Recently I was hanging out at a coffee shop when a European tourist approached me and asked, “Excuse me, is there a wireless signal here?” I said “Yes.” After a little hesitation, due to her lack of fluency in English, she asked, “Free?”, and I said “Yes” again.

It occurred to me that she might not be that fluent in English, but knew how to ask if there was a wireless signal. It’s an important thing to learn, because an Internet connection is one of the most important tools for travelers (for me it comes only behind clothing, money, and identification).

My, how the world changes.

3 thoughts on “Better update those phrasebooks

  1. I recently had someone walking into Inza Coffee ask me, “Oh, is this a hot spot?” Finally realizing they meant wireless so I said yes. Do geeks normally use “hot spot”? I would just ask for free wireless or free internet.

  2. I don’t hear “hotspot” too often. I think it’s a holdover from when Wi-Fi was new and the next big thing. I normally say “Wi-Fi” or “wireless Internet”. Since “Wi-Fi” is a brand name and has a logo that goes with it, it’s the same in all languages — and probably the first thing I would try when visiting another country.

    I think Wi-Fi is great, but I wish it would be seen as an alternative to wires rather than nearly a complete replacement. The condo I’m currently renting had the electrical redone a few months before I moved in, but they didn’t wire it for a LAN, presumably because they figured whoever got it could use wireless to go between rooms. Wireless connections are slower, less reliable, require extra hardware for desktops, and a bit of a pain to install on Linux and BSD.

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