Before You Go
If you are planning to spend a month or more in other countries, you
might want to consider taking a language course. The
yellow pages will probably have a section under Language Schools
you can check out. And if your city or town has a college or other
higher learning institute, ask them about continuing education
courses. Other local resources include cultural organizations that
may offer classes or you may be able to get a private tutor.
Guides. Many paperback travel
guides include a section, typically in the back of the book, with some
basic phrases in the languages of the country or countries that are
covered. Of course you don't want to pull out the book every time you
need to say something. That is too cumbersome. Some people copy or
tear out the pages with the phrases and stick them in their purse or
wallet. They need to be handy.
Phrasebooks and Dictionaries. There are
thousands of phrasebooks and dictionaries available in bookstores and at
online websites like Amazon.com. Some of the phrasebooks include a
language or Several Languages A Phrasebook will
either cover one language or several languages. If
it covers several languages, it will typical be for languages for a
region of the world, like Europe.
Sections for Everyone. Almost all phrasebooks are
divided into sections (e.g., basic phrases, shopping, dining,
transportation, etc.) This is based on the assumption that you
will become familiar with the content before you need to find
something. Otherwise, your vacation may be over before you find the
phrase you want! (Make sure to
find the page with "Where is the restroom?" before you need it!
They may have hidden it somewhere other than in the Basic Phrases
Phonetics. Almost all phrasebooks have the English text,
the text of the other language and a phonetic pronunciation. The
phonetics are usually either a transliteration, some other phonetic
pronunciation approach, or they will use the International Phonetic
Alphabet. If phonetics are used, some may be easier to
understand than others. A phrasebook will typically have a
section up front with an explanation of their phonetic codes. Check
this out and thumb through some pages to see if you will be
comfortable with their approach. Otherwise, you will probably not be
able to use them to get the sound right by merely looking at the
phonetics. Then you will be reduced to just using the phrasebook in an
emergency when you need to point to some word in the native language
to get your meaning across.
Dictionaries. You will most probably want a
bi-directional dictionary. Some dictionaries include phonetic
pronunciations as well.
Software and Electronic translators.
There is language software available for PCs, laptops and PDAs and range
in price from under $10.00 to many hundreds of dollars. Features
to look for are your ability to find any word or phrase you want quickly
either because they have a search capability or because there is only a
small list of phrases and they are arranged in alphabetical order such
as in a scroll list. You will want to listen to a native speaker.
Most only have normal speech, but some products also include slow
speech. Slow speech is further divided into a natural slow speech where
the native speaker has a slight pause between each sound and artificial
slow speech where the software electronically slows down normal speech.
The natural slow speech is almost always better to listen to.
You select or type in a word or
phrase and a translation is displayed. Some expensive models let
you speak the word or phrases and it is translated on the display and
spoken in the native language.
||Take a little pocket-sized spiral notebook
and pen. You
can buy these little spiral notebooks at any drug store. Use this
to write down new words and phrases you want to learn once you are in
||Don't Be Afraid. It
is our experience that people will not embarrass you by laughing at you
if you mispronounce something or use the wrong word or expression. If
they laugh, they will be laughing with you and will help you pronounce
it correctly. If they are laughing when you speak a a lesser-known
language, like Mongolian in Mongolia, it will usually be that you are
saying the phrase correctly but they have seldom or never heard a
foreigner speak their language. They are laughing with happiness
at your friendliness! (Of course, always try to practice with a
native speaker you have gotten acquainted with before you want to speak
the language to someone else.)
Good Things Do Happen.
knowing a few words and phrases will not only bring a smile to the faces
of those you meet, but sometimes other wonderful things will happen.
Like they will be more helpful or friendly towards you and make a little
extra effort to help you out.
When You Are There
With A Native Speaker. Try to
practice whatever phrases you want to learn with a native speaker
before you actually need to use them. Your first opportunity
may come at the airport while you are waiting for your overseas
flight in the gate area. Then once in the country, at the hotel, a bar or while having
lunch with the tour guide. Don't overwhelm them. Just
say you would like to try a few phrases (4-5) on them at first.
Always approach a stranger and ask in English if they speak
English. If they do, they will say "yes". If they don't, they will
probably shake their head no or say something in their native
||Make Up Your
Own Phonetics. The easiest
way is to find English words or made-up words to match the sounds.
Don't be afraid to use a single letter of the alphabet either.
Many languages have an "A" sound. No, not "ah" but the letter "A".