New Series! Does Not Translate


trans·late (trāns’lāt’): v. 1. To put into simpler terms; explain or interpret.  2. When traveling, this is easier said than done.  When traveling with kids, it can be damn near impossible.

In my younger days, I had a Boy Scout mentality about traveling.  I believed that being prepared was key to survival.  And the number one way to be prepared?  A small dictionary with frequently used words and phrases.  After all, what situation can’t be better mitigated by being able to say “please,” “thank you” and “where can I find the pretty girls?” in the local tongue?

If you travel frequently, you eventually realize that there are experiences where there are just no words to adequately explain.  And when traveling with children, these situations seem to crop up even more often.  I realized this with stunning clarity while trying to explain my breast pump to a very large and non-English-speaking male security agent at the Istanbul airport.

Startled by its tell-tale “uhhr-uhhr-UHHR” sound — no doubt thinking it was some kind of bomb — my few words of Turkish left me feeling that there was no other option but to squeeze my own breast in rhythm to the sound.  In an Islamic country.  Probably not your best bet even if your breasts don’t automatically start leaking in response to clicking the pump’s on switch.  Luckily, a very nice female security guard came to my rescue before I did something really embarrassing.

I’d like to say that my Istanbul airport breast pump experience was a one of a kind.  But it’s not.  And as I’ve traveled more with my son, I’ve experienced more and more stuff that simply does. not. translate.  A sign.  A miscommunication.  Off-the-mark directions.  Holidays.  Local festivals.  Foodstuffs.  Toys.  So instead of making this the stuff of my annual holiday letter, I thought we’d bring it to you here.

So here it is, Travel Savvy Mom’s new series, Does Not Translate.  Come Monday, you’ll witness firsthand that talking Sesame Street toys vary greatly by country.  Sometimes frighteningly so.



  1. Lori Hilts says

    I have been (unsuccessfully) trying to learn Spanish. I heard Rosetta Stone is very good – I would love to be included in the drawing – thanks!

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