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Travel Communication and Language

Why it's Hard?
How to know what to choose to say?


Erasmus Happy Erasmus: This site is devoted to the Lowest Common Denominator for Communication. Wherever you may be on this planet, whether as a tourist, doing work or in trouble, you will need to communicate with other people.

Our Language is English. So that’s the format. It’s the language we know, so it’s the language we can teach. We would hope that other people help this project by contributing other language translations. Send any files to our email address.

If you are an English speaker and contemplating an overseas holiday, you can use our word lists and phrase lists as a basis for learning and for translation via net software- freely available.

World Wide Use Of English

Kinkajou Face Kinkajou : The basic premise we have- to enable communication- is making it easy.

Erasmus Happy Erasmus: Words to learn are best chosen based on the most common few hundred words relevant to one’s interests and activities. If you have an idea what purpose you wish to use a language for, this will dictate which words you are likely to need to use.

Spending time learning words that are not relevant to your interests is a way to encourage yourself to become bored, frustrated and to go elsewhere. The needs of the tourist are different to the needs of the student are different to the needs of a commercial traveller are different to the needs of a sports enthusiast.

Learn appropriate language for your needs.



Kinkajou Face Kinkajou : What do you think are the Principles for Choosing Translations to Other Languages?

Erasmus Happy Erasmus:
Simple words, the simpler the better - as possible.
Single syllable words are easier to remember than double syllable words.

English is a language which excels in having a large number of simple single syllable words for common actions or concepts. For example the word “milk” in English translates as “MOLOKO” in the Slavic languages – the comparison being 3 syllables to carry a concept where in English, only one syllable will do the job.

However you cannot always default to single syllable words in many languages. Other languages may not have words which fit this description/purpose.Languages in the World Population



Goo Goo : Perhaps in future, using a mixture of languages aka a “pastiche” of language would deliver ultimate simplicity and brevity in communication. Time will tell.

Goo Goo : I can imaging that a universal language pastiche may develop giving people a common basic language for travel and communication across the world. The time is coming that such a need needs to be filled.

 Erasmus Happy Erasmus: In English numerals, most of the numbers have simple names e.g. One Two Three Four Five Six Eight Nine Ten, but “Zero” has 2 syllables. You could consider replacing this word with the word “nil”, but it is just not the same. The word/concept of “nil” has a slightly different meaning to the numerical concept of “Zero”. You can see the complexity of language. How shades of meaning do matter. How difficult translation can be, even with simple concepts and words.



Kinkajou Face Kinkajou : Principles for Choosing Translations to Other Languages

Erasmus Happy Erasmus: Simple phrases, the simpler the better – as possible.

Some languages have very different sentence structure to English especially some of the unusual “native” tongues. However we will preferentially default to the simple word clusters which carry the depth of the meaning but are perhaps not grammatically correct – even in English.

Asking for the Toilet

For example, “I want – to go – to toilet”.

 Technically this should be written as “I want to go to the toilet”. I think is easiest to learn and to reuse this sentence, by using phrase clusters. Extending this example, you could use the above basic structure to communicate the entire range of wants.

For example, “I want – to go – to train station”.

“I want – to go – to bus station”.

“I want – to go – to shops”.

“I want – to go – to Doctor”.

“I want – to go – to bank”.

“I want – to go – to school”.

Reusable phrases, the simpler the better – as possible. The above example shows that by simply by learning a few extra nouns, a huge number of destinations can be addressed.


Goo Goo : The Concept of Language:
Different Things to Different People- “That’s What Language Words Are”

Erasmus Happy Erasmus: English itself is a complex and deep language. I have heard it said that there are over 610,000 words in the English Oxford dictionary. However, very few people are familiar with more than 80,000 of these words and very few people will use more than 7500 words in their daily communications. Many words in existence are relevant to only “some” people’s lives.


Always remember that language is more than just its words. Language also combines its grammar and syntax – methods of combining words with other words to achieve a particular meaning.

Some languages use verbal tonation as well. Some languages use tenses for their nouns – a very foreign concept to English.

In the Slavic languages, the noun “rabbit”, has many and complex noun endings depending on the time tense, plurality and the direction in which the speech is being communicated. 

In Chinese, it is reputed that while all can read the written language to communicate, the spoken work varies so much that people from different regions can have real problems communicating with each other.


Italian Language

Goo Goo : The purpose of language is to communicate. And I think we can communicate at a lowest common denominator quite adequately for many purposes. And by using these English words and phrases as a source, translations can be readily made and used.

