Language is the toughest part about traveling to another country. You can learn to eat different foods, you can use different bathrooms, you can even live differently than at home. But not knowing a language will keep you at a distance from those around you unless you can find some common language or another way to communicate. And while it’s impossible to learn every language, no matter how much time you have, you can at least learn the basics so you show the people you’re attempting to learn their language, and hopefully not get in any small misunderstandings that are cleared up by knowing a few words.
- Hello/ Goodbye – I put these together because they’re really a pair, and if you’re lucky the same word can be used for both.
- Good- Saying how you are, how your food is, how your room is, anything. You can avoid using hand gestures where they might be mistaken as vulgar.
- Yes/ no- These are the easiest words to learn and there’s really no excuse not to know them. the locals will most likely thank you for just trying.
- Please- Be polite. Depending on where you are they might not know “please” and so won’t recognize that you’re being polite. Besides, just take it one step further and be more polite by speaking in their language.
- Thank you- Same.
- How are you?- you’ll probably be asked this more than you’ll ask it, but it’s good to know that way you don’t get hung up right away on the greeting.
- I would like…- Polite way to ask for something. So you’re not just pointing like a caveman.
- How much is… – Again, this is better than a weird hang gesture and shrugging shoulders.
- Where is…- Maybe you won’t understand their answer back but at least they can point you in the right direction.
- Excuse Me- This is simply being polite too.
Why Learn Any of the Language?
Because it’s polite! Most of the words and phrases are simply to do with being polite, giving people a good impression of yourself, and not just walking all over them like an ignorant tourist. With any small group of words you’re never going to speak fluently but you can at least show that you’re trying, and use words that let them know you aren’t a pig.
Whenever I think of how it must be to be on the other side of it, be home with others coming and speaking a different language, it’s pretty annoying. It doesn’t happen often where I’m from, but when it does my first thought is “why don’t they know English?” which is extremely unfair. But, I notice, when someone doesn’t speak English, if they’re simply trying, saying “please” and “thank you” instead of just nodding, it makes a world of difference in my initial opinion of them. I know they’re not rude, and I’ll go out of my way to help them, or talk to them, whereas before I wouldn’t have been as keen.
Do you have a set of words you always learn? What are they and do you think they’re worth learning? Tell me in the comments below.