Traveling is obviously a great way to learn about other cultures, visit historical sites and savor different cuisines. There are plenty of guides out there to help you find tourist destinations and restaurants, and you can get by pretty well these days using your phone to navigate, even in a country you’ve never visited. But the old wisdom of your high school Spanish teacher still holds true: your trip will be better (and safer) if you can communicate at least a little with the locals, even if they don’t speak English. Here are the phrases you should learn in the language spoken in your destination country before you fly away.
The basic phrases you need to know
Before traveling to a country where English is not the primary language spoken, review the basics. Learn to say these phrases in the language most spoken in the region you are visiting:
- “Do you speak English?” This one will probably be the most useful phrase in your arsenal, as it will help you find people you can actually converse with. (You should also learn, “I’m sorry, but I don’t speak…” so that it’s clear from the start that you don’t know their native language. Bonus points if you learn, “I only know a little…”)
- “Hello and goodbye.”
- “Please and thank you.”
- “Excuse me.”
- “My name is…” and “I am a visitor from the United States.
- “How much does it cost?”
- “Where is…?”
- Plus “…bathroom”, “…hotel” and any other destination you’ll probably need.
- “To help.”
Agnieszka Pilat, an artist who often travels for work, also suggested learning a few modern-only ones: “What’s the wifi password?” will be useful if you don’t have cell service and “Can I use your electrical outlet?” will help you keep your phone charged at all times.
More specific phrases you should master
There’s definite value in learning the basics, whether it’s asking where the bathroom is or, “Can I please have an iced coffee?” However, each trip is unique. If you’re going to Germany for a conference, for example, you should learn to ask for directions to the venue or, “Are there discounted rates available for attendees from…?”
Then there are more serious details. Nivine Jaya Los Angeles-based model who travels frequently for work and funny, told Lifehacker that on a recent trip to Europe with her best friend, the duo had to be extra careful because the other woman has a severe nut allergy. They had to learn to say, “I am/she is allergic to nuts. Are there any nuts in there? » If you have unique medical needs or similar concerns, learn as many phrases as possible to avoid a surprise visit to the hospital. (Pilat also mentioned that you should learn, “I don’t feel well. Please take me to a doctor.” Even if you have translation problems, a doctor is better than Nope doctor in case of emergency.)
While you’re at it, review “I need to go to the American Embassy” and “I need to talk to someone who speaks English.” It’s unlikely that you’ll need to be taken to an embassy or get into any kind of trouble, but you’ll feel better knowing you can ask for help anyway.