- Anything Goes: An Advanced Reader of Modern Chinese
Anything Goes: An Advanced Reader of Modern Chinese (无所不谈: 现代汉语高 级读本) is the latest advanced reading textbook by Chih-p'ing Chou, a professor of Chinese at Princeton. For this book, Chou has teamed up with Hua-Hui Wei and Kun An, both lecturers of Chinese at Princeton, and Wei Wang, a lecturer at Washington University in St. Louis. Editor of about a dozen intermediate and advanced reading textbooks in as many years, Chou offers Anything Goes in a further attempt to fill a resource gap in Chinese language materials at the advanced level.
Anything Goes, as a continuation of All Things Considered (2001), is presented in an all-in-one format of more than 550 pages. According to the preface, the 30 articles contained in the book are intended to be used in one semester. While this may be possible for a summer intensive program that meets for at least six weeks for five days per week, four hours per day (for a total of 120 hours), this reviewer thinks that teachers would be hard pressed to complete all of the lessons during the average fourth-year semester of a regular school year, unless the material was treated more for extensive reading training. Anything Goes could more likely stand as a textbook for an entire fourth year.
Regarding the selection of topics covered, Chou et al. have selected a wide variety that should keep most fourth-year college students interested. Unlike All Things Considered, also called an "advanced reader" but employing dialogues and prose articles, Anything Goes only presents articles that for the most part were obviously harvested from online sources (this reviewer was able to locate well over half of them), with many undergoing extensive vetting. The topics in Anything Goes are certainly timely, and some can even be considered controversial. Anything Goes covers topics ranging from love, marriage, gender, social changes, and morality to (un)employment, finance and economics, and politics.
Presenting the materials in one volume is admittedly convenient. However, one drawback to this packaging is that the more the material within focuses on "current events," the more it tends to become (out)dated after as little as two years. Anything Goes presents three articles from 2000 or before, eight articles from 2001, two articles from 2002, six articles from 2003, six articles from 2004, and only one article from 2005. Chou has also included four of his own essays on Chinese characters, Chinese literature, free speech, and the influence of Western culture. This textbook also falls into the trap of textbooks for this level in that, while the topics may not be dull and boring, the traditional formatting of text-that is, [End Page 390] text, vocabulary list, grammar points, and exercises-really only serves to aid the teacher plan a curriculum than help the student learn the material and the context that generated it.
The textbook presents an average of eight grammar points per lesson. The term "grammar points" is used here because there are no explanatory notes at all. Rather, Chou et al. only provide example sentences (mainly directly pulled from the text) and an additional one or two sentences utilizing the grammar point.
The grammar points, example sentences, and exercises are presented only in simplified characters. Although this may seem reasonable owing to the original source material, efforts should have been made to provide for traditional character versions of the example sentences. This could easily have been done without adding much more to the book's thickness had the editors not chosen to use such wide line spacing and large font sizes for the main texts. By the fourth year, students could be able to handle narrower line spacing and a 12-14 point font size. Even though the extra spacing between lines is an understandable allowance to facilitate student note taking, students should not have to be pampered with exceedingly large...