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Impenetrable unless you can point and the person you ask has good eyesight...
on 8 July 2014
The pheonetic system used to try to replicate the 5 languages covered (Burmese, Khmer, Lao, Thai and Vietnamese) is so beyond me that when I tried, I sounded like a demented parrot with St. Vitus' Dance and diarrhoea. For instance, in Khmer, the squiggles of Khmer for "I have to use the phone" are translated into phoenetics as "kuh-nyohm drow braar du-rap-sahp". I can think of about 5 ways to say that which are all different, none of them memorable. "I'm lost" is written out as "kuh-nyohm wohng-weng pleuw". No idea which letters to stretch or where the accents fall. To me it's impenetrable.
If it stuck to the real basics in big letters WHERE IS THE BUS STATION/BANK/LAVATORY/HOSTEL/ RESTAURANT/BAR? so I could point at the phrase I may be able to use it, but it is all squashed into something the size of a pocket diary only for people with remarkable eyesight. I can't make sense of the phoenetics. Is "sohn" pronounced "sawn", "sewn" "son" or what?
I suppose that trying to put five languages that consist mainly of squiggles into something so tiny and then expect thickoes like me to be able to say any of it is really expecting too much.
If anyone with no real language skills has visited any of the countries concerned and used this book to converse in an understandable fashion, then I shall eat my underpants.
I'm probably going to take the book to steady three-legged wobbly tables in cafes, but as to speaking in Cambodia I shall communicate by acting, pointing, grimacing, grunting and smiling but hopefully not shouting too much because it gives the English a bad name.
I apologise to the author(s) who probably worked very hard on it, but after spending twenty minutes trying to make the weird sounds needed to count to five and getting it different each time and remembering none of it, I give up.
Steve Riches, Northampton, UK.