Tag Archives: language learning

Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok

Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok (Riverhead, April 29, 2010), 304 pages

Kimberly Chang and her mother emigrate from Hong Kong to Brooklyn. They don’t speak English and they’re beholden to the relatives that helped them make the journey. Kimberly is a very intelligent girl — math and science come easiest in her new environment. Her mother, in Hong Kong, was an accomplished musician. Their only ticket out of their unforeseen but deplorable situation is Kimberly’s education.

This multicultural, coming-of-age story is set in New York City. Chinatown, sweatshop. The juxtaposition of Kimberly Chang’s school world and her work/home world is stark, saddening. I don’t always like coming-of-age stories, but this one, with its many other factors in its favor, is a winner.

Girl in Translation is absorbing, I was caught up in the story and the world before the first chapter ended. It’s delightful and painful and vivid.

I love the characters, I love the story, I love the writing. Such a great book!

One of my favorite aspects of the book is how Kwok helps the reader understand, in little bits, what it’s like to feel illiterate by representing phonetically other speakers’ poorly enunciated words. For example, on page 24 [of an uncorrected proof], when Kimberly arrives at her school for the first time:

We showed her the letter from the school. “Go downda hall, two fights up, classroom’s firsdur left,” she said, pointing.

I love this!

Oh, this is just a great book. I know I’m gushing, but I don’t feel like I’m going too far; this book deserves gushing. Read an excerpt of Girl in Translation.

About the author
Jean Kwok (Kwok’s blog, @JeanKwok) was born in Hong Kong and immigrated to Brooklyn as a child. She received her bachelor’s from Harvard and completed an MFA in fiction at Columbia. After working as an English teacher and Dutch-English translator at Leiden University in the Netherlands, Kwok now writes full-time.

Other reviews
Booking Mama
Devourer of Books
Medieval Bookworm
The Book Nest
Capricious Reader
Redlady’s Reading Room
Reading Extravaganza
Novel Whore

Have you reviewed this book? Leave me a link and I’ll add it here.

I received this book from the publisher.

What to do with Marina

I need your help! What should I do with this book?

Here’s the story:

My sister is a gift-giver. She loves receiving and giving gifts. She gets so excited about it sometimes that she gives away part of the surprise because she just can’t hold it in. I love my sister.

She told me recently that she was mailing me a book. At first she kind of had to give it away because I’m moving and she didn’t know if I’d want it sent to my current residence or if she should just wait and send it after I’ve moved. Well, I said I want it now, please! :p You can’t tell me you’ve got a surprise for me and then expect me to wait longer than I have to before receiving it!

marinaThis time, I believe she bought the book at a Friends of the Library sale, or something similar. I don’t know all the details, and they don’t really matter too much. She didn’t pay full price, which is good — because when the book arrived earlier this week, it was in Spanish. Which is great, except I can’t read Spanish.

She didn’t realize it was in Spanish until I told her. Which is sad, but also charming.

She saw the author’s name, Carlos Ruiz Zafón, remembered that I’d liked the two books I’d recently read by him (neither of which had the same title as this one), and bought it for me. The book? Marina by Carlos Ruiz Zafón, one of his untranslated (into English, anyway) young adult novels. I really wish I could read it.

Now the part I need your help with. What should I do with this book that I can’t read?

Ideas that have been tossed around:
• Save it. Keep it on my shelf, regardless of the fact that I can’t read it.
• Learn Spanish so I can read it.
• Give it away here on the blog to someone who will at least review it in English for me.
• List it on BookMooch.

What do you think I should do with this book?

Beijing or Beijing?

I had been wondering, while watching the games of the 29th Olympiad (and so much reporting on same), which was the correct way to pronounce the name of this, the capital city of China, Beijing. Turns out, yes, there is.

I’ve heard it pronounced a couple different ways mostly — with a hard J sound and instead with a softer sound, as in measure.

I came across the answer in my feed reader today. Thank you, Language Log. Along with the answer to my query, the post is quite interesting. Have a read!

Update: Another post over at Language Log, this time posing the query, do people who live in Beijing really pronounce the hard J? Like me, they’re apparently given to “gliding over” or slurring consonants.

Chinese (and Japanese) translation guide

Ooh, cool! Firefox (versions 2-3) extensions that will translate, with a scroll-over, words inChinese and Japanese.

Apparently these (or similar) extensions exist for many languages, as well.

You just have to download the dictionary you want to use (the extension links above have links for those), add the extension to your existing (free) Firefox browser, and you’re set! Particularly helpful when you’re learning a language.

I found this via a Language Log post last night, although that post was just using this as an example of onomatopoeia in Japanese, which is certainly worthy — who doesn’t like onomatopoeia?

A brief quote from that post for your pleasure:

“Although I didn’t know offhand exactly what PERAPERA meant, I could tell from its form that it must be an onomatopoeic term. When I looked PERAPERA up in my little Kenkyusha and Sanseido dictionaries, I discovered that as an adverb it indicates ‘fluently, glibly, volubly,’ as a verb it means ‘prattle, gibber, chatter, gab, rattle (on),’ and as an adjective it describes something that is ‘thin, flimsy, skinny.'”


NWA library awarded

Great, exciting news about a library in my county: The Rogers (Arkansas) Public Library won an award for its collaborative project that will train bilingual teens to help elementary students learn English.

The first winners of the Light the Way: Outreach to the Underserved grant, sponsored by Candlewick Press and the Association for Library Service to Children’s Library Service to Special Population Children and their Caregivers Committee, have been announced. The grant honors Newberry Medalist and Geisel Honoree Kate DiCamillo and encourages innovative approaches to engaging traditionally underserved populations in libraries.

Winner: The Rogers Public Library in Rogers, Ark., for its project “Bilingual Teens as Teachers and Tutors,” a collaboration of the public library, elementary and secondary schools, local community college and community services. Americorps volunteers will train bilingual teens to serve as tutors and role models to elementary school students who need help learning English. Most of the Spanish-speaking children are from families of migrant workers who rarely use the public library. The Rogers Public Library will receive a grant of $5,000 as well as a complete Kate DiCamillo library and a signed print from Great Joy.

The quote is from Shelf Awareness (something I may need to subscribe to but saw for the first time today); I found it via Book Junkie.

I love this stuff!

(Psst! I checked, and I haven’t seen this in any of the local papers yet.)

Mango language learning

I discovered a language-learning site with online lessons this week: Mango Languages. I found it via Tech Crunch, although it wasn’t the focus of the post there.

It’s free, it offers a wide variety of languages, the study starts at the beginning. Oh, and sign-up is quite simple and quick. This may help me achieve my dream of learning Mandarin!

Language learning help online

I found this site today via a comment on my blog, on a previous post. Using the “Please call Stella” paragraph from the Speech Accent Archive, KanTalk lets people record themselves speaking the brief snippet and post the recording at its site, to allow for critique. The purpose: Help non-native English speakers improve their speech in English. Users can Skype each other, as well.

Although much less academic in nature than the initial Archive, this project could be great. An online tool that can truly aid language learning. Kudos.