We recently hit the jackpot on Chinese translations of Dr. Seuss books. Bedtime stories are big in our house; we grew up with them as kids, we read aloud to each other as a couple before we had kids, and now our daughter has stories before every nap and bedtime, and often during playtime. Of course we want to take advantage of all the reading to improve her and our Chinese. It turns out there are at least three different Chinese publications of Dr. Seuss out there. Our reviews and all the links and search terms you’ll need are below.
How Can You Translate Dr. Seuss?
Since Dr. Seuss books were written as English-teaching tools, many of them are pretty pointless in Chinese, especially the ones aimed at the youngest readers that emphasize phonics over story, like Hop on Pop. Aside from providing useful Chinese vocab, the translations aren’t much use; it’s impossible for translate Dr. Seuss’ English-learning magic. However, we’ve found that the longer stories like The Cat in the Hat and The Sneetches are a lot of fun for for us and our daughter as Chinese language learning tools.
When it comes to language and culture acquisition, translated material can’t be as useful as stuff written in Chinese by Chinese for Chinese because a translated story is still culturally foreign in its content. But translations are still good stepping-stones on the language learning path, depending on your level. Also, when you no longer have the luxury of a pre-child, full-time language study lifestyle, you have to find creative and convenient ways to work Chinese into your daily routine (in addition to whatever part-time study you can squeeze in) or your language ability atrophies. So for us, 苏斯博士 is fun and useful for our little family’s Chinese learning.
We have books from two of the three different Chinese Dr. Seuss publications out there, and each seems to have a different purpose in mind. If you’re into bilingual bedtime stories you’ll want to know these significant differences so you can pick the ones that best fit your situation.
1. Chinese-only reading
These extra-large soft-cover bilingual Dr. Seuss books emphasize the Chinese translation. Published in 2010 (with more on the way) by 现代出版社 (Modern Press) in their 苏斯博士最经典童书 (Dr. Seuss’ Most Classic Children’s Books) series, they’re meant to be read aloud in Chinese. We have eight of these, all translated by 馨月, who’s obviously tried to capture the Dr. Seuss spirit by giving the Chinese as much as rhythm and rhyme as possible. The binding is the better-quality Chinese-style softcover foreigners in China will be familiar with — not bad but of course not as durable as the traditional hardcover Dr. Seuss books.
The large pages and prominent Chinese are great, but these aren’t convenient if you want to also read in English because they only provide the English text in the back of the book next to thumbnail versions of the illustrations. I’ve found the odd English typo.
Here’s a text sample from 戴高帽子的猫又来了 (The Cat in the Hat Comes Back):
Do you know where I found him?
Do you know where he was?
He was eating a cake in the tub!
Yes he was!
The hot water was on
And the cold water, too.
And I said to the cat,
“What a bad thing to do!”
“But I like to eat cake
In the tub,” said the cat.
“You should try it some time.”
Laughed the cat as he sat.
2. Bilingual reading
These look and feel pretty much identical to original hardcover Dr. Seuss books you’re familiar with, aside from the addition of Chinese titles and text. They were published in 2006 by 中国对外翻译出版公司 in their 苏斯博士 双语经典 (Dr. Seuss Bilingual Classics) series, and use various translators. Each page has both the original English text and the Chinese translation; the English is sometimes slightly re-formatted to make room for the Chinese.
My biggest complaint is the formatting: with squintingly small Chinese text that’s not given a prominent position on the page, it looks to me like they’re aimed at Chinese parents who want to teach their kid English and just need the Chinese as a reference to help with comprehension. But I’d still definitely choose these over the original English-only Dr. Seuss books. They also have a colourful introduction to Dr. Seuss in the front and tips from a children’s education expert on how to use the stories in the back (both in Chinese only).
We found them on Taobao for 110元/10 books by searching for 苏斯博士 双语经典 全10本.
Here’s some sample text from 史尼奇 (The Sneetches):
Then ONE day, it seems…while the Plain-Belly Sneetches
Where moping and doping alone on the beaches,
Just sitting there wishing their bellies had stars…
A stranger zipped up in the strangest of cars!
If you have links to any other great English kids books in Chinese (like 蚯蚓的日记/Diary of a Worm), or if you have particularly outstanding Chinese kids books to recommend, please share in the comments! Same good Chinese kids music!
And if you’ve ever wondered how to say “The Perilous Poozer of Pompelmoose Pass” in Chinese, click here.
Related posts about having a Foreign Baby in China:
- Diary of a Worm in Chinese! (an English / 汉字 / pīnyīn online read-along)
- A Foreign Baby in Tianjin Pt. 1 – is this our future?
- Foreign baby in China essentials: IMPORTED BABY FORMULA
- Foreign baby in China essentials: FACEBOOK SUBSTITUTE (or VPN) & SKYPE
- Foreign baby in China essentials: FRIENDLY STRANGER FINGER SHIELD