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

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]

Trade souvenirs when traveling – International travel tip

That White Sox hat you’re wearing above your “I hiked the Grand Canyon” t-shirt may be a hot commodity in some countries. Many items we take for granted are both unique and highly sought-after in many foreign nations.

If you find something at a vendor’s stall you like, offer that vendor something of yours in exchange for that good. Maybe he’d like your hat, or that extra shirt in your bag. While you’re not allowed to bring a cache of items into a foreign country to sell, trading items you would normally have in your luggage is perfectly acceptable. No extra luggage room is needed — and you don’t need extra cash on hand, since you’re swapping goods.

It’s not icky to give someone the hat off your head! Trading souvenirs is fun; you get to interact with the locals; and you go home with souvenirs and a great story on how you acquired them.

[Photo: Flickr | Courtneysue75]

Travel from Japan to U.S. posts double-digit drop

There aren’t as many Japanese tourists walking the streets of the United States as there were a year ago. The latest data from the U.S. Department of Commerce, which covers the third quarter of 2009, puts Japanese travel to the United States down 10 percent to 15 percent on average relative to the same quarter in 2008, and the situation is forecasted to be grim for the fourth quarter results, as well, which are expected to show a continued decline. Seventy-eight percent of the Japan travel trade has projected a drop in fourth quarter travel results year-over-year.

And it doesn’t look better for the beginning of this year. Fifty-two percent of the travel firms in Japan that were surveyed anticipated a decrease in travel bookings to the United States for the first quarter of 2010 relative to the first quarter of 2009. Economic concerns, airfare and fuel charges and pandemic/epidemic fears were reported as the leading drivers of the travel slump for the Japanese market (for travel to the United States).

In the third quarter of 2009, 849,687 people traveled from Japan to the United States, a drop of 5 percent from the third quarter of 2008. July 2009 was particularly tough, with 244,412 arrivals resulting in a year-over-year decline of 15 percent. September was the lone bright spot, with 309,435 arrivals resulting in an increase of 8 percent – the first monthly year-over-year increase in 15 months.

Gadlinks for Monday 7.13.09

Well, it’s Monday, and it’s back to the grind for most of us. I, however, am down with the flu and am writing this from bed. I hope the rest of you are having a more healthy day. Here are the latest travel stories from the world wide web.

‘Til tomorrow, have a great evening.

More Gadlinks HERE.

Undiscovered New York: East Village by way of Japan

Japan lies more than 6,500 miles away from New York, separated by an entire continent and the world’s largest ocean. But don’t let the distance fool you – there’s no place in the U.S. outside the West Coast that packs more Japanese culture per square foot than New York City.

Throughout the city you’ll find numerous Japanese restaurants, cultural events and businesses. Although the variety is great, covering everything from sushi spots to Japanese department stores like Takashimaya to Cherry Blossom festivals, finding New York’s Japanese culture can be a workout. It’s scattered all over the city.

Thankfully there is one area you can go to get a taste of Japan all in one place – Manhattan’s East Village. No area offers a higher concentration of Japanese culture. Though it bears no official title, the area is practically its own “Japantown,” boasting authentic Japanese businesses and cuisine: laid-back izakayas, quirky toy stores, hidden sake bars and authentic Japanese groceries are all waiting to be discovered.

Is that plane ticket to Tokyo not in the budget this year? Cheer up – consider New York as your backup option. Want to eat some of the best ramen this side of the Pacific Ocean? Do you know the difference between hot and cold sake? Looking for a place to pick up that obscure Astro Boy figurine? Then grab your suitcase as Undiscovered New York takes you to Japan by way of the East Village…
If there’s one Japanese food we particularly love here at Undiscovered New York, it’s ramen. The truth of the matter is nothing beats the perfect combination of salty noodles, spicy toppings, fatty pork and crunchy vegetables that comprise one of Japan’s most famous dishes. You really have to try it to understand why.

New York’s East Village is ground zero for some of the city’s best ramen spots. Foodies love to debate which ramen shop has the best and/or most authentically Japanese ramen. Is it David Chang’s Momofuku Noodle Bar, a relative newcomer that now includes three sister restaurants? Or what about Ramen Setagaya, the spot many purists claim is most faithful to the Japanese ramen recipe? Not if you listen to the owners of straight-from-Japan Ippudo, the newest addition to the East Village’s brewing “ramen wars.” The only way to decide is to head to the East Village and try for yourself. Forget the fact we didn’t even cover the East Village’s numerous yakitoris, izakayas and sushi spots. That’s enough for its own post!

Japanese Toys
It’s sometimes said that New Yorkers live in a state of perpetual adolescence, always delaying the onset of adulthood for the priorities of career, finances and fun. There’s certainly some truth to that statement when you consider the preponderance of Japanese toy stores in the East Village, offering the latest and greatest in Japanese playthings.

Among the favorites is Toy Tokyo, stocking everything from your favorite 1980’s movie figurines to Japan’s favorite monster, Godzilla. Just a short walk east is J 1 Pan Toy, which carries a similarly impressive collection of Japanese stationery, DVD’s and greeting cards. Just one block north is Giant Robot, a gallery space with a smallish collection that tends to skew more towards the savvy and obsessive figurine collectors. If you still can’t get enough of that Japanese merchandise, there’s Aica, a retailer that specializes in “hard-to-find” collectibles straight from the motherland.

Time for a drink
If all the salty ramen and scouring of Japanese toy stores has made you thirsty, it’s time for a cold beverage. You could do worse than stopping by Decibel, an “underground” sake bar that’s literally hidden in the basement down a flight of steps. Stocking a huge selection of more than 70 varieties of the beverage, it’s a great place to try both hot and cold sakes and hang out with a friend.

If your thirst is more of the non-alcoholic variety, never fear, the East Village boasts several authentic Japanese grocery stores. Grab yourself a cold bottle of green tea or some Pocari Sweat over at Sunrise Mart. Nearby is Korean grocer M2M, which stocks a surprisingly large array of Japanese products, as well as JAS Mart on St. Mark’s.