In preparation for a trip to Nepal, I’m studying a small Nepalese phrasebook. It is always curious which phrases are included in such books.
Years ago while studying a Mexican-Spanish phrasebook from Lonely Planet, I came across a whole section devoted to so-called amorous concerns. It included such phrases as: “You are beautiful,” “Do you have protection?” and “Faster, faster” (mas rapido in Spanish).
My Nepalese phrasebook by comparison is far more staid, and, as I said, small consisting of only a couple dozen pages. Maybe there wasn’t time enough to get into some of those more advanced topics.
I would characterize the phrases in my book as falling into three categories: useful, probably not useful, and finally, useful but I hope I never need to use them.
Simple greetings—Namaste in Nepalese—and other such phrases fall into the useful category: Hello, Goodbye, Thank you, I’m sorry, Excuse me, How are you, I’m fine, Could you speak more slowly, I don’t understand, Yes, No, Ok, You’re welcome, How much does it cost? Do you have rooms? Where is the bus stop? What is your name? My name is Paul, Can you lower the price? Where are the toilets? Does this trail lead up Mount Everest?—stuff like that.
As an aside, one phrase in the food category that I might want to say (and eat) is yak meat. I wonder what it tastes like.
Some interrogatory words such as “who,” “what,” and “where” also fall into the useful category. It seems doubtful, however, that I would ever need to use the words “why” and “how” which are listed in my book. If I asked why, it seems unlikely that with my rudimentary cave-man Nepalese that I would ever understand the explanation given. I’m sure I would just nod my head regardless of what was being said. Same thing with how.
Other phrases from my phrasebook that I would seem unlikely to use include “I have an allergy to nuts.” I don’t but I’m not sure in Nepal that anyone would understand or care. Other phrases I don’t think I need include “Is it real silver?” and “I feel angry.” It seems unlikely that I would feel the need to tell anyone I was angry. Perhaps later when I found out it wasn’t real silver.
Then there is the category of phrases from the phrasebook that are useful but I hope I never need to use. These would include such phrases as: Police! Please help, I’ve been robbed, I’m lost, I don’t feel well, Be careful, it hurts, I think the bone is broken, I didn’t do anything wrong and Why are you arresting me?
Finally, if all goes well on our trip, I hope to be able to say, “Nepal is very beautiful” and “The people of Nepal are very friendly.”