Getting the most from guides

This item appears on page 66 of the April 2008 issue.
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On a trip to Viet Nam and Laos, I was so distressed by overly loquacious and hard-to-understand guides that I am reluctant to take any more guided tours. Listening is tiring, especially for those of us with hearing problems and for everyone who has difficulty understanding speakers with foreign accents.

A good guide should be selective about the sights visited and knowledgeable about their hours and rules, especially regarding photography. Prior to a visit to a sight that is especially photogenic, he should advise people to bring their cameras.

If background information is important to the appreciation of a sight, a printed handout with necessary information about dates, names of historical persons and important events connected with the sight should be provided prior to arrival. He may also talk on the bus while commuting to the site and everyone is comfortably seated.

Upon arrival at the site, the guide should comment briefly on what is to be seen and its significance. He should then be available and able to answer questions.

We cannot expect foreign guides to speak BBC English, but pronunciation problems are exaggerated by loquaciousness. If the guide tries to tell us everything he knows, we will be overwhelmed and merely confused and frustrated. In many cases, English signs and inscriptions will give the interested visitors the information they want, and ample opportunity should be provided for reading them.

Most guides are sweet, conscientious people who try very hard to serve their groups. Frank and constructive feedback could help them do a better job.

KEN BENNETT

Torrance, CA

Please login or subscribe to ITN to read the entire post.

On a trip to Viet Nam and Laos, I was so distressed by overly loquacious and hard-to-understand guides that I am reluctant to take any more guided tours. Listening is tiring, especially for those of us with hearing problems and for everyone who has difficulty understanding speakers with foreign accents.

A good guide should be selective about the sights visited and knowledgeable about their hours and rules, especially regarding photography. Prior to a visit to a sight that is especially photogenic, he should advise people to bring their cameras.

If background information is important to the appreciation of a sight, a printed handout with necessary information about dates, names of historical persons and important events connected with the sight should be provided prior to arrival. He may also talk on the bus while commuting to the site and everyone is comfortably seated.

Upon arrival at the site, the guide should comment briefly on what is to be seen and its significance. He should then be available and able to answer questions.

We cannot expect foreign guides to speak BBC English, but pronunciation problems are exaggerated by loquaciousness. If the guide tries to tell us everything he knows, we will be overwhelmed and merely confused and frustrated. In many cases, English signs and inscriptions will give the interested visitors the information they want, and ample opportunity should be provided for reading them.

Most guides are sweet, conscientious people who try very hard to serve their groups. Frank and constructive feedback could help them do a better job.

KEN BENNETT

Torrance, CA