Saturday, May 30, 2009

Una Cerveza, Por Favor

I only speak 2 languages fluently; English and Malay.

I am not even fluent in my native tongue, which is something I am not proud of at all. My only redemption is that I can understand what is being said (if it's not 'too deep and complicated'), shame I can't seem to put my tongue around the words correctly hence my pronunciation is terrible. So I will reply in either local Sabah speak, English, or Malay, depending on whom I am talking to. I need to practice, I know.

Certainly it's a good thing to know a few local words and phrases when travelling to countries where English is not widely used. My globe-trotting friend 'Ms Fabregas' just came back from her solo tour around Europe, and wrote that when she was in Madrid it was frustrating because the locals didn't speak English.

Is it better to take a phrase book with you when travelling? I am undecided on this. At this moment I also don't even own any travel guides - no LP, no Rough Guides etc. I just seem unable to bring myself to buy one, though I flip through some every time I am in a bookstore. I usually do online research and reading and jot down important information and other interesting stuff in a small notebook. Also because books add to the weight of your luggage. So maybe I'll just stick to writing down things for now.

I have not travelled to really far flung places yet where English is of little or no use at all. Wonder how that feels like; to be immersed in totally foreign surroundings and verbal communication is impossible. I imagine a situation I call the 'chicken-duck talk', which probably will sound/look hilarious to a bystander. At the same time, it should be exciting and challenging - up to the point where it becomes so frustrating and you don't know whether to laugh or to cry.

Maybe sign language will work better. 

That's where your Charades skills come in handy.


  1. Travel guide books are very helpful i tell ya, auds (I prefer the Rough Guides over LP) and if you're very 'rajin' to read and your memory is superb, you could almost pass as a tour guide need to bring the guide book when you all the weight.

  2. Sometimes using a phrase book can be redundant because we prononuce the words differently from the locals.

    When I was in Hanoi where English is hardly spoken, I was sceptical of the meat hawkers used because the Vietnamese eat dogs.

    While ordering noodles, I used the Vietnamese word for 'chicken' (can't remember what the word is now) based on a Vietnamese phrase book I had.

    The lady couldn't understand a word I was saying! In the end I just pointed to what I thought was chicken, and prayed that it was not dog's meat.

    Can be pretty frustrating at times.

  3. I prefer Discovery Channel over LP. At least in terms of presentation, that is.

  4. Sometimes, not being able to speak the language can be a fun experience. I speak 5 languages and the one time that no one understood me at all was when I was in South Korea. Had a great time there though!

  5. Debs - One day I think I might get one, seconds or 'feits will do :)

    Julie - You're right. I didn't think of that culinary possibility (dogmeat!)Pictures work better..have to learn to draw then :)

    Charlene - I watch everything; and always remind myself that these are made-for-TV programmes, so a real traveller would have 'a more real' experience :)

    LT - Ah, I envy your 'multi-linguality' already. Yes, preferably I'd like to end up laughing rather than be in tears :P