Some would criticise some of our ideas- in that it can be difficult to translate English phrases into other languages. My answer would be that if an “automatic translator” (especially multiple different software translators), can translate from English to another language and back again, the concept is likely to be robust and simply translatable. Check with “other” automatic translators to see if the translation appears robust and easily equivalent.

Our site gives you a progressive word list: the first about one hundred basic words and phrases and then iterations of increasing vocabulary complexity to meet more complex needs for communication.

Our focus is on simple to learn- so our site “pastiche’ focuses on the goal to learn one simple syllable or group of simple syllables and to be able to communicate to at least some extent with anybody, anywhere and anywhen.


Kinkajou Face Kinkajou : Principles for Choosing Translations to Other Languages

Erasmus Happy Erasmus: Technology gives solutions too, but having the phrases in your head is one step quicker than using any interface. Knowing words in your target language gives you more freedom as a tourist. The freedom to know more, see more and to do more. The freedom to get off the beaten path. The freedom to explore. The better you can speak a language, the better you can interact with locals, and potentially the more fun you can have.


Goo Goo : And if you are travelling with others, you cannot always rely on them to translate for you. If you become separated, you are on your own.

Erasmus Happy Erasmus: Phrase books are another avenue for assisting communication. However by knowing the basic meaning of the phrase, you are more likely to select the phrase you need and that is appropriate to your situation, from a book quickly.

Many people in my experience, often select a phrase by sight and allow the other person with whom they are attempting to communicate to read the phrase from the book. A friend mentioned a Lonely Planet “all – Europe” book that had each page with the key phrase, and variations of the phrase in common usage per page.

In practice many casual tourists are put off by the length, size and complexity (especially of the phonetic elements) of even simple phrase books. Most will be happy with something as simplified as possible – to pull out and glance over while travelling or to use in a tight spot when an English speaking native may be unavailable.

In short, with phrases, strip out unnecessary grammar, keep sentence constructions simple and use common words that are likely to be commonly known. The basic concept is the use of “building block” sentences.

Goo Goo : I believe you’re much better off using “common” phrases since people are much more likely to understand your bastardisation of a phrase such as “good morning” than a phrase such as, I hope you are experiencing wellness this morning”.


Erasmus Happy Erasmus: A barebones or baby talk approach to language does not work in every language as some languages have structure or syntax that prohibits some specific usages.

As we have alluded, some nouns have “cases” in some languages such as the Eastern European “Slavic” languages. There are remnants of this in English such as “I” or “me”. If these are not used appropriately, sentences just sound weird.

Using a phrasebook in such circumstances may be a better option than cobbling together sentences with dubious meanings.

 Some compounded verb noun phrases can also get complex – even in English. For example consider verbs such as “have”, “want”, “go”, rather than conjoined words such as “I have”, “I want”, and “I go”. In creating a word phrase such as “he – go – train”, the result may be unintelligible in a language where the pronoun and verb (I – go) is compound.


Some of the Slavic languages do not have a word for something as basic as “to have”. They use a complex construction special rules involving possessive suffixes on the noun and pronoun possessor – in short something which is impossible to fudge while on the move travelling.

A phrase such as “do you have money?” Translates directly to something like “is it some money – your?”

No English Equivalent Words

Kinkajou Face Kinkajou : Principles for Choosing Translations to Other Languages

Erasmus Happy Erasmus: Another concept to remember is that non-verbal communication is possible as well. Hand signals can well carry the concept of “drink”, “telephone” and animal noises or animal drawings can carry the concept of an animal such as a sheep or a chicken quite well also. In an emergency, again concepts can be communicated to achieve the purpose.

Fingers serve quite well as a method of communicating numbers. However, I have seen numbers on a calculator or on a mobile phone screen used to far better purpose in communication. It is hard to barter in many countries unless you know numbers or have a method to communicate numbers.

A solar calculator is invaluable for number translation. The “plus” and” minus” may even be useful depending on the display programming.


Kinkajou Face Kinkajou : Principles for Choosing Translations to Other Languages

Erasmus Happy Erasmus: Another gambit when you are at a shop or on the street, asking for directions, is just to point at something and say, “What is this?” Listeners automatically- realise what you’re asking about, will teach you the word for this and have learned that you are interested in interacting with them and in learning their language. Most people will respond fairly amicably to help you learn.

