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Romantic adventures with an electronic translator

You never know who you might meet when you go abroad with a premium translation device.

I have a strange fondness for coach holidays.

Despite mostly catering for those in the mature age bracket, coach travel is fun and you can socialise with the other guests, as you sit back and enjoy the views. Coach holidays are an opportunity to make new friends and can often lead to longer-lasting relationships.

I’d like to tell you the story of one particular coach holiday I took through Tuscany – a journey that has stuck in my memory ever since.

Taking an electronic translator on holiday …

I flew from London to Pisa and was met by a representative of the coach company along with another British person – a charming, but slightly nervous, 70-year old lady. We immediately struck up a conversation and she told me how excited she was to be coming on this holiday.

Dorothy was a widow whose husband had died a few months earlier. She’d always wanted to visit Italy, and was convinced by her family to sign up for a coach holiday.

She only knew a few Italian phrases, but said she had an electronic translator – a two-way translation device that translates real life conversations – bought by her granddaughter as a going away present. It was simple and quick to use, even easier than her mobile phone, she said

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… makes communication so easy …

With our suitcases safely stowed, we boarded the coach and I took my seat next to a middle-aged German man.

“Sprechen sie Deutsch?” he said rather sternly.

“Nein,” I replied quietly. “Do you speak English?”

He shook his head. This was going to be difficult, I thought, as I stared out of the window, unsure of how we were going to communicate over the next week.

I was relieved to see that Dorothy had been allocated a seat across the aisle from me. Next to her was a rather handsome elderly Italian gentleman, and as she took her seat, they exchanged a few pleasantries in their broken English and Italian. “Giovanni,” I hear him say, and it all went quiet, as they presumably reached the limits of their foreign language ability.

Dorothy then reached into her handbag and pulled out a smart-looking electronic device. She switched it on, spoke into it and pressed a button. The device repeated her sentence in fluent Italian. The man next to her smiled and said something in reply that Dorothy didn’t understand. She gave him the electronic translator to speak into – he repeated his sentence, pressed the button and out came his reply in perfect English!

Dorothy laughed … Giovanni laughed … and I looked at the man next to me and giggled … nervously.

… you never know who you might meet!

For the rest of the week, Dorothy and Giovanni were inseparable. They took coffee together, ate together, and went for walks together in the places we stopped ­– learning to speak each other’s language all with the help of Dorothy’s amazing electronic translator.

Apart from the time spent driving through the glorious Tuscan countryside, my overriding memory of the trip is the joy and laughter Dorothy and Giovanni enjoyed as they shared experiences and learnt about the differences in their lives and cultures, using the electronic translator to communicate.

I finally caught up with Dorothy again in the departure lounge waiting for our flight home. When I asked her about Giovanni, she smiled.

“We’ve booked another coach holiday to Sicily,” she said. “I can’t wait! You should get one of these electronic translators … you never know who you might meet!”

Yes, I thought, as I put it on my Christmas list.

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