If you’re traveling abroad to a country where you don’t speak the primary language fluently, you’ll likely want to pick up a few useful travel phrases before getting off the plane. Of course, it’s helpful to know how to say basic greetings, express gratitude, indicate ‘yes’ or ‘no’ and ask where the bathroom is — and showing your interest in and respect for the language and culture you’re stepping into can go a long way when interacting with local residents.
Beyond the standard introductions, here are a five useful travel phrases to learn in another language to make your travels easy, safe, and fun:
“I don’t speak…”
Let’s get this one out of the way: if you don’t speak the local language, you should be prepared to simply tell people that right at the start of your conversation, before there’s any chance for miscommunication. Learn how to say “I don’t speak [language X] very well” and how to ask “Do you speak English?” so you’ll be able to navigate conversations (and know how important hand gesturing will be!). If you’re an intermediate-level or higher foreign language learner and can decently understand the spoken language, it’ll also be useful to learn how to ask someone to speak more slowly, or to repeat something they’ve said. It’s up to you to gauge the attitude and helpfulness of the people you speak with, but in many cases, they’ll be happy to talk at a slower pace and help you get some language speaking practice in!
“Which way is…?”
No matter how good you (or your smartphone) may be with maps, at some point during your travels abroad, you’ll probably need to ask for directions. In preparation for your trip, you should memorize how to ask “where” or “which way” to a sight of interest as well as to name cardinal directions and say “left,” “right,” and “straight ahead” in the native language so that you’ll be able to correctly interpret the directions you’re given and find what you’re looking for.
“What is your WiFi password?”
This is 2015. Chances are, you’ll have your phone glued to your hand, ready to send a text or snap a picture at any given moment throughout your trip. And as we all know, that can eat up a lot of your data plan, and tapping into free wireless internet in public places, stores, restaurants, and hotels can be a real life (and money!) saver. If you’re not sure if there’s WiFi in any given place, it’s worth asking, and it can be very useful to learn how to ask if there’s free WiFi and what the password is in the local language. In the event that there is an access code, be ready to ask someone to write it down for you — or to make a scribbling gesture with your hand to indicate that you’ll need to see it in writing.
“What do you recommend?”
This little question can go a long way in making your travel abroad a fun and memorable experience. In addition to the question itself, you’ll want to learn at least five verbs to pair it with in the foreign language you’re studying: “to eat,” “to drink,” “to see,” “to do,” and “to go.” Used together, you’ll then be able to ask for recommendations of restaurants or menu items and the most interesting local sights to see or things to do in the area. After all, natives know best, so you certainly shouldn’t hesitate to ask for their advice!
“Can you take my/our picture?”
You won’t always find this one in travel guidebooks, but it’s certainly a phrase you’ll use a lot when traveling to a scenic location! Learn how to ask passersby to take your picture — and how to offer to take theirs in return — in the local language so you can come home with lasting photographic memories of your time abroad.