Yes, I read a dictionary. Aren’t I a smart nerd.
This is a novel written in the form of a China girl’s self-constructed dictionary. It is a collection of new vocabulary she has learned from her English language school in London and from her everyday life as an international student. For each new word, she makes notes of its meaning, and aptly weaves in her thoughts or accounts of her encounters.
What drew me to this book was its description of how a Chinese student struggled to adapt to a new life in England. It highlights the essence of the difference between West and East, and the confusion this stirs. This sort of hit a chord deep within me, it was like reading a story of myself.
Of English food – “I confusing again when I look at ‘whipped cream’ on the menu…how people whip cream? I see a poster somewhere near Chinatown. On poster naked woman only wears leather boots and leather pants, and she whipping naked man kneeling down under legs. So a English chef also whipping in kitchen?
She wrongly heard the word ‘ fizzy water’
as ‘ filthy water
” and was appalled when the waiter offered her that. “ I opening bottle, immediately lots of bubble coming out. How they putting bubbles in water?”
The book started off with really poor English, and gradual improvements as one reads on, to simulate the process of learning a second language. The English was sooooo Chinese-y! I couldn’t help laughing when she pointed out the typical mistakes that us Chinese make :“gosh verb is just crazy. Verb has verbs, verbed, verb-ing. And verbs has three types of mood too : indicative, imperative, subjunctive. Why so moody?”
“ jeans are pairs says the teacher. But, everybody know jeans or trousers always one thing, you can’t wear many jean, four years old baby know that. Why waste ink adding ‘ s’? ”
“people say “I’m going to go to the cinema”. Why there two ‘go’ for one sentence? Why not enough to say one ‘go’? ”
Some of the difference of West and East values that she pointed out were spot on :
The girl’s English boyfriend protested “ I’m always paying for you. In the West, men and women are equal. We should split food and rent.
Girl says “of course you must pay. You are man. When couple is live together, woman loses social life automatically. She stays at home do cooking and washing. And after she have kids, even worse. She loses financial independence
Though I find this more true for the conservative Chinese women of the older generation than modern young ladies.
“ An inch of time is an inch of gold, but you can’t buy that inch of time with an inch of gold (一寸光阴一寸金,寸金难买寸光阴). Chinese believed time was the most expensive thing in the world. When I was a teenager I dared not waste just even twenty minutes to play around. But here, in this country, people spent whole afternoon having a pot of tea, and a whole night to drink beers at pub. If life is a race against time, why people pay so much attention on tea and beer?”
This I find very true. I really cannot understand how the brits party away, getting drunk every week. Though not all of them are like that. They club for charity, they club after a demonstration on the street. Even professors club during fresher’s week. It was this new scenario that made me realised just how rigid a person I was, always refraining from entertainment during term times.