I used to not want to travel to any country where I didn’t speak the language. Then I realized how much that limited me! Certainly, speaking the local language gives you a leg up as a visitor, but I’ve found that even putting out just a little effort in learning a few phrases gets you respect from locals, who are more willing to help you.
If I had to pick five phrases that you should learn before visiting a place, this is what they’d be.
This is a no-brainer, and the easiest to pick up. Even if you don’t look up the words before you go, walk in any store, and you’ll instantly learn how locals greet one another. I like to pick up on the hyper-local greetings. For example, I noticed in Tuscany, specifically Cinque Terre, lots of people said “ciao ciao” upon leaving rather than “arrivederci.”
2. Thank You/You’re Welcome
A little politeness can go a long way, no matter where you are. Even if you conduct your transactions in English, tack on a “thank you” in the local language and see if the person you’re talking to doesn’t smile.
3. Where is the Bathroom?
Soooo essential! If you’re unfamiliar with where restrooms are in a country, you can get pretty panicky when you have to go. And if no one speaks English? Scary. Keep in mind some countries call it a toilet. A WC. A bathroom. Americans are odd in calling it a restroom, when we don’t actually go there to rest!
4. I Would Like…
Wherever in the world you go, you’re going to be at a restaurant, so this is a great line to learn. You can add “coffee,” “wine,” or whatever you know you’re going to order to your language learning list so that you’re prepared to enjoy food and drink.
Again, a tiny word of politeness that will bring great results. Use it frequently, even with English.
Don’t worry about perfect pronunciation. Locals just like to see that you’re trying ot speak their language.