Booze Around The World: How To Say ‘Binge Drinking’ In French, Plus 7 Other Useful Expressions

Lauren Randolph, Flickr

Every country has its drinking culture. In some places there is little or no alcohol, and in some there is too much. And sometimes, one culture adopts the habits of another. This is especially clear in France, where binge drinking has become such a common occurrence that the French General Commission of Terminology and Neology — the organization responsible for promoting the French language and protecting it from the influx of too many foreign words and phrases — had to come up with a specific French expression. “Beuverie express” became the official term, and according to Le Monde, in order to reach it you must consume four to five glasses in less than two hours.

Like it or not, alcohol certainly plays a role in travel, whether it’s drinking a beachside cocktail or exploring a traditional brewery in Brussels. Hopefully your travel drinking plans are a little more moderate, and if so, here’s a list of useful drinking-related expressions in 7 different cultures.

1. Marié ou pendu à la fin de l’annéeA French expression, “Married or hung by the end of the year” is said to the person who gets the last drop from the wine bottle.

2. Beber como una esponja – Spanish for “to drink like a sponge,” in other words, someone that likes their cocktails.3. Flat out like a lizard drinking – Australian for someone who’s very busy, with or without drinks.

4. 干杯 “Ganbei” – The Chinese version of “cheers.”

5. Ram phan tramVietnamese for “bottom’s up,” literally meaning “100%.”

6. May you always have a clean shirt, a clear conscience and enough coins in your pocket to buy a pint! – An Irish toast. Be sure to follow it up with ‘Sláinte!’ (pronounced ‘slawn-cha’) which means “health.”

7. Mabuhay – If you’re cheersing in the Philippines, follow up a toast in Tagalog with this word which means “to live” or “long life.”

Our friends at AOL Travel are celebrating Booze Week this week, with stories about the intersection of drinks and travel.

The Most Useful Useless Phrasebook Phrases

broken heartI’ve frequently touted Lonely Planet’s Phrasebooks on Gadling (about as often as I’ve truthfully stated that I receive no kickbacks from them). They’ve saved my butt countless times, helping me do everything from getting on the right train platform to finding out what obscure ingredient is in a dish.

There’s another reason I love these indispensible travel companions, however, and that’s for their entertainment value. Like all LP books, the personality and preferences (and sometimes the nationality) of the authors shine through, although the content is consistent. Whether Czech, Hmong, or Mexican Spanish, you’ll find the layout and categories the same, barring cultural or geographical improbabilities: don’t expect to learn how to get your car tuned up in a Karen hill tribe dialect, for example.

I confess I’ve used my phrasebooks as icebreakers on more than one occasion because they make the ideal bar prop or conversation starter. Whip one out of your daypack, and I guarantee within minutes you’ll have attracted the attention of someone…so wield and use their power carefully.

The following are some of my favorite useful useless phrases culled from my collection. Disclaimer alert: May be offensive (or just plain stupid) to some readers. Also note that phrasebooks, unless written by native-speakers, will always have some errors or inconsistencies in grammar or dialect, especially when transliterated, so I won’t vouch for the complete accuracy of the following:

French
“No, it isn’t the alcohol talking.” Non, c’est moi qui dis ça, ce n’est pas l’alcool qui parle.

“Maybe a Bloody Mary will make me feel better.” Peut-être qu’un Bloody Mary me fera du bien. Unsurprisingly, many LP phrasebooks are written by Australians.

Spanish (Spain/Basque version)
“I’m sorry, I’ve got better things to do.” Lo siento, pero tengo otras cosa más importantes que hacer. Trust me, this comes in very handy if you’re a female traveling in Latin America.

“Do you have a methadone program in this country?” ¿Hay algún programa de metadona en este pais? Because savvy travelers are always prepared for the unexpected.

womanItalian
Under a heading called “Street Life” comes this handy phrase: “What do you charge? Quanto fa pagare?

And because Italians are romantics at heart, you’ll do well to learn the following exchange:
“Would you like to come inside for a while?” Vuoi entrare per un po?
“Let’s go to bed/the bathroom.” Andiamo a letto/in bagno.
“I’d like you to use a condom.” Voglio che ti metta il preservativo.
“Would you like a cigarette?” Prendi una sigaretta?
“You can’t stay here tonight.” Non puoi restare qui stanotte.

