So I've been fooling around with Chinese. The difference between this and studying Chinese is that I'm not expecting it to go anywhere, that I'm not claiming (even, or perhaps especially, to myself) to have learned anything, that I'm not being systematic about it, and that it's just for the pleasure of discovery rather than for anything that may result from it (since probably nothing will). It's less about Growth, Self-Improvement and Opportunity than it is about idle procrastination and lazy curiosity.
But it's fun, at least for me, and so I thought that I'd share a bit of the fun with my readers.
For this initial post, I thought I'd share three popular English-language children's books which have been posted online in Chinese.
In ascending order of age-appropriateness, the first is Eric Carle's classic The Very Hunger Caterpillar, a book designed for the tiniest of babies -- and, thus, appropriate for those who have only achieved the level of, say, a fairly impressive beginner in Chinese. (It has to be fairly impressive because, of course, we don't expect the babies to read it to themselves!)
Anyway, it's online here, in a translation pieced together by the bloggers from various existing commercial ones, picking what they liked of each. (They don't include the pictures or anything like that, but some of us -- say, parents of young children -- will have read it so many times that it doesn't matter.) It's just in Chinese, but if you mouse over any of the text the pinyin (for pronunciation) and the meaning of the word are given. It's a lot of fun, and good for learning things like the days of the week and the names of various fruits.
Second in our ascending order of age-appropriateness we have this version of Beatrix Potter's Tale of Peter Rabbit. It is really a quite superb web presentation. They have many of the original illustrations (I think they have the core set; nowadays you can buy editions which include ones left out of the early printings, and that's the one I read to my son (thus the one I'm familiar with), but the ones they include are more than sufficient to tell the story). Each page has the same bit of text -- one to four sentences -- in both English and Chinese; you click one of the buttons at the bottom of the page to switch back and forth. Another button will play that snippet in whichever language is displayed (the English taken from the librivox recording). Hovering the mouse over the Chinese text displays the pinyin (just the pinyin, and the whole sentence in one lump, so that one feature's not quite as useful as the The Very Hunger Caterpillar presentation). All-in-all, a splendid version -- you could just keep it in English and let a child play with it, learning to play the text and go forward and back at will; or you can use it yourself to, well, fool around with Chinese. (Not, please, to learn: that requires textbooks and flashcards and furrowed brows; it produces Results.)
Finally -- and this is a book on a level that I am far beyond getting anything out of (just as my (two-and-a-half-year-old) son couldn't enjoy it, unlike the other two), but I mention it because I found it so why not -- is a translation of Alice in Wonderland into Chinese. This is at the same site as The Tale of Peter Rabbit, although the presentation is much less fancy. (The same site also hosts one of the best free online English-Chinese dictionaries.) I don't know anything about the translation -- for instance, I know there's a classic translation of Alice into Chinese that's supposed to be very well done, but I don't know if this is it or not. At any rate it is, as I said, way over my head -- well, all three are way over my head, but the first two are over my head in a it's-still-fun-to-jump-and-see-how-close-I-can-get-to-touching-them sort of way; the Alice is -- well, c'est du chinois. 'nuff said.
So there it is. If anyone else wants to try to fool around with Chinese -- or if you know enough to just read 'em -- or (in the case of the Beatrix Potter) you just want a good presentation of a marvelous children's book -- enjoy! And I may have more foolin' around with Chinese posts in the future -- keep an 眼睛 on this blog if you're interested.