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Central Asia: Languages of the Silk Road (Lonely Planet Phrasebook) [Paperback]

Professor Justin Jon Rudelson
1.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Paperback, 1 Feb 1998 --  
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Lonely Planet Central Asia Phrasebook (Lonely Planet Phrasebook) Lonely Planet Central Asia Phrasebook (Lonely Planet Phrasebook) 1.3 out of 5 stars (3)
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Book Description

1 Feb 1998 1741046041 978-1741046045
This new phrasebook is your key to traveling the famed Silk Road, with essential words and phrases for getting around and getting to know the locals. From western Xinjiang to the Karakoram Highway you'll be able to haggle in the bazaars and order your favorite kebabs with ease.
Includes comprehensive sections on Kazahk, Kyrgyz, Pashto, Tajik, Tashkorghani, Turkmen, Uyghur and Uzbeck. Also includes essential words and phrases in other languages of the region.

Product details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Lonely Planet Publications (1 Feb 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1741046041
  • ISBN-13: 978-1741046045
  • Product Dimensions: 13.4 x 9.2 x 1.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 1.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,259,236 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


National Geographic Traveler, September 2006
'Lonely Planet Phrasebooks. Portable, pocket-size, cheap, and available for almost any country you might want to visit...'

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars No cyrillic 30 July 2009
Was hugley disappointed with this book. The Tajik or Kyrgyz words are written neither in Cyrillic nor latin but in some sort of Lonely Planet made-up phonetics. Sadly these phonetics are not used in Central Asia on road signs.......
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Useful but annoying 15 May 2006
This book has two main problems:

Firstly, a lot of useful basic phrases are missing from the book. Being able to ask complex questions about your hotel room are all well and good, but not giving you simple building blocks such as "Why?" is inexcusable.

Secondly, the book has only the English phrase and a transliterated version. The absence of the Cyrillic text for the phrase is incredibly frustrating as no native speaker can read the transliterated phrase. Hence, you will struggle to communicate until your pronuniciation improves. If they had included the Cyrillic for the phrase then you could just point to it and the native speaker can read it and understand you, and also they can correct your pronunication immediately so that you learn quicker.

Lonely Planet would do well to look at their other phrasebooks (such as the Mongolia phrasebook) to see how to improve this book.
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1.0 out of 5 stars In definite need of updates and better authors. 19 May 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I'm not sure why the authors decided to use some made up transliteration for all the various languages. Furthermore, this is a very lazily done book, with the exception of the Uyghur chapter at the beginning, all the other chapters have a very basic pronunciation guide, with some such as Kazakh having no pronunciation guide at all, instead the reader is told "It basically sounds the same as Kyrgyz".

As one of the other reviewers of this book pointed out, the special lonely planet transliteration is not used on road signs and wont be understood by natives. The Pashto chapter is nearly useless because it is spoken in AFGHANISTAN, a country every western government strongly advises travel to. So unless you're a war journalist for The Sunday Times, that particular chapter isn't necessary.

The book layout is boring and every chapter's colour scheme is a depressing shade of blue-green. Hardly reflecting the beauty and newfound modernity of many of the central Asian nations. All in all a very bad if not the worst phrasebook on sale from Lonely Planet, which is unfortunate as there are no other Central Asian phrasebooks
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.9 out of 5 stars  10 reviews
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent resource for linguists and travelers! 6 May 1998
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
I ordered this book almost a year before it was finally published: it was worth the wait! Justin Jon Rudelson has done an amazing job of condensing a highly complex subject into a concise, user-friendly guidebook. As a Russian and Turkish linguist who has also studied Uzbek and made numerous trips to Central Asia, I feel that both from a linguistic standpoint and in terms of the cultural hints provided that the book is accurate and up-to-date. I also had a friend who just returned from a year in Tajikistan take a look at the book, and he concurred that it appears to be quite accurate.
21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The only one - unfortunately 3 Feb 2005
By Language learner - Published on Amazon.com
As other reviewers have pointed out, this is the only guide that contains a number of Central Asian languages. This monopoly is quite unfortunate, since this book cannot really be recommended. There are good courses in many Central Asian languages, - "Modern Literary Uzbek" and "Beginner's Guide to Tajiki" - so if you're going to visit just one country you'll be far better of with one of them. The author of this book is a specialist on the Uyghur language and it shows. As far as I can tell, the Uyghyr chapter is very good. Unfortunately, some other chapters are really bad. My main points are:

1. The languages presented
The authors have decided to focus mainly on six languages: Kazakh, Kyrgyz, Pashto, Tajik, Uyghur and Uzbek. These languages get about 30 pages each, while the remaining eight languages get an average of 5 pages each. For some reason, the Dari language isn't even mentioned in this book. In terms of speakers, it is the second largest language of Afghanistan after Pashto - however, it is the general lingua franca of the country and the language of most major cities, including the capital Kabul. While it is true that Dari and Tajik are extremely close, there are still a number of differences. Travellers to Afghanistan should definitely look for another phrase book than this one.

