A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary For Lovers by Xiaolu Guo

This book is shortlisted for the Orange Broadband Prize for Fiction 2007, interestingly. I was flipping through the first few pages at Borders and was intrigued, so I borrowed the book not long after from the library. As funny and interesting the main character’s thoughts were, I quickly got annoyed with the deliberate writing of bad English. Especially with the omission of particles, which seems to be the foremost and most common method to convey how Chinese people speaking broken English. It just seems hard to believe that one could say florescent and wisteria but also say ‘I sad’, know the meaning of words like paradox and fatalism, but say ‘womans’ until the very end of book. It just gives me the impression that someone deliberately sprinkled mistakes everywhere to make it sound like natural bad English.

The story is about Z, a young girl from China who arrives in London to spend a year learning English, during which time she meets a far older Englishman, falls in love, then culture revelation and clash start to unfold.


I hate the part when she travels around Europe, meeting random guys and sleeping naked next to their beds. She is either very naive/stupid, or very wild. Since the hell when could you just follow random strangers in faraway country to their hotel rooms or houses and take off your bloody clothes? I mean, she’s not very good in English, doesn’t make her stupid in everything in life! And don’t even get me started on the unprotected sex. Does she even know the concept of cheating?

end of spoiler

Anyway, despite some of my complaints, the book has funny points and interesting point of views.

Pages: 354
Rating: 3 out of 5 [Okay]
Readable. Not bad for cultural clash topic and insight into Chinese culture.

First line


Last line

The rain was ceaseless, covering the whole forest, the whole mountain, and the whole land.


‘Love’, this English word: like other English words it has tense. ‘Loved’ or ‘will love’ or ‘have loved’. All these specific tenses mean Love is time-limited thing. Not infinite. It only exist in particular period of time. In Chinese, Love is ‘愛’ (ai). It has no tense. No past and future. Love in Chinese means a being, a situation, a circumstance. Love is existence, holding past and future. If our love existed in Chinese tense, then it will last for ever. It will be infinite.” ~Z, p301

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