Cities Journal

What To Do When You Travel Where You Don’t Know The Language?


Although many can get by with English language alone, a big part of travel is being able to understand and communicate in the native tongue. You don’t need to become fluent, but you should know a few key phrases that will help you make most of your travels abroad. It’s time for homework.


Learn standard phrases, such as “hello” and “goodbye,” as well as “please,” “thank you,” “I’m sorry” and “excuse me.” Other useful phrases are also “please speak slowly” and “I don’t know.” Knowing how to ask certain questions like “Do you speak English?” or “How much does this cost?” will also come handy.

Even if you don’t end up using these, you should words like “help,” “emergency” and “police”.

Use your phone

More than 60 percent of tourists already use their phones for directions, but according to Priceline, only 30 percent use it to translate foreign languages.

Each month, more than 200 million people use Google Translate, on their phones and on the Web. The service uses statistical machine to scan documents in 80 different languages and determine what the appropriate translations should be. While it is a popular translation application, it requires an Internet connection, so be careful.


According to Priceline, 69 percent of locals enjoy it when tourists are excited about their city, and trying to speak the language illustrates your enthusiasm. Knowing phrases and how to ask questions can start a conversation and lead you to your final destination. It’s OK if you mispronounce some words – showing an attempt is always highly appreciated.

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