Question: What do you think of people using translation apps when they’re in a foreign country and don’t speak the language? If the waiter comes over to take your order in a nice restaurant, isn’t it rude to just show him your phone and not even attempt to speak?
Answer: Translation apps can be amazingly helpful when you’re abroad and don’t speak the local language well, but what you described is both rude and lazy. By all means, use a translation app to understand the menu, and even to figure out how to order it, but you should make a valiant effort at trying to speak the words your translation app suggests instead of just handing your phone to the waiter. Sure, you might pronounce something wrong and say something hilariously silly when trying to order soup, but your effort counts.
Q: I’ve always heard that you shouldn’t travel to
another country without knowing how to say, "Yes," "No," "Please," "Thank you," "You’re welcome,"
"Excuse me" and "I’m sorry" in the local language. But what are the next few phrases a traveler should learn?
A: Oh, this is a fun question. I would suggest:
1. "I would like …" so you can order food in a restaurant.
2. "Where is the bathroom?"
3. "I don’t speak (the language). Do you speak
4. "Do you have …" (for shopping)
5. "Help!" (just in case)
Also, I would add that even if you’re traveling with someone who is fluent in the local language, everybody in your group (including kids!) should learn some basic words and phrases. It’s great to have someone fluent on hand, but you shouldn’t rely on them as your interpreter — you probably won’t be with them 24/7.
Email travel etiquette questions to Lesley Carlin at firstname.lastname@example.org.