German
“I have my own syringe.” Ich habe meine eigene Spritze. This is actually useful, but not so much in German. If you’re traveling to developing nations and have a condition such as diabetes, definitely take the time to learn this. As for carrying syringes and hypodermics in developing nations if you don’t have a pre-existing medical condition, do so at your own risk. I’ve debated it and to me, I’d rather not be caught with “drug paraphernalia” on my person.

Portuguese
“I may be in a wheelchair but I’m able to live independently!” Posso andar de cadeira de rodas mas consigo ter uma vida independente! This isn’t so much funny as it is totally random. And I like the exclamation point.

“Oh baby, don’t stop.” Nao pares, amor! Better have this memorized or you’ll defeat the purpose of looking it up when needed.

Japanese
“Sorry, I can’t sing.” Go men na sai, u tai nam des [phonetic]. Very “Lost in Translation.”
tasmania map
Australian
“I’m feeling lonely/depressed.” “Miserable as a shag on a rock.”
My favorite ‘Strine phrases – not found in the LP book; I just know a lot of Aussies – include “leg opener” (a bottle of cheap wine) and “mappa Tassie” (map of Tasmania, referring to a woman’s pubic region, although I suppose this made more sense before Brazilians became the norm).

Vietnamese
“Do you want a massage? mát-xa không? Not a cliché at all.

“You’re just using me for sex (male speaker).” Am jeé moo úhn laám ding ver eé aang toy [phonetic]. Talk about progress.

Thai: “Where can I buy some gay/lesbian magazines?” mii nang seu keh/khaai thîi nai? Emergency!

[Photo credits: heart, Flickr user Toronja Azul; woman, Flickr user http://heatherbuckley.co.uk;Tasmania, Flickr user NeilsPhotography]

Language Learning Tips

A Traveler In The Foreign Service: Get Paid To Learn Languages

Americans are often criticized for our inability or unwillingness to learn foreign languages. I didn’t even have the option to study a foreign language until I was 14 years old and while kids these days start learning languages – usually Spanish – much earlier, most Americans never achieve true proficiency in a second language. But in the world of diplomacy, no other country invests as much as the US does in training its diplomats in foreign languages.

State Department Foreign Service Officers (FSO’s) spend large chunks of their careers studying languages full time at the Foreign Service Institute (FSI). (Formally called The National Foreign Affairs Training Center.) Language courses can range from short crash courses that last just a few weeks, to a year or more for difficult languages like Arabic or Mandarin. I was in the Foreign Service for just less than six years and I spent 9 months of that studying Albanian (6 months) and Hungarian (3 months) full time, earning my normal salary.

The amount of training one receives depends on the job and the timing of when the incumbent in the job leaves post. A typical course lasts 5-6 months, and during that time period students study in small groups ranging from 1-4 in a class. Students spend 4-6 hours per day in the classroom depending on how large the class is and there’s homework and lab work to do each night. At the end of the course, students have to take a test to assess their speaking and reading skills.Typically, FSO’s aren’t allowed to take vacation days during language training and the training itself certainly isn’t like being on holiday. I studied Albanian in a class of just two students, so there was nowhere to hide if you didn’t feel like speaking Albanian on a given day. Normally I like to ease into a workday, quietly checking email over coffee, but at FSI you’re off and running having to make small talk in a foreign language at 8 a.m. That said, I was usually free to go home at 1 p.m. each day, which was awfully sweet.

Some FSO’s aren’t crazy about language training, but I still viewed it as a terrific, relatively stress-free break from the normal working grind. FSI has a collegial feel in that you can dress casually and, since family members are also eligible for language training, you see couples holding hands on the grounds. It’s a bit like being back in college minus the fake ID’s, binge drinking and student loans.

The State Department goes to great lengths to hire native speakers to teach language courses and that makes FSI a veritable United Nations. Walk down any random hallway and you might hear Finish, Dari, Thai, and Tajik all in a 50-meter stroll. Very few other countries pay their diplomats to study languages, especially obscure ones, for significant periods of time. For example, I served in Skopje and Budapest, and most of the other members of the diplomatic corps received no training in Macedonian, Albanian or Hungarian, as we did.

