Even though English is widely spoken, it is still highly recommended to learn a few phrases in the language of the country you are visiting. It greatly increases rapport with the locals, it’s faster than looking for someone who speaks English and is a good gateway in getting to know the culture a bit more. Nobody is expecting anyone to become fluent in every language but even knowing just a few basic phrases and words can go a long way. Now you can use Google Translate which even says it outloud for you, you can still go the old fashioned way and bring a dictionary or there are several guidebooks that contain useful words and phrases to know. There are several pertinent ones that not only gives you some extra brownie points with the locals but will come in super handy in certain situations.
Important Words and Phrases to Learn
- Do you speak English? This will go a long way! It saves time and you can get help a lot faster
- Please and thank you Just these couple words can establish a good rapport and can define you from those who don’t
- Hello goodbye Also important even though they are the most basic words. You’ll be able to greet anybody without giving yourself away as a total ignorant tourist
- My name is Good to know when talking to locals or meeting someone who doesn’t know English very well. Breaks the ice very quickly
- Excuse me Always good to know when you need to squeeze by a crowd but don’t want to be yelling “excuse me!”
- I don’t understand If the blank stares don’t work, this will help communicate that you don’t know the language and you don’t understand what’s going on
- Bathroom You could learn “where is the bathroom” but most people will understand if you say bathroom in a question tone
- 1-10 Handy to know if you’re taking a taxi or shopping
- How much? Along with knowing numbers, it’s good to know how to ask how much something costs
- Help! Important to know in case of emergency
- I’m allergic to If you have very serious allergies, this is one to know. Also learn what the words are for what you’re allergic to!
- Where is the Helpful to find directions which then hopefully the person responding will be able to point them out. Or useful when taking a taxi you can ask them and say yes.
Write the words down on a cheat sheet and have it with you at all times traveling. You can’t expect that you’ll always be in a situation or place where someone speaks English and knowing even just the basic words can be of a great help. If you can have data on your phone, Google Translate is the next best tool. If not, a guidebook will work and they usually have pages of helpful words and more complex sentences. Body language goes a long way but in many cases it’s just not enough. Take it upon yourself to be prepared and learn some new words!
What other words or phrases do you recommend to learn? Share them in the comments below!