Phrase books: Friend or Foe?

July 14, 2011 by admin

Get a Free Quote

Our Accreditations

  • ATA Logo
  • ATC Logo
  • BSI 9001 Logo
  • BSI 9001 Logo
  • DIN EN 15038 Logo

Recent Updates

Buckets and spoons: an etymological tour of death metaphors

The need to translate English into English is more common than you might imagine, where phrases of English are deployed in a foreign language and have taken on an alternative meaning that isn’t appropriate in actual English text. Read More

I wouldn’t necessarily class myself as a seasoned traveller, but I do like to see different parts of the world when the opportunities present themselves and, hopefully, when I reach the end of my days on this earth I will have seen a lot more of it.

Being able to speak a foreign language well is a blessing, and I am eternally grateful that I can converse in French at a near native level. This fluency, however, is more of a hindrance when I travel abroad to a country where I can’t speak the language. I feel embarrassed, inept and altogether frustrated and impotent faced with the daunting task of expressing myself in a language I haven’t mastered. This was brought home to me on a trip to Bologna, Italy last year. At the airport I purchased a phrase book because the thought of not being able to order a bottle of wine horrified the linguistic pants off me. Whilst it proved somewhat useful in reading menus and asking for a table or a coffee, the little book of handy phrases did lead me to question the true usefulness of such publications.

Flicking through the phrase book you have such practical phrases as (and I kid you not):

‘Where can I buy a memory stick?’ – should you have the burning desire to buy one for your many holiday snaps- or ‘Where are the children?’- should you accidentally lose your offspring at the beach.

This is all well and good, but what do you do when the friendly Italian responds to your ham fistedly pronounced question (no thanks to the convenient pronunciation guides), if they do, in fact, grasp what you’re trying to say? You may stare blankly, then start rapidly thumbing through the pages until you find the Italian for ‘Could you repeat that please?’ And so the process is repeated, once again you are none the wiser to where your sprogs have vanished to; you start feeling rather foolish and so grin, nod your head and mumble ‘grazie mille’. Meanwhile your partner is looking at you expectantly for a comprehensive translation. Ashamedly you must admit you didn’t understand a word of the reply and so you must comb the beach for your children yourselves.

As a Brit I am fully aware of the reputation we have as a nation to go abroad and refuse to attempt to speak the local lingo. There’s nothing that makes me cringe more than hearing a loud British, or, for that matter American, voice asking for the nearest Irish pub for their breakfast fry-up. Come on, you could at least try (and don’t even get me started on the sausages!).

So in this respect (and I may be playing devil’s advocate here) I suppose phrase books are worth the paper they’re printed on. Whilst you may not understand the delightful replies aimed in the direction of your untuned ears, at least you have made an effort and are a few paces ahead of the ignoramus enunciating loudly and miming that they would like ‘two pints of lager (and a packet of crisps) please!’

Share This Post


Add Comment

Andreea Mohan

Taylor Wessing LLP

We are very pleased with the services provided by Rosetta Translations. They always send very prompt responses, transparent prices and deliver their work product at the highest standards.

More Testimonials

Jackie Brook, Sr Product Manager

American Express

Thank you very much for your prompt and efficient service.

More Testimonials

Conor McLarnon

Maximus Crushing and Screening

I have translated multiple projects with Rosetta now and I cannot emphasise how great the service they provide is; quality, turnaround time and pricing is the best I have found yet. The qualities of translations we receive are of the highest standard and communication from the start of a project to the end is consistent.

For a company looking into translations, I would highly recommend Rosetta as first pick, as the support and service they provide is first class.

More Testimonials

Get a Free Quote

© 2024 All Rights Reserved
Rosetta Translation, 133 Whitechapel High St, London E1 7QA · 0207 248 2905