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Old 08-10-2010, 06:43 PM
 
Location: Viña del Mar, Chile
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I have always been against phrase books when it comes to learning a language for obvious reasons.. but I have also never traveled to a country where I don't know the language. I'll have a couple days in Seoul due to a layover and was wondering just how beneficial one of those books actually could be for something like that?
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Old 08-11-2010, 12:07 AM
 
Location: Victoria TX
42,663 posts, read 74,221,895 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by burgler09 View Post
I have always been against phrase books when it comes to learning a language for obvious reasons.. but I have also never traveled to a country where I don't know the language. I'll have a couple days in Seoul due to a layover and was wondering just how beneficial one of those books actually could be for something like that?
It will be beneficial only if you do some homework before you go. Don't expect to whip it out after you go through the baggage check and look up "Hello".

Plan ahead, page through the whole book, try to get a sense of how simple sentences are formed. Make your own cheat list of a dozen or so crucial sentences, and a few dozen important words, (numbers, this, that, here, there, where, what, me, you, etc.) print it in small font, cut it out and paste it into the front cover of your phrase book.

Korean is a phonetic alphabet, so learn it before you go, so you can read signs. It's not that hard. Each character contains all the phonetic sounds (usually 2 or 3) in each syllable, within a little box. So you just need to learn the symbols for each phonetic sound, and then work out which ones are in the box.

You are right, phrase books are useless for learning a language. They never given any simple grammatical structure information, they just throw a mess of sentences at you. You need to be a detective to figure out how to say something different. Like, if you see the phrase for "Give me rice" and you actually want noodles, and you try to plug in the word, you might wind up saying "Noodle me rice", because there is no guidance to indicate which word is "rice".
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Old 08-11-2010, 01:34 AM
 
Location: rain city
2,958 posts, read 11,350,632 times
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I have found travel phrase books very useful. They are not meant to be language lessons, they are meant for the hapless traveler to be able to communicate a bare minimum of needs. For this they are good.

Of course you'd want to familiarize yourself with the phrase book in advance if at all possible.

They also usually have an introduction to and translation for foreign alphabets. Also very useful.

Why would you be "against" them? I can understand if someone is against war or against robbery or even against vaccinations--but against travel phrase books?

Very strange.
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Old 08-11-2010, 03:19 AM
 
Location: on an island
13,382 posts, read 40,909,074 times
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Travel phrase books are great!

I've used them in Italy, Spain, France, Germany and Greece.
Some Japanese parents gave me one to help me with their daughter, who was my preschool student. Believe me, it came in handy when it was time to take the class to the restroom.

Aside from the phrases, which are helpful, most phrase books have other helpful content. The French one had a whole bunch of menu words and descriptions, the Italian one had a Latin section which helped us decipher Roman ruins, and so on. The Greek one really helped me in a jam when I was in the middle of nowhere.

What's not to like? It is not as if we assume we'll to come home fluent in a new language. A phrase book is nothing more than a useful and enriching aid to your trip, but I usually bring one along.
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Old 08-11-2010, 10:04 AM
 
Location: Victoria TX
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I love reading them for their comic value. I had one in Greece, which was written by a Greek who didn't know English very well. The Greek was no doubt perfect, but the English hilarious. In the section "Traveling by Sea", there was the Greek phrase for saying "Soon we shall see earth" (meaning 'land').

In a Portuguese phrase book in Brazil was the wonderfully useful phrase "Please wake me at 2 o'clock, I will need to take an aspirin".

A still current reprint of an Arabic phrase book from a different century had "My shoes are smudged. See that the bootblack is caned". As I recall, the term "cheeky bugger" was also in the glossary, but I can no longer attest to that with certainty.

And the all time classic from a language in the Indian subcontinent: "Summon the fire brigade---the jute mill has exploded".

Last edited by jtur88; 08-11-2010 at 10:14 AM..
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Old 08-11-2010, 01:06 PM
 
Location: Central California
86 posts, read 152,968 times
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If you ask a question in a foreign language you don't understand, what happens if you get the answer in the same language??
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Old 08-11-2010, 01:23 PM
 
Location: rain city
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^^^^
That's always a problem.....
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Old 08-11-2010, 09:58 PM
 
Location: Eretz Yisrael
21,353 posts, read 24,084,481 times
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I dont use the phrase books. English works pretty well everywhere. What I do study up on is Etiquette/Gestures for each individual country. Also I study up on the signs (roads, stations, bathrooms) they use. The ones in Japan seem to make the least sense to Americans.

FYI - If you travel in some countries make sure you tell them that you want Western Style bathrooms ( or you may be standing there scratching your head going WTF).
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Old 08-12-2010, 12:25 AM
 
Location: rain city
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You might want western style bathrooms, but in a lot of the world they are mighty hard to come by.
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Old 08-12-2010, 05:36 AM
 
Location: Victoria TX
42,663 posts, read 74,221,895 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NeilVA View Post

FYI - If you travel in some countries make sure you tell them that you want Western Style bathrooms ( or you may be standing there scratching your head going WTF).
Why not just learn to use an eastern bathroom (you only need to learn once), instead of using a phrase book to argue with people in a foreign language about some personal hangups you might have concerning evacuation space.
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