I'm in Istanbul Turkey this week where I got a chance to test out the Lingo Navigator, a $70 pocket-sized gadget that translates and speaks out-loud in Turkish and 11 other languages. You can hear the Lingo itself and my comments on my podcast.
But as it turns out, I didn't use the gadget all that much. Even though most Turkish people I ran into don't speak English, some do; and you can always get around by pointing and smiling a lot. While riding on a mini-bus in a suburb of Istanbul, I ran into a 17-year-old student named Acar Einc who spoke surprisingly good English. When asked how he learned so well he said he took it in school but got a lot better chatting with fellow players on World of Warcraft, a "massively multiplayer online role playing game" used throughout the world. Some of his fellow players are from English speaking countries but many are from Japan, Germany and Scandinavia who use English as their common language. I had never thought about this before, but this strikes me as a big advantage of Internet-based game playing and social networking.
And speaking of speaking, I've been talking, texting and emailing the folks back home thanks to a Blackberry from Verizon Wireless and a Samsung Ace from Sprint. Even though most phones from these companies don't work on most continents, the companies do have a few GSM phones that work jus fine over here. You can get the details in my column "A World Away, U.S. Phone Service is Swell".
In the mean time, I'll continue to enjoy Istanbul for a couple more days. It's both an antiquated and modern city with an incredible night-life, warm and friendly people and, yes, more than enough technology to keep me busy when I'm not devouring kabobs, incredible yogurt and, of couse, "Turkish Delight."