We’ve all done it – felt confident trying out a few local words, only to end up with hot sauce instead of mild or a one-way ticket when we wanted round trip. But that’s all part of the fun, as Express reader Ewa Malinowska explains…
“This is a story of a friend whom I was traveling with in Poland. In Polish water is ‘woda’, and vodka is ‘wodka’ – the extra ‘k’ turns the word ‘water’ into an endearing term. During our travels, I taught my friend many words and phrases, and one day he decided to do the breakfast ‘shopping’ by himself.
At first glance Russian looks like the most impossible language to pronounce. There are lots of Cyrillic letters that appear strange to English speakers, like the ones that look like backwards ‘R’ and ‘N’ and the letter that resembles a spider.
In most languages the easiest word of all to say is “hello”, but in Russian even when the word is written in latin letters it still looks intimidating: zdravstvuyte! Don’t let that put you off – Russia and Russian might seem tricky at first, but as Intrepid’s Tara Kennaway explains, you’ll get the hang of it and then there’s so much to enjoy…
“Travelling on the Russia and Beyond trip, our Russian leader Masha helped us to get our minds and tongues around a few of the basics. Her technique for teaching us to read the Cyrillic alphabet had our train carriage attendant a bit nonplussed however – she used a whiteboard marker to write on the train windows! By the time we had crossed into Siberia I thought I was doing pretty well. That was until I asked the name of the little village where we would be staying on Lake Baikal. Instead of answering she wrote it and had us try to read it out loud: Bolshoye Goloustnoye.
With its heritage of British occupation, Intrepid’s Melissa Cannon never expected Sri Lanka to have such difficult-to-pronounce place names – but how wrong she was…
“The first challenge I encountered on our Circle Sri Lanka trip was at Panduwasnuwara, a ruined palace we explored en route to the fort of Yapahuwa, where the lion perched at the top of the ornamental staircase features on the 10 rupee note.
Tongue-twisting names such as Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa and the ancient fortress of Sigiriya are some of the ancient city ruins that comprise Sri Lanka’s cultural triangle.
In a country where our pronunciation and tone of the word “ma” could mean we are saying mother, hemp, horse or even swearing, it’s no wonder we try to speak Mandarin in China with some trepidation. But giving it a go is all part of the fun and as Intrepid’s Rachel Wasser knows well, when all else fails, laughs prevail…
“One of the cities we visit on our Silk Road trip from Beijing to Kashgar, through the Xinjiang province in northwest China, is called Jiayuguan. Travellers in my groups often find it hard to get their tongues around this name. I don’t know if people can’t say Jiayuguan, or find it difficult to remember, but I pride myself on my Mandarin pronunciation skills and still when I say it to a local, they have no idea what I am talking about!