Traveling is amazing. It can be an eye-opener. It can be relaxing. It can be whatever you want it to be. Yet the one thing you should not let it be – is it keeping you ignorant. Don’t assume that wherever you go, they speak your language. This is especially valid for English speakers considering how international English is. So, if you know you are traveling to a foreign country whose native tongue is not English, then you attempting to at least speak and understand a few small phrases will go a long way in making your trip much smoother, including the opportunity to connect with locals.

We’ve listed a few areas you might want to consider practicing and pepping up your language skills.

The Formalities

This one is given. Just as you do in your native tongue, this group of phrases includes the most basic words and phrases however often the most important to get any conversation going.

Learn words such as

  • Hello
  • Goodbye
  • Please
  • Thank You
  • How are you?
  • I do not understand (alternatively – I do not speak “insert language”)

If you can cover these basics, then you’ll not only gain the respect of locals who see you’re trying but may just get you out of a strange situation. Especially the last phrase.

The Airport Lingo

Just because “travel” as a word itself is international, don’t expect airlines and/or airports by default to use English or your native tongue. Many airlines that do not have their headquarters in an English speaking country will often use English in a limited fashion. This is also true for many airports. Yes, the big airlines, the big airports may covers english and often other languages, however, don’t expect a flight attendant to as you what meal option you would like during the flight in your language. Hence, learn a few basic words:

  • Landing
  • Take-off
  • Meal option
  • Seat belt
  • Turbulence
  • Drink
  • Gate

The Directions

Now that you have arrived. Where do you go? What do you say? Your standing between the tourist information office at the airport and the line of Taxis. What next? Logically, a few words in regards to location and directions. You are going to want to know how to ask or say various words or phrases that relate to orientations and where something is. These will include basics such as:

  • ATM
  • Public transportation
  • Restrooms
  • Tourist attractions
  • Left
  • Right
  • Above
  • Below
  • Where is the street “insert name”?

Now while the topic of transportation could be one of its own, we decided to include it here. Keywords such as train or airport will help you get around your destination. This is also true if you plan to rent a car. Make sure you look up traffic signs and signals as well as other related info in regards to the destination country.

The currency

Learning how to communicate about currencies can helpIf you are traveling to a country that has a different currency, then not only will you want to get familiar with the exchange rate and the value of the currency versus your own, you’ll want to know how to ask prices so if you go to somewhere with a market you can hold your ground. Learning a few basic numbers and how to ask will go a long way to help you understand the currency of your destination country.

Phrases include:

  • Price
  • How much does it cost? (What is the price?)
  • Numbers 1-10 and then every 10 after that

The Time

In case your not a watch wearer or don’t have access to the time or in case you need to know when something starts/leaves/happens, you’ll want to know how to ask for the time. Understanding how to ask, including minutes and hours, will make you happier then you think. Phrases include:

  • The time (What time is it?)
  • When does it start/leave/open?
  • How long do you need?
  • I need X time

The Emergency

A most crucial one, especially when traveling to foreign countries. Being prepared ahead of time and knowing what the numbers are is one thing. However, making sure you can ask for a hospital or the police while on the street is another. Learn both and make your trip smoother, knowing you have the knowledge in a “just in case” scenario.

  • Police station
  • Hospital
  • Ambulance
  • Embassy

The You

Last, but not least it may help to say a few things about yourself. Especially if you like meeting people. Knowing how to say your name or why you’re here goes a long way in starting a conversation. This too is very true if you plan to use an alternative method of accommodation versus just being locked up in a hotel room. On top of this, it may help during customs and/or immigration processes in case you get asked any questions. Brief but simple.

  • My name is…
  • I am here for…
  • I work as…
  • This is my…

It may seem like a lot, but all these basics are quick things you can learn if you prepare ahead of time or while you travel. Not only will it make your trip smoother, but will also open doors when it comes to meeting new people and understanding other perspectives and cultures. One of the beauties of traveling. Communication is key and just like anything else in life, it’s easier to be understood than misunderstood.

What else do you think is important to learn while traveling in regards to language. Did we miss anything? What do you usually learn and how do you learn it? We’d love to hear in the comments below.

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