Monday, April 22, 2013

How you say...?

I wish I were multilingual, but I am not. I have a decent handle on English, and I used to be pretty fluent in Latin (real Latin, not porcine Latin), but my high school German and high school Spanish are but dim memories. I still fantasize that a day will come when I continue my higher education and add a few languages to my repertoire. In the meantime, I buy old-school language records and vintage phrasebooks so I will be fully prepared should I suddenly have the opportunity to dash off to Europe.

These Berlitz books date from 1954. They're cute and spiral-bound and fit snugly in your hand. They also give you a good idea of what it must've been like to travel abroad in the Mad Men era. First-class, all the way! Following is just a random collection of phrases considered essential by the staff of the Berlitz School of Languages (under the direction of Robert Stumpen-Darrie and Charles F. Berlitz) for the American visiting Italy. Remove the quotes and I think it makes a pretty convincing bit of free verse:

"Give me a match please."
"Please send me the chambermaid."
"Some writing paper."
"I want these shoes shined."
"I need a secretary."
"I want cigarettes."
"I want one in rayon."
"What time is the next floor show?"
"May I have this dance?"
"Please ask the orchestra to play 'Torna a Sorrento.'"
"Have I time to buy a newspaper?"
"I think your sister is beautiful."
"Here is a picture of my wife."
"A face massage."
"I am nauseated."
"I cannot see."

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