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Charles N. Steele

When I lived in Ukraine I found the Lonely Planet book useful. I spoke a little Russian and could sit with a Russian-speaking friend (who spoke next to no English) and we could have pretty long & reasonable conversations, using this as a guide when we got stuck. But it's not a typical tourist book. And I think that, and perhaps memorizing a few useful phrases, is the only use for such books.

I also lived in Beijing and speak no Chinese. Using such a book would have been impossible and a waste of time to even try. Instead, I learned to count to ten, say "yes, no, please, thank you, hello, good bye, beer, steamed rice, kung pao chicken." I also learned Chinese finger counting. That was enough to get by. If we purchased something cheap, we could get the price with finger counting; if it wasn't cheap, people were willing to write the price in Arabic numerals (they'd get annoyed if you asked them to write a price that was really just a few cents, hence finger counting). We also carried takeout menus from Chinese restaurants in America that were printed in both English and Chinese. We'd find a dish in English and show it to the waitress who would read the Chinese and tell us if they had it or not; worked well.

Interestingly, on at least one occasion, after the waitress told us "yes" we saw her leave the restaurant and go out to the nearby market and purchase ingredients for what we'd ordered.

Regardless I think memorizing a few basics is enough for a tourist.

Europe -- doesn't at least half of Europe speak English anyway?

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