A 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?
3. 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]