Why speaking a few words of the local tongue will make your travel experience even better
As you may have guessed, English is widely spoken in Europe, especially in northern countries. In many other countries, people have a good, if not fluent, grasp of the language. But that doesn’t mean that learning—and indeed using! — some key phrases, greetings, and pleasantries is not a great idea. Even if it’s just hello, how are you or may I please have a coffee, gestures like these can go a long way to connecting with locals, being a respectful traveler, and having a more authentic experience.
Practical tips: the best approach is to learn the basic words and phrases of the countries you will visit. Here are a few ones to know:
- Please and thank you
- Good morning, hello, goodbye
- My name is…I come from…
- Where is the bathroom/nearest metro station/best café in the neighborhood?
- I would like the [insert relevant dish/drink/or pastry]
- I have a reservation
- Where is…
- How much does this item cost?
Did you know: while many people in Europe have a good command of English, many other languages are spoken as well. Citizens of one country regularly speak some of the languages of the countries that border them. For example, many Dutch people speak German. The French and Spanish—especially along the border—often speak one another’s languages well. So, if you find yourself in a place like Perpignan and your French isn’t up to snuff but your Spanish is stellar, you might ask if your interlocutor speaks a bit of her neighbor’s tongue.
Last but not least, having a phrasebook would be a good idea. These days, a phrase app could be your best bet, especially one that encourages you to practice! The same applies to a translation app, especially one that has voice recognition. Above all, being polite and courteous is your best friend. Friendliness goes a long way in bridging gaps in language and culture. When in doubt, a smile is always welcome.