Skip to content

Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing won’t accept Chinese characters–or will it?

August 30, 2014

Screen Shot 2014-08-30 at 6.44.20 AM

The book’s done but not yet published. (It also turned out to be 460 pages long, so you’re going to get your money’s worth!)

My wonderful designer here in San Francisco, Craig Johnson, has created a beautiful manuscript for the print-on-demand version that will be available through Amazon CreateSpace. We need to do one more pass just to make sure no stray layout errors have crept in as it made its way from a Word document to InDesign to PDF to Amazon. I’m hoping within two weeks it will be available for order as a printed book from Amazon.

Believe me, as SOON as that moment comes, I’ll post.

The e-book version is turning out to be quite a bit more problematic.

Amazon says it does not support Chinese as a language and that therefore “At this time, we cannot guarantee that it will not be unpublished,” with the “it” being A Parent’s Guide to Mandarin Immersion.

Amazon only supports European languages. You can find a full list of them here. Chinese is not one of them.

For over a month now I’ve been trying to find out whether a book which contains Chinese characters will work as an Amazon e-book.

The book is written in English, but it contains many examples in Chinese. Here’s one from chapter 4: How Immersion Works:

When our younger daughter was in third grade we spent a week or so in the spring going through a packet of math questions for the standardized test all public school students in our state take each year. The test, and practice questions, were in English. She’d been studying math since kindergarten but it had all been in Mandarin.

One of the questions was, “Which of these shapes is a pentagon?” Below were drawings of three different shapes.

“That one’s a sānjiǎoxíng, that one’s a liùbiānxíng and that’s a wǔjiǎoxíng,” she said, pointing to the triangle, the hexagon and the pentagon. She knew the geometric forms and could easily have passed the test—except the test was in English.

What she didn’t know was the English word for五角形, or wǔjiǎoxíng.

Thankfully, that was easily fixed. I asked her what wǔjiǎo meant and she correctly said it meant “five sides.” Xíng, she told me, meant “shape.”

All I had to do was tell her that “penta” meant five. Then I asked her which shape was a pentagon. “五角形! That’s a pentagon,” she told me.

My concern is that if the Chinese characters don’t show up, the book will be a lot less useful for parents. As we’ve all experienced, sometimes computer programs that don’t support characters will show them as black rectangles or question marks rather than the actual character. Clearly,that’s not going to work for this book.

So I’ve been emailing with Amazon and the news is confused.

In an email I received Friday from the help desk at Kindle Direct Publishing, I was told this;

Since Chinese is one of our unsupported languages at this time we don’t handle information on at which version people are being able to see the Chinese. Also we can’t actually encourage our publisher to use an unsupported language, because once the book is in review for our quality team they will look at it and will advertise to you this is not a language we support, and most likely will ask you to unpublish.
However, if for example you still want to use it and publish in this language, we can not be responsible of how the book is going to show up on the different devices, and can not guarantee a good customer and reading experience .

This could mean that when I upload the manuscript file to Amazon, the system will kick it back as “unpublishable” because it contains Chinese. It could also mean it will go through just fine. I’ll keep you apprised.

The print option will still be there, so the book’s coming out no matter what. But e-books make up 30% of the U.S. publishing market at this point so clearly there are lots of readers for whom that is the preferred form.

Interestingly, I’ve purchased several Kindle e-books from Amazon which contain Chinese and the characters were perfect. In fact last week as a test I bought a copy of a bilingual kid’s book called Lisa can read by Sujatha Lalgudi which is in Chinese and English. It came through just fine.

At this point I think my best bet will be to publish the book on Amazon as an e-book but include a lot of caveats that some versions of Kindle may not support Chinese characters. I’ll try to keep a constantly updated list of which ones work, so that people who want to buy it will know if they should go for the printed edition or the electronic one, depending on which e-reader they use.

The cover above is the most recent draft, there are a few typos which will be fixed in the final, but I wanted to give you a taste of what’s to come.

And because people keep telling me I need a pronouncer to go with it, here are two: Weise rhymes with geese and Chenery is CHEN-ah-ree.

New Mandarin immersion parents group on Facebook

August 27, 2014

Screen Shot 2014-08-17 at 9.38.40 AM

Mandarin Immersion Parents Support is a Facebook group for current and incoming parents of Mandarin Immersion (MI) programs throughout the United States.

The group provides a forum for parents to share information and find support relating to Mandarin Immersion programs, Chinese language study, and dual language education.

By having a national group, we hope to draw on more people for resources and ways to help our children in their study of Chinese, to assist parents in making connections ahead of family moves, and for school groups to organize for state-level and national advocacy for Mandarin Immersion.

