Fortunately, nearly 800 million people around the world speak English but even with this knowledge, traveling around in a country where English isn’t the native tongue can prove to be a tricky thing to do.
The good news is you don’t need to speak any language fluently to get by, just a few simple phrases in the official language of whatever country you intend to visit. These seven phrases aren’t the only ones you need to know, but they are a good place to start in your next travel adventure.
Speaking politely and effectively is a part of proper travel etiquette. This phrase, in my opinion, is the most important and useful ways to strike up a conversation, even more than a “hello.” This works if you are lost, need to know the time, or if you accidentally bump into someone!
Do you speak?
This question will help immensely if you want to overcome the language barrier. If time is of the essence and you need to find a place fast, this phrase will help guide you to someone who can speak with you in English if you desperately need it.
This phrase works wonders if you are looking for a street, hotel or museum. I knew just enough German to ask a man walking with his grandson where a specific street was, and I was able to understand that I was close and had two options. I found it in less than five minutes based off of one month of practicing German and understanding body language!
I Don’t Understand
This can be said to someone who is genuinely trying to help you (such as giving directions), and to ward off people trying to scam you (such as getting you to buy something!)
Please and Thank You
These you should know just to be polite to strangers!
In any language, it’s great to know the proper way to toast before you having a drink!
Since 25% of the world has a basic understanding of English, there is a high chance that the people you address will greatly appreciate your attempt at speaking their language and will respond in English almost immediately. But that is not always the case, which is why these phrases are important to know.
The reason I find these phrases to be so useful is because I have used them time and again during my travels. One of my most vivid memories in Lithuania was approaching some elder locals and beginning in broken Lithuanian, “Excuse me, do you speak English?” When they shook their heads to tell me ‘no’, I replied, “Do you speak Russian?” When they nodded, I asked them, in Russian, where the nearest Church was. It was such a memorable experience that I will continue to use these phrases in any language that is prevalent in the country that I am exploring, and I plan to add more useful phrases to this list in the meantime.