What's Arabic for "Turd"?

You never know when being able to say "This please?" or "Help!I'm lost!" in Vietnames could come in handy. What if you woke up tomorrow only to find out that you were a brain-washed secret government sleeper agent who botched a mission in Namibia only to be abandoned by the US government with no cash in the middle of the Arabian desert?
Okay, so maybe that's not likely. But being able to properly pronounce "Beef Bon bu zo" will get you a long way with the waitress at your favorite Vietnamese restaurant. You know, the one who perpetually seems to have metal shavings stuck all up in her lady business.

There are lots of free tools for picking up a second language on the internet. But, if you've ever tried, you know that "picking up" a second language is about as easy as picking up a backhoe with your teeth.

Fortunately, our tiny, simian brains are fairly able to retain and use key phrases in a foreign language without needing to understand things like first person polite plural form or aglutinative verb conjugation. We have an amazing capacity to hear, repeat, retain, and then reuse phrases and sentences. After all, that's how we learned to speak when we were children: first by listening (for a few years mind you) then by repeating phrases and experimenting with words while being completely and totally unafraid to make mistakes. These attributes are essential to keep in mind if you really want to become fluent in a foreign language, but are also useful if you want to aim for the broader, less concentrated goal of simply picking up a few key phrases and proper pronunciation in a number of foreign languages.

I've found a wonderful website aimed at accomplishing these goals. Survival Phrases is a language learning website that offers free podcast lessons on basic phrases in Arabic, Bulgarian, Chinese, Japanese, (dirty knees, look at these) Russian, and others. The lessons are short-- meaning they don't overload you with the extra grammar and conjugation information that a someone looking to study the language in-depth would find neccessary. Instead, the lesson concentrates intently on the clear pronunciation and repetitive reinforcement of basic, or "survival" phrases. All the podcasts are free. But if your interest goes further, you can also pay for a subscription that will give you access to PDF worksheets from the lessons and other learning tools.

Personally, I'm looking to get into some Vietnamese, Chinese, French, and Bulgarian. I made a very good Bulgarian friend while I was in Japan, but the only word she taught me was "Selanduur", the Bulgarian word for "RedNeck".

If you're like most people, you probably don't have the time, interest, or motivation to become fully fluent in a foreign language. But with a little bit of study, at least you'll be able to order your food without looking like a complete ass.