James was posted in China.

So I know that Claudia will find it interesting; many of our conversations over the years reminded me of Fallows' writing. Therefore, my only regret is that Claudia didn't write the book first!

*The book is available in simplified and traditional character formats. Simplified is more popular, and has the additional advantage of having key color shading for certain concepts.

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