A Chinese two-channel contrastive textbook of Mandarin and Shanghai dialect
Edited by 陈阿宝 (海南出版社, 2005)
Review by: John Pasden
This brand new Shanghainese textbook sets its goals very high, and it delivers on certain levels. According to the foreword, “learners can use this book to learn either just Mandarin Chinese or Shanghai dialect, or both Mandarin and Shanghai dialect simultaneously.” Indeed, all material is represented in both Mandarin (with pinyin) and Shanghainese (with IPA), with explanations in both English and Japanese. The large black textbook is just shy of 400 pages and is accompanied by an MP3 CD with nearly three hours of recordings (in Mandarin and Shanghainese only).
Vital to the early study of any new language is an accurate, comprehensible guide to pronunciation. Although the book’s usage of IPA and extensive, clear recordings are excellent decisions, a total of only six pages on the sounds of Shanghainese–in three languages–seems insufficient. The text’s coverage of Shanghainese’s tones and sandhi is only enough to be confusing. Tones are not given for new vocabulary words throughout the book.
Each lesson is broken down into a familiar pattern: (1) New Words, (2) Sentence Patterns, (3) Dialogues, (4) Exercises, (5) (Grammar) Notes. Since each section covers both Mandarin and Shanghainese, Shanghainese has to share the spotlight quit a bit.
The lessons aim for practicality, covering the usual range of conversation-oriented topics through a variety of Shanghai-centric dialogues and vocabulary lists.
Although there is nothing especially fresh or flashy about the lessons in this textbook, it is clearly a professional job. Typos are few, and the English is mostly quite natural. The black and white pages and the plain ink drawings will not dazzle you, but the lessons are solid.
The serious student of Shanghainese should take note: while this textbook is not a bad choice, it contains far less Shanghainese content than it would at first appear. Half of the book is devoted to Mandarin, and half the explanation is in Japanese. Similarly, half the recordings on the CD are in Mandarin, so a student interested in only Shanghainese may find it bothersome to have to skip past the Mandarin for every lesson.[For a more complete listing of materials for studying Shanghainese without extensive reviews, see the Sinosplice Weblog entry: Shanghainese study materials.]