Let’s talk about phrasebooks and the role they’ve played for both language learners and travellers alike.
I’m sure many of you have probably used a phrasebook or two to use for either convenience or conquering the basics of your target language(s). Depending on whether you’ve used Berlitz, Lonely Planet or even Barron’s you’ve probably noticed a few phrases didn’t quite sound right.
Now, not every phrasebook going to be exactly the same depending on which language(s) you’ve chosen to learn. Some phrasebooks are unbearably disorganised, have extremely poor romanisation (ie: Teach Yourself Russian Conversation), or lack on essential words or phrases you actually need to get by in everyday situations.
Ridiculous Phrasebook Phrases
SYZYGYCC goes over phrases that come across as rude or something that you wouldn’t necessarily need to say any more. Some examples he mentioned were: “I would like a room with a TV” and “Does this room have a shower?” Many places (especially cities) already have these amenities included in their hotel/hostel already. So it would be pointless to ask such a question if you can practically guess the answer just from a simple Google search.
Another great example is Zompist’s They Thought You’d Say This where he points out some hilariously outdated phrases or phrases you’re less likely to use such as:
Can we film here?
Granted this phrase would be more useful nowadays than it would have when the original phrasebook was published. Now that YouTube has practically exploded in popularity with nearly everyone (myself included.) making videos about a wide variety of topics. Especially for language learning and travelling. Although many people don’t ask for permission and do it anyway (even if it says it’s forbidden) but that’s another story.
Do you practise safe sex?
This might be a cultural curiosity thing but I don’t like telling random strangers the vast details of my sex life. That information is entirely classified and will only be revealed for those I plan on having intercourse with. It’s an invasive question that could throw people off guard and frankly inappropriate to demand such intimate details of someone’s life.
We must bury her
Unless you witnessed someone being murdered or you have to be a murderer yourself, I doubt this phrase will be particularly useful. It might be something you hear if you’re attending a funeral but actually using that phrase would seem suspicious otherwise.
Phrasebooks Teaching Rude And Unusual Phrases
Who doesn’t love having a phrasebook full of curse words? Such as: Merda The real Italian they never taught you in school or Hide This French Book Xtreme to learn the essential swearwords as I mentioned in a previous post: Learning Swearwords And Insults In Other Languages. A Necessary Evil? Discuss. Where I point out that you must learn these as a necessary evil so that you don’t accidentally offend someone or are ignorant to them.
Almost every single Lonely Planet phrasebook has this expression in the hairdressing part of the Shopping section:
I should have never let you near me! (Swahili: Nilikosa hata uliponikaribia! Japanese: あなたに頼まなければよかった)
What you just did here was insult the hairdresser for ruining your hair and unfairly assuming they do that to all of their customers too. Ouch! The salon might not allow you to comeback after that.
Do you have any valuables?
Unless you’re airport security I can’t imagine you asking this phrase without the intention of stealing the other person’s things. Either right in front of them or breaking into their home and stealing their valuables there. Or maybe it’s a genuine concern to keep valuables safe. Who knows?
I won’t give you any money!
This is considered an emergency in the Lonely Planet Swahili phrasebook. It’s not sure how that is an emergency phrase unless a someone is trying to rob you. Otherwise, I don’t think it’s a good idea to throw this phrase around in places where you would actually need to pay for something. Unless Shoplifting is your thing, good luck with that.
Which phrases have you seen in phrasebooks that were strange or contain something you wouldn’t actually say on a regular basis?
Let me know you what you think!