In the old days, most people
were lucky to enjoy a holiday at their nearest seaside resort town.
They never dreamed of actually crossing borders into foreign lands, unless
they were exceptionally rich, of course.
Since then, however, a whole
new world of travel has opened up, with cheap flights and cruises on offer
to everyone. But world travel has its own problems, including that major
issue of language and the lack of English speaking people on site.
OK, so you buy a phrase book with the most common phrases used in that
country. This helps to find the nearest public toilet or food outlet
or order a beer, but what if you need more complicated help?
Using online translation
programs helps to a certain extent with Google Translate and the Bing
Translator doing their best.
However, not everything translates
too well, as noted on this blog about how
translation has changed the world. In fact, with certain
local colloquialisms, some information is quite literally lost in translation.
Think of some of the phrases
we use on a daily basis in English. We say that this airline has “made
a mark for itself,” or the service at that hotel was so bad the “writing
is on the wall” for their accommodation service to continue. Or someone
asks you how you got that cheap flight and you explain that you “pulled
some strings” with an important local contact. Try saying those phrases
to a French or German person with limited knowledge of English and watch
how their eyes glaze over.
The same kind of thing happens
with all foreign languages. In fact, besides this kind of phrasing,
just look at Spanish and the differences between that language in its country
of origin as compared to how the lingo has developed in Latin American
countries. As an example, in Spain a car is “un coche”, in Mexico
it is more commonly known as “un auto,” making your car rental choices
a little confusing.
The Google Translate app
available through their Google
Play options apparently isn’t bad. Working with around 90 languages,
it allows you to converse naturally and let the software automatically
translate your voice, characters typed on the keyboard and even handwriting.
It even has an offline option when you are traveling without an Internet
connection and you can save those translations for later use.
Things are improving with
all the translation options as users give feedback (probably occasionally
with a chuckle into their hands at the results that are obtained) and there
are some hilarious moments to be experienced along the way.
You can, of course, experience
these moments in life offline. For instance, the Spanish have a delicious
dish known as “Huevos Rotos” which consists of a serving of tasty fried
potatoes, chorizo sausage or bacon with eggs, sometimes served with asparagus
or red pepper strips.
When viewed on a menu board
outside a Spanish restaurant you might see a listing for “Broken Eggs,”
which is the literal translation for the dish and doesn’t sound particularly
tasty at all. However, if you look at the photo of the dish on the
left, its actually rather tasty.
In France, mispronunciations
can also cause a little hilarity. You might try to ask someone, in
pidgeon French, how to get to the beach. They then respond in pidgeon
English with, “You want to go to the bitch?” If this happens to you, try
your best not to chuckle, as this guy is obviously trying his best to help!
Suffice to say that if you
are considering visiting a particular country on a regular basis, be it
France, Germany, Spain or Italy, it might be an idea to do a quick crash
course in that particular language. In the meantime, clutch that
trusty phrase book in your sweaty palm, or try the various options online
or on your smartphone to get a fair translation.
On the subject of translation,
a humorous, if slightly insulting, video is included below.