It’s a travel-truism that the best way to get to know a place is to get to know the people. You will never really understand Rome or Istanbul until you’ve spent some time with the locals. They know the best places to pop in for a coffee or do a spot of shopping, as well as what tourist traps to avoid.
It can be difficult to cultivate a friendship with strangers while you are on the road, but an excellent way to break the ice is to know a little bit of their native tongue. You don’t need to be able to have a full conversation, but saying hello will get you a long way. Think of it as travel insurance. Here are a few basic phrases you should try and learn.
‘Excuse Me’, ‘Please’ and ‘Thank you’
These are crucial, basic phrases. You will need it to attract someone’s attention when you need to ask for help or an extra cup of coffee. It’s always a good idea to be respectful and polite while you are travelling, especially if you are going to try out some more complicated phrases.
However, most tourists will be able to spit out these basics, so lets have a look at some more useful phrases.
‘I don’t speak…’
You may even consider learning this one first. Once you have broken this ice with a confident greeting, this is a handy phrase once the conversation gets rolling.
‘Does this contain…?’
This is an important one to memorise if you or someone in your party has a serious food allergy. Nothing will interrupt your travel arrangements like an unplanned trip to the hospital. If you do suffer from serious allergies, comprehensive travel insurance is a must alongside this phrase.
‘Could you write that down, please?’
While you might be able to count to ten, you are not going to anywhere near good enough to understand a quickly spoken phone number, price or directions. Be sure to carry a little notebook with you.
‘How much does it cost?’ and ‘I would like to pay, please. ‘
Again, these are essential phrases if you are going to be eating out or doing a little bit of shopping.
‘Where is the…?’
One of the many great joys of travel is getting lost on occasion. This is great fun most of the time but less so when you need the restroom. This is especially handy if you have small kids that need changing.
Where to start?
If you are pressed for time, or you need to get across three or four languages, the best place to start is your everyday travel guidebook. Most guidebooks have an appendix of basic phrases that you can tear out and stuff in a pocket and consult as needed. If you have a little more time, consider investing in an audio-guide. These guides can be installed on an mp3 player so you can rehearse and learn with the correct pronunciation. For the seriously dedicated, online lessons and language teaching software is available.
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