An entry at Desbladet quotes someone named Diana as follows:

Could I just say here how very very wonderful Kauderwelsch phrasebooks are? They have grammar explanations and morphological glosses as well as long lists of colloquial expressions and obscenities. They are the O’Reilly books of phrasebooks. Anyone who is serious about languages should make sure to learn German just in order to be able to take advantage of the series. I have about 20 of them, including Mongolian, Armenian, Irish Gaelic, Yiddish, and “Hochchinesisch.” The Finnish one was the single most useful Finnish learning aid in my first year here.

This is absolutely true, and reminds me that I should be telling my faithful readers about these marvelous books. When I was in Vienna I picked up Wolof, Kurdish, and Georgian, and I wish I’d gotten more. They are attractively laid out, use colloquial (not to mention vulgar) speech, give morpheme-by-morpheme versions as well as overall translations of sentences, have cultural explanations, and in general are as good as tiny little books that fit in your shirt pocket could possibly be. If you know German, get hold of any that strike your fancy; you won’t regret it. (And like the lady said, you might consider learning German just for this purpose. They’re that good.)


  1. jean-pierre says

    Season’s greetings to Languagehat’s readers, all of us! (Can one greet one’s self? Of course! I will again, as soon as I shave this morning)
    Sure, I’ll look for the German, to start with, since that’s toward the top of my resolutions list. Do they have a web site, or does one just ask at the local bookstore?

  2. Their website is linked in the blockquoted text (I added the link so people wouldn’t have to do the legwork). You can get them through amazon.de and doubtless elsewhere, but I’m no expert on getting German books via the internet; any suggestions from other readers?

  3. Books are probably the easiest items to order internationally. It will cost you, of course, but amazon.de would be the way to go. They seem pretty comprehensive. Unfortunately, it puts those delightful little foreign book sellers out of business pretty quickly…but that’s true for book sales in general. As a side note, in Vienna, somewhere near Stefansplatz, I believe, there is a fantastic travel and geography bookshop. I can’t recall anything else about it, but a whole shop devoted to geography and language is truly awe-inspiring. Of course, I may be completely wrong about the location in Vienna, I just remember that it is in the inner city.

  4. Sigh. Currently in Latvia, I’m declaring next year to be (amongst other things) Important Global Language Year. I really need at least crappy German and Russian.

  5. You should certainly be able to pick up both in Latvia, and use them to get many dirty looks from the locals!

  6. Message from Vienna (which is where I live): yes, Nathaniel, you’re absolutely correct, there is this bookshop near Stephansplatz which is devoted to geography and travel, not so much to language, though (as far as I know). But there are other very good shops nearby for languages and literature and so on.
    So if anybody is planning to go book shopping in Vienna, drop me a line and let’s fight the death of the small bookseller…

Speak Your Mind