Sonderbooks Book Reviews by Sondra Eklund

Sonderbooks Stand-out 2005
Buy from

Rate this Book

Sonderbooks 98
    Previous Book
    Next Book

        Previous Book
        Next Book

Young Adult Fiction
Children's Nonfiction
Children's Fiction
Picture Books

2005 Stand-outs
    Previous Book
    Next Book

2004 Stand-outs
2003 Stand-outs
2002 Stand-outs
2001 Stand-outs

Five-Star Books
Four-Star Books
    Previous Book
    Next Book

Old Favorites
Back Issues
List of Reviews by Title
List of Reviews by Author

Why Read?
Children and Books
Links For Book Lovers
Book Discussion Forum

About Me
Contact Me
Make a Donation

I don't review books I don't like!

*****= An all-time favorite
****  = Outstanding
***    = Above average
**     = Enjoyable
*       = Good, with reservations


****Here Speeching American

A Very Strange Guide to English as it is Garbled Around the World

by Kathryn Petras and Ross Petras

Reviewed August 2, 2005.
Villard Books, New York, 2004.  223 pages.
Sonderbooks Stand-out 2005 (#3, Humorous Nonfiction)

I couldn’t pick up this book without laughing out loud, and usually reading bits to poor innocent bystanders.  This book is full of actual garbled English found in print around the world.

I laugh at these mistakes with a dose of humility.  This book also provides a word of caution to anyone who dares to speak in a language not his own.  I’m sure if I were to try to print German instructions, I would make mistakes just as bad.

After all, how is a non-native speaker possibly to know that you shouldn’t talk about driving a convertible “topless”?  A simple translation says that the sign at the Rheinfall in Switzerland should be correct, but to an English speaker it’s hilarious:  “Caution:  Danger of Life.”

The above are my own examples from German-speaking countries, but this book contains examples from all over the world.

My favorite is one we encountered years ago in a “Stupidest Things” daily calendar:

From a wrapper on a complimentary hotel toothbrush in Japan:  “The toothbrush is an indispensable part of enjoying life.  I brush my teeth every day.  I have a wonderful time.  I like my toothbrush.  I was won’t to get up early.”

Here’s another good one from a hotel in Tokyo:  “Is forbitten to steal hotel towels please.  If you are not person to do such thing is please not to read notis.”

And I love this instruction from a Japanese driving manual:  “Beware of greasy corner where lurk skid demon.  Cease step on, approach slowly, round cautiously, resume step on gradually.”

I’ve always thought phrase books are rather silly.  Here’s a phrase that one textbook’s authors thought would be handy for new English speakers to know:  “You’ve mistaken that banana for a telephone!”

I shouldn’t pick on the Japanese.  A brochure for French Canal Cruises reads, “In France, you can cruise on many canals and see the peculiarities.”

A billboard from the Philippines states:  “Drive Carefully.  Your lovers are waiting for you.”

A sign outside a carpet shop in Istanbul reads:  “Sorry—We’re Open.”

And of course, the book’s title comes from a sign in a shop in Spain:  “English well talking.  Here speeching American.”

Copyright © 2005 Sondra Eklund.  All rights reserved.

-top of page-