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Help is at hand for travellers struggling with translation

The playing cards that turn up trumps for travellers

Help is at hand for travellers struggling with translation

May 29 2010
Julian Allason

I was a little shy of using Lingopix cards at first. These ingenious cards have a dual purpose: they are a normal set of playing cards, but they also feature images depicting the commonest places, objects and services that one might require when travelling – taxi, batteries, sushi, loo, for instance – and for which one might lack the local word.

Not only do the cards work, but I find them a great way of breaking the ice with locals, sometimes in potentially awkward situations, such as police roadblocks. Foreign policemen, not always as accustomed to answering tourist questions as our own, seem particularly amused by one’s gaucheness.

The four playing-card suits are divided into Places & Destinations, Food and Drink, Greetings and Common Phrases, and Everyday Essentials. Most, like the seven of clubs – a mosquito coil – are spot-on and thoroughly useful, though I have not yet had the opportunity to deploy the four of spades’ image: a scantily-dressed lady cavorting on a pole.

The pack was clearly put together by a frustrated traveller and cardsharp, as quite a few cards offer multiple, if related, objects. The jokers also helpfully provide key phrases in 10 major languages. Meanwhile I am gathering suggestions for an updated future edition. So far these include late checkout, WiFi, and a polite means of declining an invitation to buy the interlocutor's excellent drugs.

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