Book Review – OhneWörterBuch by Langenscheidt

Title: OhneWörterBuch
Publisher: Langenscheidt
Illustrator: Katrin Merle
Format: Spiral bound
Written & Published: 2010
Language: German

OhneWörterBuch is a German title, but don’t let that stop you, because the translation is literally “Without Words Book”. It is a tiny book that can easily fit into a pocket, and is slightly larger than my smartphone. Inside are 550 illustrations and diagrams that are useful for travellers. The idea is that you can take the book with you to a country where you do not speak the language, and through the pictures you can form basic sentences to communicate with the locals.

I first bought this book after some friends were cycling around the world and took it with them. They were able to use the book to communicate in most situations and, as a result, they did not have to carry a phrase book for each of the languages they expected to encounter on their journey. Many of the areas they were travelling through are rural and illiterate, and pictures speak in a universal language.

The pictures are divided into themes: time; travel; accommodation; eating and drinking; shopping; communication and media; recreation; common needs; and numbers. On the inside cover is a small explanation of how to use multiple pictures to communicate increasingly complex ideas. These translations are in German, but I assume that most people would understand that a pictures of a snake and a red forbidden circle can be used to indicate that you do not wish to eat snake meat.

Some of the pictures are very clever. In the common needs section are three images of a person using a toilet. The first image is someone kneeling in front of the bowl, the second is someone sitting on the bowl with a brown smear overflowing the side, and the third is someone sitting on the bowl with a red cross on the lower half of the image. I laughed when I worked out what they all meant, but I know if I am ever in the situation where I need to use one of those images, avoiding translation problems will stop a bad situation from getting worse.

I bought this book less than six months ago, and it has already had such hard use that the cover is bent and bits are peeling off. This is not a reflection on the quality of construction, because every page is some sort of sturdy plastic, but rather a comment on how useful it is to use. When I bought it I did not expect it to spend so much time overseas as it has; whenever our friends are travelling, they now take it with them. It will need its own passport at this rate. Because this book is far more versatile than I ever imagined it could be, I am giving it 5 out of 5 stars.


5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Mandi M. Lynch, author
    Dec 12, 2012 @ 04:44:38

    I’m going out on a limb here, but I’m suggesting that you may have needed this in Alabama. Just sayin’.


    • Catherine Gracey
      Dec 12, 2012 @ 05:39:16

      I’ve quickly checked the book, and there is a picture that we could have used to indicate we were eating together and wanted him to sit at a different table. There is also a picture I could have used to indicate I wanted to drink water. I’m not too sure how well that guy would have understood either concept, because you weren’t doing too well on the explanations either.


      • Mandi M. Lynch, author
        Dec 12, 2012 @ 19:28:12

        I was struck dumb by the ridiculous level of stupid that he possessed. I mean, who sits down at a customer’s table?!

      • Catherine Gracey
        Dec 13, 2012 @ 01:30:02

        There’s an American themed restaurant here that does it, but they usually only sit down to take your order. They don’t tend to sit down and strike up a conversation with the opener: “What are you talking about?”

      • Mandi M. Lynch, author
        Dec 13, 2012 @ 04:52:50

        Sitting down to take your order is one thing. Sitting down because you don’t know boundaries and are doubly confused about an Australia/Austria comment and don’t know what “wasser” is…. totally a lack of boundaries.

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