Author of the Month: Chris Shei

Routledge Language Learning is ringing in the new year with a new Author of the Month, Chris Shei of Swansea University. Dr. Shei is the author of Understanding the Chinese Language: A Comprehensive Linguistic Introduction, complete with eResources and chapter exercises.

In a new interview, Dr. Shei discusses the motivation behind writing Understanding the Chinese Language, key takeaways from this book, and what makes linguistics so interesting! 

Why did you decide to write this book?

I’ve been a linguist for some thirty years, being a Chinese native speaker and fluent in English. A lot of people in the world are beginning to learn the Chinese language. Despite the myriads of books available for learning the Chinese language, there was a large gap between the hands-on language learning experience and a systematic explanation of the linguistic concepts underlying the Chinese language. Clearly, a comprehensive Chinese linguistic book to guide the learning process, the compilation of learning material and the formulation of teaching methodologies was needed. I wrote just such a book to offer top-down guidance in learning the Chinese language which could be useful to both learners and teachers. The book is highly accessible, making the linguistic concepts easy to understand by highlighting the key points with a lot of authentic examples. The book often contrasts between English and Chinese, making it easier for English speakers to appreciate the similarities and differences between the two languages. It was my intention to make the book an important contribution to Chinese linguistics and a useful book for learning the Chinese language.

What’s the one thing you hope readers take away from your book?

Different people will take away different things from the book. For example, a Chinese language learner will gain a number of insights from the book which will help them learn the respective sections of the language more competently in a guided fashion. A linguistics student or researcher can understand how the Chinese language works by comparing the phonological, lexical and grammatical aspects between Chinese and English amply explained in the book. Any casual reader with or without an academic background can come away with something useful about the Chinese language which they can draw from or expand in their work, or simply talk about in parties!

Is there anything you’d like to highlight about this topic or your book in particular?

This book explains complicated linguistic concepts in easily understandable ways. This is done by breading down complicated ideas into basic statements supported by highly illustrative examples. The chapters on Chinese words and sentences, Chinese discourse markers and Chinese neologisms will be highly interesting and informative to readers with a curiosity in how Chinese language is spoken and how the social media affects the development of the Chinese language.

What’s a common misconception about this topic that you’d like to clear up?

‘Linguistics is a boring subject and irrelevant to ordinary people’ – contrary to this common misconception, linguistics is very interesting and relevant. Equipped with only a handful of linguistic facts easily obtainable from this book, Chinese language learners can acquire the language in a smoother and more insightful way. For people who already speak the language, linguistic knowledge can add to their understanding of the mechanism of the language and to help them use it more effectively. Even for those readers who have no intention of learning the language, reading the book can help them understand Chinese from an analytical and linguistically informed perspective. You will end up learning a lot about the language. It’s like even though you don’t know how to drive a car, you know what a car consists of and how each component works. The contrastive nature of the book also makes you understand English from a different and likely more profound angle. You will have a lot of fun reading the book.

Find out more about this book here.

Related Products

  • Understanding the Chinese Language

    A Comprehensive Linguistic Introduction

    By Chris Shei

    Understanding the Chinese Language provides a vibrant and comprehensive introduction to contemporary Chinese linguistics. Combining an accessible style with an in-depth treatment of the topics at hand, it uses clear, full descriptions and vivid, modern examples to systematically take students…

    Paperback – 2014-07-28
    Routledge