While I was making my way through Southeast Asia last September, Andrew and Erin Kitchell were busy developing 30 Words, a new series of language guides they believe the marketplace lacked and travelers would actually use. Erin offered to send me a few copies of the South and Central American Spanish, and European Spanish guides in exchange for a review.
My approach to using language guides on my trip around the world was simply…to not use them. I would learn a few pleasantries upon arrival in a new country, and completely ignore the language guides buried in the back of my Lonely Planets. I certainly didn't want to lug around my massive China guidebook every time I went out to explore my surroundings.
When I decided to live in Colombia, I finally invested in a Spanish-English dictionary, but even the smallest pocket-size versions were so thick they could not fit comfortably in a pair of jeans. My dictionary, albeit small, was relegated to in-apartment use only.
When the 30 Words guides arrived, I saw exactly what Andrew and Erin were aiming to do with their new approach. Each Passport-sized (4″ x 5″), one ounce, folding guide comes in a protective sleeve, not that you would need it. The material is as durable as claimed. I applied serious force to try and tear it, but to no avail. I also verified they're waterproof, so getting soaked in a tropical downpour while carrying one would not be an issue. If you've ever had to air-dry a paperback book, you can recognize the benefit of this design!
Each guide includes 700 words and phrases, with the verbs, nouns, adjectives, and grammar on one side and logistical support on the opposite side, including high-level categories such as scheduling, numbers & time, transportation, accommodation, and food & drinks. An interesting, additional feature is an erasable page dedicated to notes and a medical card which you can fill in by pencil or pen.
On the 30 Words website, they also offer the opportunity for individuals to customize their guide by printing additional pages with phrases geared toward specific activities such as surfing, hitchhiking or meeting people (ie. dating).
Currently, the 30 Words Spanish guides are the only ones available for purchase, however as I type, they are printing up versions in Arabic, Mandarin, French, and German. Each guide costs $8.95.
Erin was kind enough to send me an extra copy of each Spanish version, so if you would like one, be the first to leave a comment requesting “South & Central American” or “European” Spanish.