It is a private group and postings on the group represent parents’ views only; they do not represent any school’s opinion nor are they endorsed by any school.

To join, visit “About” section the Mandarin Immersion Parents Support group page ( and send a message to the group administrator.

If you’re more an email list type of person, there’s a national group for Mandarin immersion parents on Yahoo:

And if you’re an organizer of a group that supports your local Mandarin immersion program (for example Portland’s Shu Ren group or the Utah Mandarin Immersion Parent Council, there’s a group where youc an share tips about organizing, fundraising, etc. It’s at



A trip to China changed a state’s education system

August 21, 2014

From China Daily:


A trip to China changed a state’s education

Updated: 2014-06-27 11:37

By Qidong Zhang in San Francisco (China Daily USA)

It all began with a trip to China in 2006. As a result, today 13,000 students in the state of Utah in grades K-12 speak Mandarin, the highest ratio in the US population.

And the person who made that trip and then changed education profoundly in Utah and potentially in the United States is Howard Stephenson, a Utah state Senator since 1992.

“I was stunned by the higher knowledge level of the Chinese high school and college students during my conversations with them. Their dream for better life, their drive and ambition, their depth of world knowledge gave me such an impression that as a state senator, I was deeply concerned about our education system after I talked to them,” said Stephenson in a recent interview with China Daily.

“Our (American) children would never grow up and become world leaders if we do not take initiative to learn other languages and cultures immediately, especially Chinese language; and we as a country would not sustain our world leader position if our next generation does not step up.”

Please read more here;

Menlo Park, Calif. Mandarin immersion charter meeting Aug. 24

August 20, 2014

Parents in Menlo Park, Calif. are starting to look at the charter process, after they were turned down by the school district when they asked for a program to be started. I was at the meeting, which was packed. The school board said they didn’t have the time or the energy to start such a project in the near term, which clearly didn’t’ sit well with parents who had 3- and 4-year-olds. The disconnect between what school districts need and want, and what parents need and want, is always difficult to negotiate. I can see how a charter may work well for the parents, but it’s a shame the district won’t get all those committed, engaged parents in its schools. Though I suppose in Menlo Park it’s not such a big issue than in some  school districts.


Aug. 24: Info sessions on Mandarin immersion charter school

A meeting to provide information about the proposed Menlo Mandarin Immersion charter school will be held on Sunday, Aug. 24. A second session, from 1 to 3 p.m., has been added to the original 3 to 5 p.m. session.

Both are at the Parents Place, 200 Channing Ave. in Palo Alto. Child care and activities for children will be provided in the early session and for those already signed up for the second session. However, while some room for adults remains in the second session, no more spots for child care are available in the 3 to 5 p.m. session, according to organizers.

Please read more here.


What’s the latest research on immersion? Utah Conference Oct. 15, 2014

August 18, 2014

Screen Shot 2014-08-17 at 10.20.28 AM

The University of Utah’s Second Language Teaching and Research Center (L2TReC) and the Utah State Office of Education (USOE) are excited to host the Fifth International Conference on Dual Language/Immersion Education, to be held at the Grand America Hotel in Salt Lake City, Utah, October 15-18, 2014. The conference will bring together researchers, practitioners, administrators and policy makers interested in immersion education. In addition to plenaries, symposia and presentations, attendees will be able to visit Utah dual language immersion schools and participate in professional workshops.

Updated map of all Mandarin immersion programs in the U.S.

August 17, 2014

Nathan Yeung has updated his map and it’s way cool. Please check out his site.

Screen Shot 2014-08-16 at 7.28.28 PM

Palo Alto parents ask for middle school component of Mandarin immersion program

August 16, 2014

Parents urge board to consider middle school Mandarin immersion program

Group hopes to bridge gap between Ohlone program and high school courses

Then first-grader Kira Sterling reads a book in Mandarin at Ohlone Elementary School in 2009. Photo by Shawn Fender/Palo Alto Online.

A group of six Palo Alto parents spoke to the Board of Education during a brief public comment session at its annual retreat Wednesday, making passionate, personal pleas for the district’s Mandarin immersion program to extend into middle school.

The parents submitted a proposal in February and are asking that the board institute this fall a middle school level pilot version of the once controversial and now successfulprogram at Ohlone Elementary School, which began as a three-year pilot program in fall 2008. Since then, about 132 students have enrolled each year, with about 22 students in two sections each of three combination-grade classes, according to district Communications Coordinator Tabitha Kappeler-Hurley.

Please read more here.

Beth’s comment: It’s really unconscionable to have a Mandarin immersion program that only runs through fifth grade. It’s like cutting it off at the knees, as just as the kids are hitting their stride in Mandarin the cease getting any instruction.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 237 other followers