I was browsing around on my Facebook page and saw an ad for a T-Shirt. It caught my attention because of the Headline: COMPANY INVENTS TRAVELER T-SHIRT WITH 40 ICONS TO LET YOU COMMUNICATE IN ANY COUNTRY EVEN IF YOU DON’T SPEAK THE LANGUAGE. Whoa! What a brilliant idea I thought. Already, my head’s churning as to when these T-Shirts would have come handy in some travel situations.
Here’s a case in point. I was driving around in France and ended up in some random village. I was very thirsty and couldn’t find in a convenience store (typical in Europe). I found a restaurant with an outdoor patio and seated myself waiting for the waiter. I checked for internet connections so I can use Google translate to be able to communicate with the waiter. But this village was out in the furthest reaches in the French countryside and there was no signal whatsoever.
Out comes the waiter and gestured that he was ready to take my order. I don’t know how to speak French at all and the only words I know are from perfume commercials I’ve seen on T.V. From it, I know that Eau de Toilette means toilet water or something like that (ignorant American I know). So I figured if I leave out the “Toilette” part, the other part means water right? Right? So I told the waiter, with the best attempt of pronouncing the word Eau to “eww.” I want some “eww,” I said.
The waiter looks at me with a confused look on his face and shakes his head and says, “Kii?” I formed a semi-fist with my hand and gestured an action of drinking a glass and said, “Just “eww” please. Glass of “eww.” He stared blankly at me and says nothing. Frustrated, I pointed at the canal that had a little stream of running water and said “eww” that “eww.” I think a light bulb must’ve turned on in his head because he ran right into the kitchen and then brings back. A bottle of white wine.
So you can see why I was excited about a product like this, if I had that t-shirt with the water faucet Icon on, it would have saved the day! I would have gotten water instead of wine.
The product is made by the guys over at ICONSPEAK. Their “about us” section states this purpose of their products (taken directly from their website):
“When were you the last time in a situation where no language or hand gesture that you master was sufficient to get you what you wanted? Imagine you are abroad – in a foreign country, in a foreign culture, maybe while travelling the world. That’s what we did, travelling the world – partially, well the three of us combined almost completely. In the furthest and deepest corners of our world we were repeatedly left with no words, either in breathtaking awe due to the sceneries or in empty silence, due to our lacking linguistic talents. Such situations got us thinking about how to bridge language barriers with utmost simplicity, on a global level. The answer came to us after a remarkable experience in the depths of Vietnamese backcountry (see more in our blog, Chapter 1); ICONs. Because with ICONs, you can SPEAK, you can SPEAK to the world.”
So far I think it’s a pretty good idea, except for the part where you could potentially stick out like a sore thumb as a tourist. But, hey if you’re in a foreign land, you’re going to look like a tourist no matter what you do anyways. I mean if you have blue eyes and blonde hair in Asia, you’re not going to blend in incognito, just no way.
Okay so now you’re sticking out like a sore thumb as a tourist and are getting targeted because of the t-shirt. What then? Say you’re getting robbed. That would render the police icon on your t-shirt virtually useless. What are you going to do? Do you point at your tits hoping to discourage the criminals from taking your belongings? I mean, seriously. If you got yourself in a situation where you’re pointing at your tits to criminals you’re doing something wrong. Don’t put yourself in that situation.
So far the downsides aren’t enough to negate the usefulness of the t-shirts. Yes, it’s probably best you learn a few phrases of the country’s language before you go there. A dictionary would probably help too. But sometimes, it’s just convenient to point to a body part to communicate something.
This is my personal opinion. I have no affiliations with ICONSPEAK or any products mentioned in this article.
ANY TAKERS? WHAT DO YOU GUYS THINK?