Modifying the language downloads - The language downloads on this site contain some of the more common phrases for a regular QSO. To make them meaningful we have included my personal details. To make them your own, all you need to do is replace my personal details with your own. I live in the town of Sittingbourne. In the phrase, “I live in Sittingbourne,” substitute the name of your village/town/city. Sittingbourne lies roughly midway between London and Dover (which with all due respect to the people of Sittingbourne, are slightly better known places!) So in the phrase, “Sittingbourne is between Dover and London,” you would replace the place names with places relevant to your location.
Your own crib sheet - Transfer the modified phrases described above to your own, personal crib sheet. Adding new phrases to this crib sheet will give you a ready reference for your next QSO. You will be surprised how it soon grows!
Keep it simple ! - The aim of the Parlez Vous QSO?! project is fun communication NOT fluent communication. If you monitor QSOs between non-English speakers you will notice the things they talk about are pretty normal subjects. Much of their exchanges are simple greetings and comments, much like English QSOs. Language contains a enormous range of meaning and it is tempting to try and say too much or use language that is very difficult to translate while preserving the original nuances. Communication is much easier if you keep your phrases short and simple. Here is an example:
“I feel the weather is too warm.”, “The weather is far to hot for me.” and “I don’t like the weather too hot.” - all mean much the same thing but are structured in subtly different ways that can be difficult to translate effectively. It is much simpler to translate, “It is sunny. It is too hot.” Not as elegant but your meaning will be clear enough!
Schooldays Revisited? - Sticking with the ‘keep it simple’ principle, you can help yourself by starting with a language you learnt at school, however long ago. You will be very surprised how much you remember and it is now even more interesting since you have a very practical and enjoyable application. You will be up and running in no time at all! Now where is my old dictionary?!
What about numbers and accents? - During your QSO always send numbers as numbers and not as words. Accents and all manner of characters unfamiliar to the English writer are really not a problem. There are special Morse characters for all of the accented characters BUT (and here is the good news!) you do not have to use them. Hardly anyone uses them (doubtless someone will email us now to say they do!!). In all of the languages featured on this web site, characters with accents, the circumflex (^) and the tilde (~) are simply sent as normal letters. The only exception is German and the Germans have a very simply approach. In German operating the vowels with umlauts (those two little dots) are sent as the normal vowel and the letter ‘e’. So “ä” = “ae”, “ö” = “oe” and “ü” = “ue”. The letter “ß” is sent as “ss”. Easy! Or as the Germans would say, “Kinderspiel!” (literally, “child’s play”)
Use Phrases rather than ‘constructs’ - It is tempting to make up a phrase by hunting down the translations of individual words. Unfortunately the final ‘construction’ might look very clever but not mean anything like what you intended. It is better to use your dictionary to look out for useful phrases that have already been translated in full. Modern dictionaries and web-based translators have lots of simple phrases you can use for radio.
Check out web sites promoting language skills. They often have downloadable topics containing a range of phrases that can be useful. The BBC Language web site is a mine of useful language. Each language notes document (see the ‘Downloads’ page) has at least one link to a web-based language source for that language.
‘Capturing Language’ - A great source of real radio language is the conversation between two amateurs. Monitoring the content of two stations from the same nation is likely to yield some useful snippets of their native language. Digital modes lend themselves to this very well because you can ‘capture’ text and ‘cut and paste’ it into a blank Word document. Later you can carefully work though the unknown words with a dictionary. Often the context of the over will help your translation. Obvious ‘words’ like “IC706” or “TS540” will tell you the sentence is about the operator’s rig. Words at the end of the QSO are likely to be QSL information and then at the very end, final greetings. E.g. At the end of a German-German QSO you will often read, “AWDH.” This is an abbreviation of, “Auf wiederhören” which means, “Until I hear from you again.” Now you can use it too!
Continuing to monitor QSOs from the same nation will yield common phrases and help you spot anomalies in earlier QSOs caused by missed characters, spelling mistakes (by the sender!) and slang. The beauty of this method is that you get to learn a lot about the language and eventually have a few stock phrases ready to use. You know they will be understood on the air because you have seen them in use by native speakers.
Top tips for Dictionaries - Whether you use a dictionary or a web-based translator, there is always the inherent problem that English words often have multiple meanings. This means the wrong meaning could be chosen by mistake. For example, “To grasp” means, “To take hold of” or “To understand.” A useful trick to overcome this problem is to translate the word back again into English and see if the translation yields an English word of a comparable meaning. This is especially useful for web-based translators that will offer a large selection of words for your English word. Translating this selection back into English, one by one, may seem to a lot of work but it quickly shows the subtle shades of meaning. You will soon narrow the field to a couple of likely words. Remember, this is not about achieving fluent communication but fun communication . The operator at the other end of your QSO will understand even if your language is not perfect.
Recycle your QSOs - Every foreign language QSO you have will include receiving new and unfamiliar words and phrases. To begin with you might find this frustrating but after the QSO, take time to look up the words and translate the unknown phrases. Now add the new phrases to your personal crib sheet. In this way you can use the new language you have received in your own QSOs. It is surprising how much new language you will pick up this way and the process of looking it up and committing it to the crib sheet also ‘fixes’ it in your memory. The next time you encounter a similar phrase you will have a head start and in no time at all you will be using it as your own.
Technical radio words - Fortunately radio models, accessory model numbers and some common abbreviations (e.g. “ATU”) are used and understood internationally. “MFJ” is probably, “MFJ” in Spanish, French, German and Martian!
Lots of the words we use in English to describe the equipment in our station cannot be found even in an English dictionary (and spell checker hates them!). You are unlikely to find, “Autotuner”, “Balun” or “Paddle Key”! Our hobby is full or very technical words, so how can you find translations?! A good place to start is the web sites of radio dealers in the nation that interests you. You will find pictures of familiar items of equipment and their names in the language. The web sites of some amateurs overseas include an English translation of their site. This means they can speak English and they often show an email address on their site. To find out what “Paddle key” is in say, Polish, find an image of a paddle key and a straight key from the web. Paste them into an email and send them to a Polish web site author and politely ask for the translation in Polish. A few words about how you liked their site would be appreciated too! All being well he may kindly reply with the information required. Now go back on the web to find out how to write, “Thank you very much” in Polish and send it back to show your appreciation.
Learning Aids - Since my schooldays language text books have moved on enormously! Now there is a vast range of very well produced entry-level courses for most European languages. The ‘BBC Talk...’ Series are excellent value for getting you started. I regret this site does not include a set of Portuguese translations but for just £6.99, BBC Talk Portuguese includes a selection of phrases that can be used on the air. The very first chapter offers us something useful: “Bom dia = Muito prazer = Chamo me Steve”, which means, “Hello, good morning = I am pleased to meet you = My name is Steve.” Easy and all done on the key or the keyboard so there are no pronunciation problems! The revision guides for GCSEs often have pages dedicated to themes like the weather and travel that could be incorporated in your QSO.