Going to Europe this summer? Don’t forget to take the time to brush up on the local language – unless your travels will be exclusively in the British Isles. Sure, English travels well in most places around the globe, but Europeans really appreciate it if you attempt to communicate in the local language (even if it’s mediocre). Think about it, how would you feel if tourists suddenly approached you and asked you for something in a language you don’t even understand?
But it isn’t only because the locals appreciate the attempt. There are a few places in Europe where the locals understand very little English. For example, if your travel plans include Madrid, you’ll definitely want to know some Spanish phrases, because few Madrileños (as they are colloquially known) speak English including the major tourist areas. And if your travel plans take you to places outside of the major tourist centers, then a few local phrases are a must.
What phrases should you know? A command of the following English phrases in the target language are essential:
- Hello; good morning; good afternoon; good night; goodbye
- How are you?
- Thank you
- You’re welcome
- Where is…?
- A table for one/two please
- I would like…
- I’m looking for…
- I’m from…
- I want to go to…(for taxi and Uber rides)
Additionally, you should know the local words for water, bread, coffee, breakfast, lunch, dinner, beer, wine, or any of your favorite foods on a daily basis. In case of emergency, a few phrases in emergency lingo will come in handy.
How should you master the suggested phrases before your trip? I recommend using Duolingo. It’s a free language-learning app available on most mobile devices. All you do is sign up for a free account and pick the language you wish to learn, and most of the common European languages are available for selection. It is even available for false beginners. I use it to maintain my command of Spanish, learn German and since I’m going to be working in Poland, I’m using it to learn Polish. Rosetta Stone is another popular option. Moreover, certain airlines offer language courses in their entertainment systems, so you could pick up a few words during the 8 hour plus flight (unless you prefer sleeping through the flight). Of course, phrase books are another option if you prefer something on paper.
Now certain European languages are just dang on hard to grasp. However, you should attempt to learn a few words in French, German, Spanish, Italian and Portuguese.
When attempting to communicate in the local language, do not be offended if the recipient responds in English. They are not necessarily mocking your pathetic attempt to speak local. They may in fact speak English and feel you’ll understand if they communicate in English. Everyone’s happy!
So happy travels and remember to try and make an impression. Who knows, you might even make new friends across the pond! It’s always important to show respect for the people and culture. After all, you’re a guest in their country! You don’t have to be fluent, but a few words always go a long way!