When travelling, common questions people ask you are: “Where are you from?” and “How long are you staying here?” If you answer both of these questions in their native language, they will automatically assume that you are fluent and launch into a flurry of speech – often beyond your capacity to understand at speed.

At this point the most important thing you can do is to say “I do not understand”? (In their language).



Kinkajou Face Kinkajou : Principles for Choosing Translations to Other Languages: When Typing or Making Word lists

Erasmus Happy Erasmus: We suggest to aid simplicity, to focus on words in “capital” fonts and excluding usual sentence fonts. This in effect reduces the alphabet from 52 letters down to 26 distinct letter shapes to remember.

Kinkajou Face Kinkajou :Principles for Choosing Translations to Other Languages

Erasmus Happy Erasmus: We suggest that you try to avoid jokes because too often they depend on a sensitivity to double meanings in terms of quantity/intensity or meaning of words. As tourists, we have enough problems without trying to engage in double entendre communications. The simple language is hard enough, so let’s not try for the difficult and complex. No jokes and no idioms is a good standard for the “business” of communication.

Communicate with Language Communication

Kinkajou Face Kinkajou : Principles for Choosing Translations to Other Languages

Goo Goo : In summary, for easy, we suggest to use- when travelling:

Simple single syllable words,

Short sentences


Gestures and visual aids

Capital fonts only in the written word

Using “common” phrases

Software for translation

Avoiding metaphors and colourful expressions

Avoiding negative questions

Avoiding acronyms

Avoiding humour.



Principles for Choosing Translations to Other Languages

If you’re trying to communicate, remember most people will try to help you. So try to be pleasant and work hard to at least begin to learn some basic language phrases. In a pinch, things will be a lot easier with a few local words under your belt. It is always possible to ask someone who speaks the language to teach you how to say specific phrases with the correct pronunciation, before you go out.

In a pinch your hotel concierge, neighbour on a bus, train or plane and perhaps even your Airbnb host may be able to help you.


Kinkajou Face Kinkajou : Principles for Choosing Translations to Other Languages

Kinkajou Face Kinkajou : Learning a language in the Internet era can be relatively easy. There are applications online such as Duolingo or Memrise which cover vocabulary grammar and pronunciation. The approaches are slightly different so some people recommend using both. An emergency wordlist or phrase list could suffice to help prevent a traveller from being stuck somewhere, being unable to communicate.

There are software apps for the phone, for example ICOON, which give a user a picture dictionary for communicating between languages. For example, you could pick the health category, scroll to a picture of a doctor and highlight this choice and then scroll to a picture of a man sneezing with a flower and highlight this choice subsequently as well.

“Google translate” can readily be installed as an app on your phone. The site’s language dictionary can also be downloaded for offline use. This can be supplemented by translating the words or phrases from our list in the app and then tapping the star button. The process involves minimal time and it is possible to refer back to the spelling and pronunciation should the need arise.

DEvice Translating Lamguage Translating Device


One awesome app allows a tourist to photograph a sign, use OCR (optical character recognition software) to translate the picture into words and then to translate these back into your own language.

But - It won’t work in a place like Tokyo, where street signs in the city area may be few and far between.

Books can be purchased introducing 100 “basic” words in the target language. With each basic word there are a number of grammatically correct phrases and sentences, sorted by subject to help you find and use appropriate phrases in day-to-day activities.

Some may suggest you can construct sentences like for example using the word “cheap” – can you make this cheaper? – Why isn’t this cheaper? The book series is called instant (language). E.g. (Instant Indonesian).


Some professional tourists suggests that before every international trip , you should spend 15 minutes a day for a week practising a select group of phrases and then reviewing them on the plane so they are fresh in your mind.

Google translate, web search and U-tube can help you to learn the words and their proper pronunciation. However users often complain that Google translate can give the wrong translation, as often “context” needs to be considered. For example, a bill can be both a law document and a restaurant invoice.

It is context that determines which of these is the proper translation.

You can get around this limitation by doing a web search for “how to say (phrase) in (language)”. Crosschecking words with multiple meanings is critical if you do not want to risk being embarrassed.

English Words CommonEnglish Words : Using Verry

World Languages

Erasmus Profile Erasmus: Erasmus Happy Erasmus:

Goo Goo :

Commandant Commandant :

Beethoven Frobisher Beethoven and Frobisher:

Dr Axxxx Dr AXxxxx :

Kinkajou Profile Kinkajou : Kinkajou Face Kinkajou :

Dr Xxxxx Dr Xxxxx: