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No books in Mandarin? Write your own!

July 26, 2013

book cover

Parents and teachers often lament the lack of appropriate books in Chinese for immersion students. But while we whine, the kids are getting down to work. If there aren’t books you want to read in Mandarin, write them yourself. That’s the lesson we can all learn from Annemarie Hilton, age 10.

Hilton is  going into fifth grade in Wasatch Elementary in Utah. This week she published her first book: Sally的冒险.

Annemarie wrote the short novel when she was in second grade, in English. It’s about the adventures of a girl named Sally. “Some of the things that happened in the book happened in my life (I really did get stiches after slamming my finger in the door!)” she says in the introduction.

She’s also a Mandarin immersion student and this past summer her father John Hilton encouraged her to translate it into Chinese. “She has worked really hard on it (60+ hours this summer),” he says proudly. “We uploaded it to Amazon and she is now a published author!”

The e-book is available for $2.99 here.

Her father hopes seeing the book will both show families “what these immersion kids can do” and also give them something to read. And “perhaps more importantly it will encourage their kids to do writing in Chinese.”

In her introduction Annemarie is honest about her Chinese skills. In Utah immersion begins in first grade, so she’d had just four years of Chinese when she translated the story.

“So I hope you know that my translation won’t be perfect. I am just a kid!! I kenw a lot of the words, but some I looked up on Google Translate,” she wrote.

She says she also made mistakes. “Instead of writing 他们 I wrote 它们,” she says, confusing the word for ‘they’ meaning people for the ‘they’ for  things.

“When I tried to translate ‘French Toast’ it was法式吐 which means French Dirt. (I wound up changing the English to be “breakfast” instead of French toast.” As another example, instead of ‘tangled’ I put ‘lettuce’ (on accident!)”

The book is presented in a paragraph by paragraph translation, first in English and then in Chinese using simplified characters. It should be easy to read for most third or fourth grade Mandarin immersion students.

I look forward to writing about more books by students in the coming years!

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