I’m a huge fan of using phrasebooks to learn conversational phrases in the languages that I’m studying for a variety of reasons. One is that they tend to be pretty compact and easy to carry with me for study on the go and the second is that they are filled with ready-to-use sentences that I can pick and choose from based on my needs in the language.
The biggest problem with phrasebooks, however, is that they often tend to be pretty focused on travel and as a learner most interested in general conversational fluency, there isn’t a whole lot I can cull from a generic phrasebook before I need to move on to another resource.
Thankfully, more and more options are becoming available including the Making Out In… series from Tuttle Publishing. And while this particular resource may be somewhat risqué, there are still loads of useful, current, and usable expressions and phrases that outweigh the bits that many readers may opt to skip over.
If I’m completely honest, I picked up my first Making Out In… book for the humor factor more than anything. While I knew that I’d never use most of the phrases I purchased the book for, I couldn’t help but find it somewhat entertaining to have access to them.
When I started learning Mandarin, however, I realized just how useful the series actually was. Especially considering the fact that I really wanted to reach conversational fluency in the language and my HSK preparation books just weren’t helping me get there.
So I asked my husband M to get me “Making Out in Chinese” for my birthday. And while it got me raised eyebrows due to the title, I quickly won him over when I opened it and showed him just how many useful phrases were within its some 150 odd pages. (The under $10 price tag didn’t hurt either.)
Later on, when I started learn Korean, it was one of the first resources I wanted to work with in order to learn a few simple and conversational phrases. I had learnt so many useful phrases working through the Chinese version of the book that I knew working with the Korean phrasebook would give my speaking a quick boost right from the start.
The books in the series include phrases useful for getting acquainted, conversing, socializing and going out, technology, and of course, insults and a bit of “love language” as well as other basic expressions. And while there are chapters the more conservative learner might skip over, there is certainly still quite a lot of useful content there for them.
One of the things that I most like about the books is that they include the English translations of the phrases as well as the sentences and words in the writing system of the language alongside the transliteration. This is great both for those who are interested in a more conversational approach and for those interested in more in-depth learning.
There are also fun illustrations throughout the books as well as cultural tips related to the various content in the book. These definitely keep your learning engaging and provide you with a little extra as you make your way through the phrases.
Working through the phrasebook takes only a matter of hours, which might be seen as a positive by some and a negative by others. For me, it’s more the latter than the former, but if you’re looking for more content along the same lines, the Korean and Japanese languages have a second book, “More Making Out In…”.
What about you?
Are there any phrasebooks that you’ve found particularly helpful in your studies?
I’d love to hear about them in the comments below!