Eastern Europe Destinations:
Western & Central Europe Destinations:
Travel Guide/Contacts:
Photo Galleries:

When travelling the world, some things just don’t translate 

Home Page  /  Travel Guide

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.

Phrase books
Phrase books CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 Matthew Burpee
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.
Huevos rotos
Huevos Rotos CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 Allan Reyes
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.

Home Page  /  Travel Guide


Western & Central Europe

| Home Page | Andorra | Austria | Belgium | Cyprus | Denmark | England | Finland | France | Germany | GreeceIceland  | Ireland | Italy | Luxembourg | Malta | Monaco | Netherlands | Norway | Portugal | Scotland | Spain | Sweden | Switzerland | Wales |

Eastern Europe

 | Bosnia and Herzegovina | Bulgaria | Croatia | Czech Republic | Estonia | Hungary | Latvia | Lithuania | Macedonia | Poland | Romania | Russia | Slovak Republic | Slovenia | Ukraine | Yugoslavia |

Copyright © All Europe Accommodation

Latest update: March 19, 2015