ARE phrase books really worth the expense, I wondered (Independent Traveller, 5 March). Most readers do seem to be doubtful. Joseph Cocker of Worcester reports his experiences: 'One of my less-used phrase books is the English-Faroese one, which contains 700 useful phrases such as: 'Look over there] A smack is discharging fish.'

'The chances of an English speaker being suddenly inspired to say this in Faroese must be akin to those of the randomly typing monkeys coming up with Hamlet.' Actually, I should have thought the fishy phrase might be very useful in the Faro Islands, where a smack discharging its catch is probably the most exciting thing that happens for weeks.

'My Swahili phrase book tells me how to say 'I am vomiting', which, strictly speaking, would be difficult to say in any language,' adds Mr Cocker. And also unnecessary: vomiting is one action that needs no explanation. But then that's phrase books for you.

Iain McIntyre of Romford has a good word to say for the Hugo Chinese phrase book: 'As independent travellers we would have been lost, not to mention stuck, on many an occasion without it. It was invaluable. OK, so we couldn't converse with the locals, but by finding the appropriate phrase in English and pointing to the Pinyin translation, we were able to make the most of local restaurants that are normally out of bounds to travellers.'