Book_cover-charlie_chan

New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 2010. xx, 354 pp.

Reviewed by Raymond Lum

Charlie Chan and his fortune-cookie aphorisms, introduced in the immensely popular novels of Earl Derr Biggers beginning in 1925, and later in forty-seven Hollywood movies that featured Caucasian actors with taped-back eyes, presented both positive and negative stereotypes of the Chinese. Mostly, they were positive, showing the Chinese, or at least one Chinese, as astute and intelligent but challenged by English verbs. Among Charlie Chan's philosophical utterances as invented by Biggers, were these:

Deborah Fallows, Dreaming in Chinese: Mandarin Lessons in Life, Love, and Language. New York: Walker & Co., 2010. 205 p. ISBN 978-0-8027-7913-7.

Reviewed by Raymond Lum

Dreaming-in-Chinese-cover_copyCan a billion Chinese be wrong? Contrary to popular myth, Chinese is not an impossibly difficult language to learn. Spoken Chinese is, rather, deceptively simple and is much less complex than English. Consider this: in Chinese, "he" and "she" are the same words; there are no singular or plural forms; there are no verb forms (no past, present, future tenses; the only tense aspect of Chinese is foreigners thinking it's hard); numbers are based on the decimal system, although larger numbers are in groupings of ten thousands; agreement of nouns and verbs is not necessary. "Book have picture" can be singular or plural but is perfectly clear in context, as is "I already went tomorrow at this time."

With delight, I read Speech Insights for Success by my friend, Marlene Schoenberg.  The book is well written, funny, and educational. It raised my awareness of the many interesting aspects of the English language. It offers so many pieces of practical advice on how to do things better, about speaking the language, interacting with people, and about learning in general.

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