There are a finite number of phrases that can be squeezed onto a one hour language CD. They aim to make sure you can ‘survive’ on your trip.
I have spent many hours of driving time over the past month enunciating (during the appropriate 3 second pause) yah nee pah nee mah yoo so that I can communicate to Russian people that despite my hours of cramming and the shiny promises of the language tape that I don’t understand. (I would add an apology after that but ‘sorry’ is not on the CD).
Whilst I am a big fan of the language CD or the phrase book, I have come to two conclusions, 1) The people who select the essential phrases have likely never travelled 2) That the phrases were not selected based on any rigorous quantitative analysis of travellers’ conversations or interactions.
ESSENTIAL PHRASES Yes, absolutely essential. Hello, thank you, excuse me etc. Love this section, rate it. Wish it was repeated three times over on the CD.
MONEY I am ambivalent about this section, although I do not have any British pounds to change into roubles (and I think many first language English speakers travelling in Russia may also, in fact not be from Britain!).
GETTING AROUND Are there any discounts? You are on holiday cheap skate. If you manage to rote learn this I commend you and your frugal priorities.
EATING OUT This is the section that first prompted me to question the sage wisdom of the ‘essential language experts.’ As a vegetarian, I realise that this is informed by a strong personal bias however I would assume that it may be of value to many people to be able to enquire whether a particular dish contains X, Y or Z ingredients.
For the sake of the person with the life threatening nut allergy, perhaps some phrases around I can’t eat or May I have it without and then a list of common food types may be of more value than Can I have another bottle of wine? … I’m sure that if you managed to obtain one, you are capable of obtaining another by means of friendly smiling and pointing (with a please thrown in for good measure).
ROMANCE I would question whether this is an essential section for a one hour CD. It is my experience with travel that language is no barrier to ‘romance.’ Similarly, no romance I have ever been involved in in Australia (and I hope no romance ever) has ever actually begun with May I buy you a drink?
POLICE I have lost my child! Really? How often do you lose your child if you feel the need to commit this to memory in another language!? Perhaps you should turn off the CD and go check that your child isn’t playing in traffic.
So these are just a few of what I would consider a redundant use of brain space but I will certainly be paying attention and trying to work out what would be more useful! In four weeks, I will be in Russia and who knows? I may be kicking myself for not making the effort to remember how to ask if I can park my trailer for two nights…
(Photos from International Gold Event – Mauritius)