Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Excuse me, where is the cutlery?

I'm not sure how I've never mentioned my favourite print magazine Wanderlust here before. It looks like a glossy travel magazine - and it is - but the content is levels and levels above your typical full-of-advertising glossy travel mag. (Do you still subscribe, Tatiana?)

Anyhow, they've got a spin-off website called goWander and I read a great story there last week about language learning pitfalls, which in fact inspired my first tip in How to Learn a Language 1 Week Before Your Trip. The writer had learnt Spanish in Spain and then tried to use the same language in a trip through Chile, with amusing results like this:

My first chance to appreciate the local language arose when I asked a local security guard:

“¿Perdona señor, donde están los servicios, por favor?” Nothing but a blank look ...

So toilets were not ‘servicios’ or ‘aseos’ as they were in Spain, it was ‘el baño’ (the bathroom) or nothing. In fact, I had been asking where the cutlery was (servicios). I excused all the blank looks.

I can relate. Sometimes I ask my husband the stupidest things in German by using a high-school-textbook word that has quite another meaning in his dialect. But nothing that's publishable.

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