Essential Phrases to Know in a Foreign Language


Travelers are faced with foreign languages and cultures wherever they choose to travel. Learning every language in the world is not realistic. There are well over 6,000 in existence and even more different forms of dialect and regional differences between them. One of the most overwhelming things about going to a new country is not knowing the language and not being able to communicate effectively. Even if you know a handful of languages, eventually you encounter one that you can’t speak. This article goes over all the best phrases to learn before heading to a foreign country. This is important since, despite what high school language teachers like to teach you, introducing yourself only gets you so far.

1 – Where Is…

One of the most important things you have to communicate when in a foreign country is questions about where things are. You may need directions to a tourist attraction, a hospital, an embassy. No matter where you are, it’s very likely you need to ask for directions at some point or another. Master the words “where is” in whatever language is spoken at your destination. It’s just two words, so it’s easy to remember. That way you can point, act out, or show pictures of what you need to find. You can’t predict what you need help finding beforehand and memorize all the possible words, so it’s helpful to at least have this base for your sentence. Here are some helpful translations:

  • Spanish: Dónde está…
  • French: Où est…
  • German: Wo ist…

2 – Can You Help Me?

This is an excellent phrase to know in case people don’t know what you want from them or what you are trying to communicate. If they hear the word help, at least they know that you need something from them. That makes further communication much easier. Not to mention, it’s a good phrase to be aware of in case of any emergencies. Even if it’s something as simple as helping you check into an accommodation, interpret a map, or find your way. Here are some helpful translations:

  • Spanish: Me puedes ayudar?
  • French: Est-ce que tu peut m’aider?
  • German: Kannst du mir helfen?

3 – Please and Thank You

Knowing how to say please and thank you in the language of your destination goes a long way. Even if you don’t know any other words, attaching these to the beginnings and ends of your English sentences makes a great impression. It’s a good way to show a little respect for a foreign culture and be a respectful and thoughtful traveler. A lot of destinations are used to dealing with tourists who don’t speak their language. They are delighted when people make an effort to learn a little bit of their language. Using these words also helps travelers get better service and make friends in their foreign destinations. Here are some helpful translations:

  • Spanish: Por favor & gracias
  • French: S’il vous plait & merci
  • German: Bitte & danke

4 – Do You Speak English?

It may seem like a phrase that doesn’t need to be translated, but the word for English is different in some languages. Learning this phrase in a foreign language makes it easier to clear up who speaks what language in a conversation quickly. Here are some helpful translations:

  • Spanish: Habla usted Inglés?
  • French: Est-ce que vous parlez l’Anglais?
  • German: Sprichst du Englisch?

In conclusion, attempting to learn a whole language before a trip or before heading to a new country is sometimes too ambitious. Start with these necessities and then learn to build up the language skills in a couple of main languages.


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