A Gaijin in Tokyo

A Gaijin in Tokyo

In our last article, Alison noted how lazy we Brits are when it comes to getting a handle on the native language when preparing to travel abroad. From my own experience I’ve seen just how extensive this can be and I’m guilty as charged.

In both 2011 and 2012 I travelled to Tokyo for a combined total of 5 weeks. As a generally reserved chap, I wanted to try and make sure that I could be polite and avoid any basic cultural faux pas. So I learnt how to say “please”, “thank you”, “excuse me” & gave myself a crash course in Japanese numeracy and most important of all, ensured I could order a beer. A bit of light reading from a guide book and off I went.
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How British Travelers Deal with Language Barriers

It’s not exactly news that most travellers from the UK don’t bother to learn the local languages of the places they visit. A 2011 study by travel agency Sheila’s Wheels found that “51 percent of British travellers said they “rarely” took the time to learn how to say anything in the local language before taking off.”

Of course, it’s unrealistic to expect to become fluent- but memorizing at least some key words and phrases tends to make life easier for you and earns goodwill from the locals.

If you can’t speak a word of the local language, how do you expect to be able to communicate? The results of a new survey from online interpreting firm i-interpret4u show the typical methods many Brits use to communicate across cultures. According to a write-up on Travel Daily News, one-third of respondents reported using one or more of the following methods to communicate:

  • Making hand gestures.
  • Speaking more loudly and slowly. (Note: It’s not that they can’t hear you, it’s that they can’t understand.)
  • Smiling and pretending to understand. Read more

Sign Language Translation at Lollapalooza

By their very nature, live concerts might seem to exclude the deaf and hard of hearing. However, it doesn’t have to be that way, as this year’s Lollapalooza concert in Chicago proved.

The concert featured Barbie Parker, a sign language interpreter from Austin, Texas. Merely signing the lyrics of the songs helps include the deaf and hard-of-hearing in the show, but doesn’t convey the whole experience. So, Ms. Parker takes sign language interpreting to the next level. Recognizing that music is more intense than spoken words, she makes her interpreting into an intense performance of her own. Read more

Playboy, Translated Into Hebrew

The language of lust generally needs no translation, but at least with Playboy’s new Hebrew edition, Israelis can more plausibly claim they are reading it “for the articles.”

The first issue of “Playboy Israel” was released yesterday. It’s not just the language that’s been translated; the content has also been localized, with pictures of local models and articles by local writers.

Penthouse tried to expand its publishing empire into Israel in the late 80s, but it failed rather spectacularly. A review of its first edition from Israeli newspaper Haaretz (quoted here) said that it lacked “even basic intellectual content written in normal human language.”

Playboy Israel publisher Daniel Pomerantz believes that with better content, his magazine can succeed where Penthouse failed. Read more

You Never Know When You'll Need to Translate

Students sometimes grumble about requirements that they take classes in a second language. “Why bother? When am I going to use this?” they ask.

The truth is that knowing how to speak a second language can come in handy at the most unexpected moments, even if you don’t become a world traveler or get a job as an interpreter. As often as not, the world comes to you.

I was reminded of this on a recent plane ride. Read more

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