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Wikitravel:Phrasebook Expedition

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The Phrasebook Expedition is a Wikitravel Expedition to work out travel-related language guides for Wikitravel (see the list of phrasebooks for what we've got so far).

Rationale[edit]

Contrary to popular belief, English-speaking travellers in other countries often need to use the local language. It's a common part of travel guides to include a mini-phrasebook for the local language(s) with important phrases for travellers.

Goals[edit]

  • Determine the place of phrasebooks in Wikitravel as a whole
  • Explore how to use phrasebooks from other articles
  • Define a phrasebook template to give phrasebooks a consistent look and feel, and to make starting new phrasebooks easier
  • List the important phrases that should be included, to make sure all phrasebooks cover important topics for travelers, and to make it easier to do a new phrasebook

Phrasebooks in Wikitravel[edit]

Because the same language can be used in multiple countries (for example, Spanish or Arabic) and more than one language used in one country, phrasebooks in Wikitravel will be separate articles from country, city or regional articles. Those articles can link to the appropriate phrasebook for local languages, and may also include small micro-phrasebooks for local deviations. For example, the article for Quebec would link to the French phrasebook, but might also include some variations for Quebecois French.

Phrasebook articles shouldn't be tutorials, comprehensive grammars, or dictionaries for the target language. The goal is to define just enough of the language so that an English-speaking traveller can "get by" in an area where that language is spoken. External links for further study can and should be provided.

Phrasebook article names[edit]

An article for a language phrasebook should have a title like "Name of language phrasebook". Examples: French phrasebook, Arabic phrasebook, Greek phrasebook.

Structure of phrasebooks[edit]

Each Wikitravel phrasebook should have the following parts:

  1. An overview of the language, giving a brief history, scope (where it's spoken, how many speakers), alphabet or symbol set, and any other general info on the language.
  2. A pronunciation guide, with a description of each written symbol in the language (that is, its alphabet), and a pronunciation note for each symbol ("like the 'e' in 'yes'", "like 'ch' in Scottish 'loch'", etc.).
  3. A phrase list. Each entry in the phrase list should include the English word or phrase being translated ("Hello"), the spelling in the local language symbol set as it would be seen written down ("Bonjour"), and a pronunciation cue for English speakers ("bawn ZHOO-er").

The format of the phrasebook should follow the Phrasebook template.

Phrases in phrase lists[edit]

For most languages, the phrase list should contain at least the phrases in the phrase list section of the phrasebook template. Sometimes this won't be practical; for example, some very remote destinations just won't have restaurants, hotels, or Internet cafes, and the local language may not have words for them. In these cases, more appropriate local terms ("visitor's hut" or what have you) should be substituted, or the phrases can be left out.

For many if not most languages, there will also be culture- or country-specific words and phrases that should also be included. A reasonable number -- twenty to thirty, say -- of these can and should be included in the phrasebook.

For example, local means of transportation (rickshaws, tuk-tuks, cyclos), local dishes, or local entertainment or cultural traditions should be listed if a traveller is likely to run into them. In addition, the grammar of the language may require more forms than are present in English. For example, French has two ways of saying "Goodbye" -- one that's temporary, and one that's more permanent.

Pronunciation[edit]

Each phrase in the phrase list should have a pronunciation cue. This is an illustration in an English-like syntax that allows readers to sound out the phrase.

For the most specificity -- showing exactly how to pronounce a phrase -- we could use an official phonetics symbol set, like the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) or SAMPA. However, the baroque symbol sets used in IPA and SAMPA would make using the Wikitravel phrasebooks almost impossible for casual readers. In addition, it's unlikely that Wikitravellers contributing to the phrasebooks are familiar, even less proficient, with these phonetics systems.

In addition, exact pronunciation of words isn't really all that important for travel phrasebooks. It's more important that most travellers can make themselves understood, than that some travellers with a knowledge of IPA and a knack for languages get the language down exactly. Moreover, formal IPA descriptions already exist on the internet for those who wish to use them. Getting things "close enough" for most students is more important than getting any one student's accent perfect.

Most commercially-available phrasebooks use a pseudo-phoneticization, that is, English-like sentences using simple rules for showing pronunciation and emphasis. Some examples:

  • French Bonjourbawng-ZHOO
  • Dutch eenayn
  • German Wie geht's?vee GAYTZ?

To maintain consistency across phrasebooks, and to avoid needless edit wars, and to make it easier for contributors to add pseudo-phoneticization to articles, there's a pseudo-phoneticization guide which helps contributors phoneticize phrases. This is not a guide for readers of the phrasebooks; the goal is to have English-speaking readers "intuitively" understand the phoneticized text.

See also: Requests for phrasebooks, List of phrasebooks

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