The RS organization now offers a series of phrases books and language dictionaries. I think these are new products (new to me) or at least they are new editions. When I was a kid, I had a Spanish phrase book/dictionary that was published in 1949. It was fun to thumb through but I suppose the RS books are more useful tools.
These books have been around for a while. I’ll bet there are some phrases you’ll never find in the book you have from my birth year!
You don’t need to carry another book. There are lots of apps that will do this job on your mobile phone without adding any weight to your luggage. I have recently thrown out several phrase books in French, Spanish and Portuguese as I haven’t used them for years.
I don't talk alot on my solo travels. I take photocopies of the phrases pages of the guidebooks I get from the library. If I was to take a communication book, I would take Point It. It is a small lightweight book of photos for all occasions. No misinterpretations. If you need a pharmacy, fish or personal care product, there is a picture to point at.
Google Translate. Download the language you need and you can use it offline. You can even hold a conversation in two different languages.
The problem with a phrasebook is you get to ask your question in the local language but won't 't understand the response.
RS phrasebooks have been around for quite a while. In fact, when we first started taking RS tours, about 10 years ago, the phrasebooks were included in our tour kits!
I find them very useful, especially the "menu decoder" sections. I don't take any other phrasebooks, but I have been known to take or buy pocket dictionaries. Last year I found a wonderful French-English dictionary at a newsstand in Paris. I took it home with me, and the security people at CDG airport were exclaiming about the book, wanting to know where I got it.
I like the phrase book for Spanish...because I already understand the basics of the language but might not know the phrase for some travel-specific thing. I can look at a given phrase and understand the meaning of the unfamiliar word and how to use it (what verbs it goes with, its gender if it’s a noun, etc). I’m also able to understand likely responses, assuming the speaker uses simple language.
But I find it’s not that useful for languages I don’t understand at all. For me that’s German especially. I don’t get German, I don’t understand the structure or the sound because I’ve never studied it beyond learning a few politeness words. The phrase book isn’t that useful because I can’t place the phrases in context, use them to make my own sentences, or understand answers. Google translate is easier at this level.
I have to admit when I went to Stockholm in August I was pleased as punch to spend some of my money on a phrase book at the airport. I love having those little things to reference and not having to look every single thing up on my phone. Call me analog!!