Event Title

Investigating Linguistic And Cultural Attitudes In Rick Steves'S Tourist Phrasebooks

Location

SU 003

Start Date

19-4-2019 10:00 AM

Department

Linguistics

Session

Session 3

Description

This presentation investigates linguistic and cultural attitudes found in European tourist phrasebooks produced by Rick Steves. This work expands on the research of Dr. Richard Hallett, which examines Lonely Planet’s Middle East Phrasebook and Dictionary and Tuttle Publishing’s Making Out series. Hallett argues that “the phrasebooks describe these languages and their speakers as exotic, monolithic, simplistic, and deterministic; and construct the traveller’s efforts to use these languages as acts of benevolence” (Hallett, 2017). In the introduction to his Spanish phrasebook, Steves explains: “I’m the only monolingual speaker I know who’s had the nerve to design a series of European phrasebooks. But that’s one of the things that makes them better” (2013). He then advises travelers to use gestures and simplistic single-word requests in lieu of learning the local language and communicating in a culturally sensitive way. This approach to travel illustrates Steves’s hegemonic cultural views and perceived lack of difficulty with intercultural communication. I am using the critical discourse analysis (CDA) method to analyze each of Steves’s phrasebooks. CDA is text analysis with regard to “external social relations” and is a pragmatic evaluation rather than semantic processing (Hallett, 2017). A few consistent themes have emerged. First, the advice to use gesture in lieu of oral language is repeated regardless of which country is being discussed. Steves says in the introduction of his 3-in-1 French, Italian, & German book, “While I've provided plenty of phrases, you'll find it just as effective to use only a word or two to convey your meaning and to rely on context, gestures, and smiles to help you out” (2014). In France, you can use ça (that/this) to “convey a world of meaning” (p2) and in Italy questo and quello (this/that) “combine conveniently with gestures” (p176). In his Spanish phrasebook, Steves (2013) repeats that esto (this) “conveys worlds of meaning” (p6). Additionally, Steves employs patronizing and reductionist descriptions of the languages he is discussing. French is “romantic” and marvels that “even your US passport is translated into French” (Steves, 2014, p2). Italian is “user-friendly” and “easy to get the hang of” (Steves, 2014, p176). He claims that “if you can say pizza, lasagna, and spaghetti you can speak Italian.” German is “versatile” and “entertaining” and the morphological patterns characteristic to the language are “fun” (Steves, 2014, p368). Through CDA and considering Steves’s statements in the broader narrative of travel advice, it becomes clearer how the English language and American culture are hegemonically positioned in these travel phrasebooks.

Comments

Richard Hallett is the faculty sponsor for this project.

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Apr 19th, 10:00 AM

Investigating Linguistic And Cultural Attitudes In Rick Steves'S Tourist Phrasebooks

SU 003

This presentation investigates linguistic and cultural attitudes found in European tourist phrasebooks produced by Rick Steves. This work expands on the research of Dr. Richard Hallett, which examines Lonely Planet’s Middle East Phrasebook and Dictionary and Tuttle Publishing’s Making Out series. Hallett argues that “the phrasebooks describe these languages and their speakers as exotic, monolithic, simplistic, and deterministic; and construct the traveller’s efforts to use these languages as acts of benevolence” (Hallett, 2017). In the introduction to his Spanish phrasebook, Steves explains: “I’m the only monolingual speaker I know who’s had the nerve to design a series of European phrasebooks. But that’s one of the things that makes them better” (2013). He then advises travelers to use gestures and simplistic single-word requests in lieu of learning the local language and communicating in a culturally sensitive way. This approach to travel illustrates Steves’s hegemonic cultural views and perceived lack of difficulty with intercultural communication. I am using the critical discourse analysis (CDA) method to analyze each of Steves’s phrasebooks. CDA is text analysis with regard to “external social relations” and is a pragmatic evaluation rather than semantic processing (Hallett, 2017). A few consistent themes have emerged. First, the advice to use gesture in lieu of oral language is repeated regardless of which country is being discussed. Steves says in the introduction of his 3-in-1 French, Italian, & German book, “While I've provided plenty of phrases, you'll find it just as effective to use only a word or two to convey your meaning and to rely on context, gestures, and smiles to help you out” (2014). In France, you can use ça (that/this) to “convey a world of meaning” (p2) and in Italy questo and quello (this/that) “combine conveniently with gestures” (p176). In his Spanish phrasebook, Steves (2013) repeats that esto (this) “conveys worlds of meaning” (p6). Additionally, Steves employs patronizing and reductionist descriptions of the languages he is discussing. French is “romantic” and marvels that “even your US passport is translated into French” (Steves, 2014, p2). Italian is “user-friendly” and “easy to get the hang of” (Steves, 2014, p176). He claims that “if you can say pizza, lasagna, and spaghetti you can speak Italian.” German is “versatile” and “entertaining” and the morphological patterns characteristic to the language are “fun” (Steves, 2014, p368). Through CDA and considering Steves’s statements in the broader narrative of travel advice, it becomes clearer how the English language and American culture are hegemonically positioned in these travel phrasebooks.