Shanghai Dialect for Foreigners
14 Nov 2005
Edited by 徐子亮 (Shanghai Haiwen Audio-Video Publishers, 2005)
Review by: John Pasden
Make no mistake — this new Shanghainese textbook’s audience is foreigners. Although there are some Chinese instructions or translations here or there, the overall impression is of devotion to the English-speaking foreigner. This is not a Mandarin textbook, and as a result you will find no pinyin. All pronunciation is given in IPA. The CD comes with the book.
What impressed me about the CD was that the dialogues were between older speakers instead of young people. Living in Shanghai, I feel that I most often hear Shanghainese spoken by middle-aged men and women women (think convenience store clerks, guards, taxi drivers). Consequently, the CD’s dialogues feel particularly familiar and helpful. The drawback was that the British English speaker on the CD talks very slowly, as if he were addressing a non-native speaker.
The textbook devotes an impressive 17 pages to pronunciation, covering all consonants and vowels in multiple positions, presenting a wide variety of Shanghainese syllables, all glossed in IPA. Despite this thoroughness, tones/sandhi are given barely a mention and do not appear later in the vocabulary lists either.
Each lesson is broken down into (1) Daily Sentences, (2) Dialogues, (3) Key Words, (4) Vocabulary Development, and (5) Shanghai Culture. Notably absent is notes on grammar.
Although it is light on grammar and the particulars of Shanghainese’s tones, this 144-page textbook offers foreigners a competent introduction to Shanghainese with little fluff.[For a more complete listing of materials for studying Shanghainese without extensive reviews, see the Sinosplice Weblog entry: Shanghainese study materials.]