The fact that the State Department invests in language training is undoubtedly a good thing for employees and family members. But is it a good use of taxpayer dollars? In some cases, it’s hard to justify paying someone a salary to study an obscure language they may never use again during their careers, and might use only sparingly in their overseas assignment. For example, my Albanian classmate spent six months learning Albanian prior to an assignment in Kosovo that was just one year long. She didn’t have an aptitude or love for languages and admitted to me after her tour that she had rarely used the Albanian she learned – either on her job or during her off-hours, since she lived on a compound. There are also cases where we endeavor to teach people very difficult languages in too short a time period, or teach people obscure languages for countries where a huge majority already speak English.

In some cases, FSO’s also end up speaking English at post, even after spending months or years learning the local language, because our interlocutors speak English better than we speak the local tongue. Also, some languages have so many different dialects that it’s impossible to train FSO’s in the one they’ll need. For example, in Albanian, there are two primary dialects, Gheg and Tosk. Tosk is spoken in most of Albania, while Gheg is spoken in Macedonia and Kosovo. We learned Tosk at FSI and when I got to post, people could understand me but I struggled to understand them.

But on balance, I think it makes sense for us to invest in training our diplomats to speak foreign languages. The common perception of Americans around the world is that we’re arrogant, monolingual and generally uninformed about other cultures. By learning to communicate with people in their mother tongue, we’re showing humility and respect for their culture.

And in a practical sense, diplomats who are truly fluent in a local language can be more effective than ones who have to rely on the filter of a translator. No matter how hard you try, you can’t fully understand a place if you don’t speak the language, and if you can only communicate with people who speak English, you risk having a distorted view of the local situation.

If you’re the kind of person who enjoys studying foreign languages, the Foreign Service is one of the few careers that offer a chance to get paid to study. In fact, you can actually make more than your normal salary if you perform well in a difficult language. These days, some FSO’s are also learning languages like Arabic overseas, which probably makes more sense due to the variety of dialects and cost of training people in the US. And if you’re already proficient in a foreign language, especially a difficult one like Mandarin, Arabic, Farsi or Russian, you’re chances of getting into the Foreign Service are much better than if you’re one of the monolingual masses.

Read more from “A Traveler in the Foreign Service” here.

[Photo courtesy of Nina Toessiner on Flickr]

Galley Gossip: Flight attendant interview – The pros and cons of speaking a second language and how it affects reserve

Dear Heather, I am hoping to become a flight attendant soon (have a face to face interview next week!) and have a question about reserve status. I speak Japanese fluently and was wondering how different things are for flight attendants who speak a different language. Are they on reserve for the same amount of time? Is anything different? – Natasha

For the first time in history being a flight attendant is considered a profession, not just a job. Fewer flight attendants are quitting, turnover is not as high as it once was, and competition to become a flight attendant has gotten fierce. Ninety-six percent of people who apply to become a flight attendant do not get a call back. In December of 2010 Delta Airlines received more than 100,000 applications after announcing they had an opening for 1,000 flight attendants. Even though it is not a requirement to have a college degree, only the most qualified applicants are hired. Being able to speak a second language will greatly improve your chance!

The only thing that affects reserve status is company seniority (class hire date). Seniority is assigned by date of birth within each training class. This means the oldest classmate will become the most senior flight attendant in your class. Seniority is everything at an airline, and I mean everything! It determines whether you’ll work holidays, weekends and when, if ever, you’ll be off reserve. So it’s important to accept the earliest training date offered.

While speaking another language doesn’t affect how long you’ll serve reserve, it will have an impact on your flying career.

PROS

1. MORE MONEY. “Speakers” earn more per hour than non-speakers. Unfortunately it’s only a few dollars on top of what a regular flight attendant is paid. Remember most flight attendants make between fourteen to eighteen thousand a year the first year on the job, so every dollar counts.2. GOOD TRIPS. Speakers on reserve are assigned trips to foreign countries where people speak their language. No offense to cities like Phoenix, Pittsburgh or Portland, but a layover in Paris is just a tad bit more desirable. Not just because it’s a foreign city with exciting things to do and see, but because international routes pay more per hour (on top of speaker pay).

3. DAYS OFF. An international flight usually ranges between eight to fourteen hours, while domestic flights rarely go over six hours. Because flight attendants are paid for flight hours only – all that time we spend on the ground is not considered flying time, which means the flight attendant greeting you at the boarding door is not being paid – it takes domestic flight attendants a lot longer to get in their hours each month. Flight attendants who work international routes work what is considered “high-time” trips and high-time trips equate to more days off.

