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Key Phrases to Learn Before International Travel

When traveling overseas, many travelers will often feel lost. Not just because of the unknown territory, but also because of the unknown language. You can avoid a lot of this stress by spending some time preparing and learning some basic key phrases in the local language. This will help you navigate these foreign streets, as well as help you make a great first impression with the locals. Here are some simple steps to start preparing for your upcoming trip and our top phrases to learn before traveling to another country.

Key Phrases Learning Tools:

Starting to learn a language can be a daunting task. If you have zero understanding of the language and if you’re crunched for time, here are some helpful tools that will help you translate and work on your pronunciation

Duolingo: the best way to learn a language for free. By taking their bite sized lessons, you will be a pro in no time at all!

Lang-8: Submit your pre-made sentences to the site to have native speakers correct it for free if your key phrases are short enough, a community of native speakers will support your language learning.

Google Translate: can be a useful tool on a practical level quickly translating day-to-day words you come across on your travels.

Bravolol PhrasebookBravolol was one of the apps featured on our top international travel apps. Download this app for key phrases in 13 languages. Easily look up translations as well as pronunciations without having to use any data.

*All apps are free for iOS and Android users.

6 Categories of Key Phrases:

We have split up the key phrases into 6 different categories: overcoming language barriers, small talk and greetings, on being polite, restaurant etiquette, shopping and money, and toilet tips. These are just the bare necessities, and you should always travel with a dictionary or translating app in case of emergencies.

1) Overcoming language barriers
Do you speak English?

Learning to ask “Do you speak English?” will ease language difficulties when abroad and will save you a ton of time. You should always start with this question. Many countries offer English as a second language in school and starting with this question can save you a lot of back and forth as locals try to understand your attempts at speaking their language.

Additional key phrases to learn:

  •       Do you speak…?
  •       I (don’t) understand.
  •       I speak a little…
  •       I (don’t) speak…

2) Small talk and greetings

Learning how to properly say “Hello” and greet someone according to their social and cultural customs can go a long way. When you are sightseeing and walking down the street, a simple hello greeting followed by a smile and eye-contact will radically change the way the locals perceive you and will instantly make them more open to helping you. Take things even further and learn other social niceties such good morning, afternoon, evening and good-bye.

Additional key phrases to learn:

  •       Goodbye
  •       My name is…
  •       I am from…
  •       How are you

3) On being polite
Please, Thank you, I’m Sorry and Excuse me

Being polite goes a long way when you are abroad especially when you do not speak the language. Similar to learning how to say hello, learning these niceties will help you appear more approachable and respectful of local culture. “Please” and “thank you” might seem like small and trivial phrases, but even small shows of politeness can make a big difference when socializing with locals. “Excuse me” is an extremely versatile phrase. It can imply “Sorry” or “Pardon” or “I don’t understand,” signifying someone’s attention, to make your way through a large crowd or as a blanket response when you don’t completely comprehend what someone is saying.

4) Restaurant etiquette
Water, Menu, Do you accept credit card

Even though most food establishments hire employees that are able to understand the basics of a few languages, it would be beneficial for everyone to learn how to order and ask for the basics. You should also research the overall restaurant etiquette of a country, such as customs for tipping.

Additional key phrases to learn:

  •       Can we have the check?
  •        Learn all of your allergies in the local language

5) Shopping and Money
Numbers 1-10, How much does this cost?

Memorizing “Numbers 1-10,” can be a great bargaining tool when dining and shopping especially if you’re on a budget. Learning to count and saying “How much” will help keep stores and sellers honest and will prevent you from overspending. If you don’t feel confident about understanding prices, carry a travel journal and gesture for them to write the price down.

Additional key phrases to learn:

  •       Could I see this/that one?
  •       Do you have size – small/large/medium?
  •       What is the cheapest offer?
  •       Where can I exchange money?

6) Toilet Tips
Where is the Restroom? Left, right, straight

Make sure you know how to say “Where is the restroom?” before you leave. Most travelers have at one point had to make a mad dash for the bathroom and know just how stressful it can be. Navigating foreign toilets can be traumatic but learning a few key toilet phrases can make travel less stressful.  You can either learn to pronounce the full sentence or copy it into your travel journal for when you need it most.

Knowing the phrase for “where is” can cover a variety of situations. Generally, it will probably help you find the nearest toilet, but it can also help with directions to various locations, or finding a particular object in a store you’d like to buy.

Additional key phrases to learn:

  •       Where is the restaurant….?
  •       Where is the hotel….?
  •       Where is the hospital…?
  •       Where is the bus/train station…?

This basic list of phrases can help you enormously when you’re planning for your next trip. For those of you still looking to create a travel itinerary, use the TRAVO instant trip planner to create end-to-end itineraries.

Have any other key phrases to learn before international travel? Share them below!


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