Updated June 1, 2020.
Confession: I am only fluent in English.
Braggadocious moment: I can say “Thank you” in 18 languages!
Why Bother Learning Some of the Local Language?
You would be amazed at how far you can get with a genuine American smile. Did you know Americans are known the world around for our inexplicable smiling? (The “stupid American” stereotype is not our only stereotype.) An attempt at “thank you” in the local language is always appreciated. Truly, it doesn’t matter if it comes out wrong the first couple of times, anyone will be excited for you to try!
Also, it shows respect. By learning a few words in the local language, you are showing respect for the local people and culture. In turn, you will also earn a bit of respect for not being “too good” to try.
What are Some Other Useful Words?
Every place is different. But everywhere you go, there are a few words that are essential. Learn as many words or phrases as your brain can handle before a trip, but especially these, in order of importance (in my humble opinion):
- Thank you
- How much?
- You’re Welcome
Learn your numbers 1-10. This will make shopping easier!
Why is “Thank you” the Most Important Word to Learn?
I can only speak from my own experience, but I use the local word for “thank you” more than any other because people everywhere are helpful even if you haven’t asked for it. On my first trip abroad to Japan, I was humbled and amazed at the way people could tell I could use some help (getting on the right train, finding a castle, deciding what sushi to buy, giving me their umbrella when mine broke, etc.), and they were absolutely delighted when I said with a smile, “arigato-gozaimasu!”
There are actually a lot of ways to say “thank you” in Japanese, but even if I didn’t use exactly the right one with the right accent, I always got a big smile in return and often a thumbs-up as well! No matter where you are in the world, “thank you” will forever be the best word to learn.
But How Do I Know How to Say Anything?
This is the 21st century, y’all! Everything you need to know is online. Before you go anywhere, check out Google Translate online or download the Google Translate App for iPhone or Android, and type in the words mentioned in the list above (along with any others you think mgiht be useful).
Take it a step further and get the DuoLingo App! You will learn more of the local language, and it’s fun because the short lessons are set up like a game. Check out all my essential travel apps: Apps for Savvy Travel!
Will you be learning a few new words before your next trip? Tell me in the comments! Want more travel tips and hacks? Check out my Travel Hacks Page!
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