CONS

4. BAD TRIPS. Speakers get what is called “bid denied”. What this means is they get stuck working the same trip until they have enough seniority to hold something else. I know a number of speakers who became so tired of working the same route week after week, month after month, year after year, they chose to drop their language qualification altogether. In the beginning of ones flying career, a thirty-six hour layover in Paris might sound great, but even Paris gets old after awhile.

5. LESS FLEXIBILITY: The best thing about being a flight attendant is the flexible lifestyle. Because we’re paid only for the hours we work, we’re free to manipulate our schedules however we like. We can work high-time one month and not at all the next month. We can also “back up” our trips. Most flight attendants are scheduled a few days off between each trip. By trading trips we’re able to adjust our schedules so that we can fly several trips in a row in order to get a big chunk of days off to go on vacation or just hang out at home. Speakers have a harder time doing this because they can only trade, drop, and swap with another speaker that has the same qualifications.

6. PROBLEM FLIGHTS: On domestic routes problem passengers have no trouble letting us know what’s wrong. At my airline international routes are only required to be staffed with one speaker per cabin. If we don’t speak the language, we have no idea there’s a problem or if we do know there’s a problem, we have no idea what the problem is, and the flight goes on as peacefully as it had been. Unfortunately those who do speak the language get stuck handling all the problems.

Photo courtesy of Dmytrock’s

Useful foreign phrases, Part 2: how to say, “Can you write this down for me?” in 10 languages

useful foreign phrasesA post written by Chris on Tuesday reminded me of this little language series I started in March. In “Ten things Ugly Americans need to know before visiting a foreign land,” Chris recommended brushing up on the local language. He joked about dashing around Venice clutching his concierge’s handwritten note, “Do you have 220/110 plug converters for this stupid American who left his at home?”

Thanks, Chris, because I’ve had this post sitting in my queue for awhile, as I debated whether or not my phrase of choice would appear useful to readers. It’s saved my butt many a time, when a generous concierge or empathetic English-speaker would jot down crucial directions to provide to a cab driver. It’s also helped me out when I’ve embarked on long-distance journeys that require me to get off at an unscheduled stop.

I have a recurring nightmare in which I board the wrong bus or train in a developing nation, and end up in some godforsaken, f—ed up place in the wee hours. Actually, that’s happened to me more than once, except I was actually in my intended destination. So the other piece of advice I’d like to impart is: do some research ahead of time on accommodations and how to reach them as safely as possible if you’re arriving anywhere in the wee hours–especially if you’re alone, regardless of your gender.

I digress. Before your next trip to a foreign land, take the time to scribble the words, “Can you (please) write this down for me?” in your guidebook or dog-ear it in your phrasebook (you’re bringing one, right? Right?). It will serve you well, I promise you. Below, how to make this useful request in ten languages.

P.S. It bears repeating that I’m far from a polylinguist; I’m relying on phrases based on past experience or research. If I inadvertently offend anyone’s native tongue, please provide a correction in the “Comments” section.

1. Spanish (Catalan): ?Puedes escribirlo, por favor?

2. Italian: Può ripeterlo, per favore?

useful foreign phrases3. French: Pourriez-vous, l’écrire, s’il vous plait?

4. German: Könnten Sie das bitte aufschreiben?

5. Czech: Můžete prosím napsat to pro mě?

6. Portuguese: Escreva, se faz favor.

As I noted in my Part 1, many languages, including those spoken throughout Asia and the Middle East, use written characters. For that reason, transliteration will vary, which is why the spelling or phonetics may differ. These languages are also tonal in nature, which makes them notoriously intimidating to Westerner travelers. Just smile, do your best, and have your pen and paper handy.

7. Chinese (Cantonese): Ng goi nei bong ngo se dai.

8. Japanese: Anata ga shite kudasai watashi no tame ni sore o kakikomu koto ga dekimasu ka?

9. Vietnamese: Có thể bạn hãy viết ra cho tôi?

10. Moroccan Arabic: Ktebha līya.

What useful phrases have helped you on your travels? Please tell us!

[Photo credits: pencil, Flickr user Pink Sherbet Photography; tourist, Flickr user Esteban Manchado]