The phrase that pays in Peking

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The Independent Travel
HAS anyone ever successfully used a Chinese phrase book? Mark Goodwill of Kent writes in response to the question (Independent Traveller, 12 March) and is full of praise for the Lonely Planet Mandarin phrase book. 'It leaves out the old 'my donkey needs reshodding, can you direct me to a blacksmith?' phrases, but has most of the bits and bobs you need to get about. It has the pronunciation, including the tonal inflexions - you never get these right from a phrase book, but it is obvious when the waiter looks surprised that you have ordered sugar (tang) rather than soup (tang).'

Tony Kelly, who taught English in China for two years, had been warned by his wife's great-uncle - a former missionary in China - of potential pitfalls. 'He told us of the time when, after years of training, he led his first service. All went well until he began the Lord's Prayer: 'Our pig, who art in heaven . . .' The syllable zhu means 'pig' when uttered in a flat, high pitch, but 'Lord' in a falling then rising tone.'

Paul Doughtrey of Rotherham went to Peking last year armed with Berlitz's Chinese for Travellers. 'One night in Peking I hungered for the local delicacy, Peking Duck. I headed for a restaurant renowned for the dish. I practised the Chinese phrase kao ya (glazed duck) along the way, repeating it over and over to myself to perfect my pronunciation.

'I asked for duck, I pointed at duck hung on the far wall of the restaurant, short of making quacking noises and showing them a signed portrait of Donald I couldn't have been more specific. In response to my order the waitress brought me a 'Mongolian hotpot' with a mixture of raw seafood with fish, prawns, squid (I think), octopus (I'm not so sure) and some jellied mass which had previously held a starring role in Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea.'

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