2. The maps
The six main languages are all introduced together with a map showing where they are spoken. I'm sorry to say that the maps are spectacularly wrong. The fact that many languages are shown as the spoken language in a certain area or city is no problem, many areas of Central Asia are bilingual or even trilingual.
a. Uyghur. As far as I can say, this map is correct, just as the chapter on Uyghur.
b. Uzbek. The Uzbek map is not as silly as some other maps, but it's still wrong. That the mainly Tajik cities of Samarkand and Bukhara are included in the Uzbek language area is absolutely correct, both have significant Uzbek minorities. Some areas of Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan are definitely Uzbek speaking, but this map would have us believe that the Uzbek areas cover more than 50% of the two republics respectively. That is not the case.
c. Kyrgyz. This map is just incredible. Cities such as the Tajik capital of Dushanbe, the former Kazakh capital Almaty, the two Tajik speaking cities Bukhara and Samarkand in Uzbekistan and the Uzbek Ferghana valley are all shown as Kyrgyz speaking... Of course there might be some Kyrgyz speakers living in each of these cities, but so are there in London and New York. None of these cities have even a mentionable Kyrgyz minority, not to speak of a majority.
d. Kazakh. This map is even worse. It correctly covers all of Kazakhstan but it also covers ALL of Uzbekistan and about 80% of Tajikistan. The Kazakh population in these countries are 3% and 2% respectively.
e. Pashto. Also a map made at random, and the one most likely to cause offence. All of Afghanistan is shown to be Pashto speaking. In reality, it's about 50% of the area of Afghanistan and 40% of the people. The major cities of Kabul, Mazar-e-Sharif and Herat are all populated by Dari speaking Tajiks, yet at this map they are all shown to be Pashtuns. Even the Panjshir valley, the heartland of the Tajiks, is shown to be Pashto speaking. Apart from that, the Baluchi speaking areas are also shown to be Pashto speaking.
f. Tajik. Another confusing map. Tajikistan is of course shown to be Tajik speaking, as are the Uzbek area around Samarkand and Bukhara. More incredibly, even the Uzbek capital of Tashkent (in which Russian dominates and Uzbek comes in second) is shown to be Tajik speaking. What really makes one laugh is that even the south of Kazakhstan and the Kyrzyz(!) capital are shown to be Tajik speaking. In stark contrast to the "gains" by the Tajik language, the vast areas of Afghanistan, including Kabul, that are Tajik speaking are blank on this map.

3. The language descriptions
I'll start with a confession: I don't speak many of these languages and I cannot say how correct the descriptions are. I do speak Russian and have to say that I have never seen a more faulty description. The pronunciation this book uses is so far from the actual pronunciation that you won't stand the remotest chance of being understood. I get by in Tajik and the pronunciation table given here is beyond belief. Out of a total of six vowels, five(!) are given a pronunciation that is just wrong. According to this book, the Tajik "o" is pronounced as in English "go". It's not, it's pronounced as the "a" in "all" or the "aw" in "law". The word Tajik "ston" rhymes with English "lawn", not with "stone". In the Mandarin section, all the four tones of the language are ignored!! As even a beginner could have told the authors, the tones are absolutely crucial for speaking Chinese.

I agree with the reviewer who called for grammar descriptions of the main languages in this book. If such descriptions were introduced, if the maps were corrected, if the pronunciation guidelines were written from scrach, if Dari was included and if the sections on Russian and Mandarin were more substantial, this would be a rather good book.
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A useful, easy to use book! 2 Sep 2001
By Brian Douglas - Published on Amazon.com
I strongly recommend that anyone going to Central Asia get this book. It is full of necessary phrases that will help you get where you need to go. It is very compact and can fit easily into a pocket. It is also very comprehensive, containing large sections of phrases in Uyghur, Uzbek, Kyrgyz, Kazakh, Pashto, and Tajik, plus smaller sections on ten other regional languages. Also, it has a section outlining the history of Central Asian languages and certain grammatical/linguistic essentials.
Again, if you are going to Central Asia, invest in this book!
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars It has lots info with 16 different central asian languages 17 Mar 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
It has good information about meeting people, riding trains, booking hotels, and even seeing a doctor. It has lots of facts about greetings and the countries too. I recomend this book.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A useful introduction to Central Asian languages 22 Sep 2004
By G. BARTO - Published on Amazon.com
Rudelson's guide is the best - but only - guide to Central Asian languages that I've come across. For languages like Uighur and Turkmen, it's about all that's available, which makes it a must-have for visitors to Central Asia.

The greatest feature of Rudelson's effort is also its biggest drawback: a common adaptation of our alphabet to represent all the languages covered. This allows for ease of pronunciation and helps the reader see the differences in pronunciation and similarities in vocabulary among the different Turkic languages. However, this makes it difficult to use with (the few) other resources without first drawing up one's own tables of spelling conventions. Still, it's worth the trouble.

The only other drawback is the lack of a good grammar section. It's not necessary to give all the details but more information on how Turkic languages agglutinate, how Iranian languages express "to be," and such would be helpful.
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