While it’s true you can find people that speak English in just about any country, taking the time to learn ten basic phrases before you travel will go a long way toward helping you feel more comfortable in a new country. Additionally, you’ll find that locals will go a long way if they see you making a sincere attempt at communicating with them in their native language. Before you panic, no one is suggesting you enroll in an intensive language course. With help from one of the many available apps, you can master these phrases quickly and easily. Who knows, maybe you’ll discover you have a gift for languages?
Before you travel, download an app like DuoLingo, Fodor’s Travel Phrases, or BBC Languages to your smartphone. Then, in the comfort and privacy of your own home, practice, practice, practice. Keep in mind that no matter how well you say the phrases, you will have a funny accent to a native speaker. And, that’s okay. Think about people you know whose native language is not English. If you’re like most people you appreciate the fact that they can speak English; you don’t dwell on their accent. The same holds true when you travel. Do the best you can and don’t worry too much about perfection.
- Saying please is important. Learn it. Use it.
- Thank you. See above.
- Excuse me. While you could just tap someone on the shoulder or jump up and down waving your arms to get someone’s attention, “Excuse me” is a safer, more polite way to go.
- Where is…? It’s always nice to know where you are and where you’re going. This phrase works especially well if you have a map to use as a visual aid.
- I don’t understand. Even if you have a rudimentary understanding of a language it’s likely you will have to ask a native speaker to slow down or explain again. Don’t be shy to use this phrase.
- I need a doctor/police/embassy. Hopefully, you’ll never have to use this phrase but it’s a good one to know.
- How much? Odds are you will shop while you travel. This phrase, along with a money converter app (like XE Currency) will save you money and confusion.
- I would like… This doesn’t always come to mind when you think of essential phrases but pay attention to how often you use it at home. It’s surprisingly useful.
- Do you speak English? Obvious but important.
- I’m lost. It happens to the most seasoned traveler. Suck it up and ask the first and kindest looking person you see before you get more lost. This is another phrase that works even better if you have a map.