Whether you are going to Spain, France or spending your summer break in an English speaking country there are useful phrases that you can prepare beforehand. You can get so much more from your holiday if you put in the time and effort to learn a few phrases before you travel; it’ll make the trip less stressful too with the language barrier taken down. We have put together some useful groups of phrases to use in different situations when you travel abroad:
Don’t forget! Hello/Goodbye Starting a conversation appropriately makes the exchange start off on the right foot and helps initiate a pleasant exchange. Saying ‘goodbye’ when you’ve finished means you aren’t walking off, ending the conversation abruptly or rudely.
1. Language Phrases to Know on the journey
Most airports will have English as a secondary language on signs throughout the facility and on visa, customs, and immigration documents. Not every agent however, speaks perfect English and once you depart from the airport, you’ll encounter: taxis, buses, trains and more. To prepare, you should have pertinent addresses written on a piece of paper in the local language, an analog watch at all times, and know the following words (and their answers):
Left, right, straight, back, turn around
How long (duration)?
What time does it leave?
I lost my…
I am going to…
I came from…
I leave on…
Bus / train station
Tip: If you travel by taxi in Spain look for the green light and/or the "libre" sign on the passenger side of the windscreen while in France you must refer to the illuminated white box situated on its roof: if it is lit red, then it's occupied; if it is lit green, then it's available.
2. Language Phrases that Will Cover Your Health and Wellness
If you have an illness, medication, or want to be prepared in the event of a travel bug, you should know these health and wellness phrases. In addition to being equipped with a document stating your health issues in the local language, these terms can help further explain any concerns.
You don’t have to have a chronic illness or allergy to be prepared. You should know basic hygiene and personal wellness phrases too. Here are some helpful terms to learn as you improve your language skills:
I am allergic to…
This hurts [signal body part]
I need antibiotics
Where is the pharmacy
Tampons / sanitary pads
Contact lens solution
Tip: If you find yourself in a serious, life-threatening emergency, you should go to the accident and emergency (A&E) unit (les urgences in French | urgencias in Spanish) of the nearest hospital. Your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) will enable you to access state provided healthcare in France at a reduced cost or sometimes free. It will cover you for treatment until you return to the UK. However in Spain, the Spanish health authority determines what treatment is considered necessary and cannot wait until your return to the UK.
3. Accommodation Phrases You Should Know in Every Language
To make your stay as comfortable as possible, make sure you know these important words and phrases regarding your accommodations. Whether it is a dorm, homestay, hotel, Airbnb, or hostel, the questions remain the same. They are mostly terms you wouldn’t have to use until you absolutely needed to, which might make your stay extremely frustrating if you aren’t prepared. Here are the top accommodation phrases to know:
Can I drink the tap water?
Air conditioner / fan
I lost my key
[X] is not working
4. Dining Phrases that Make or Break Your Restaurant Experience Overseas
These were key words and phrases you should always be able to say if communicating with hand gestures didn’t seem possible (If you have allergies or an aversion to spicy food put this on the top of your list).
Can I have… (or in some countries “Can I take” applies for ordering food)
Bottled Water (indicate still or sparkling water)
I am allergic to…
Is it spicy?
Where is the bathroom?
The bill, please!
Do you take credit cards?
Is the tip included?
5. Shopping Questions to Know in Every Language
Even if you don’t plan to buy souvenirs, you’ll quickly come across a situation where you need to use shopping-related language skills. So if you are on a budget (or trying to be), take notes of these questions:
Is there a discount?
I'm not interested / No, thank you
Do you have change?
Where is the bank?
When do you close?
When do you open?
Can I try?
6. Language Phrases that Help When Meeting New People
Meeting new people and making friends is the best way to learn a local language. But first you’ll have to get past conversation-starter like introductions and basic questioning. If you want to learn from new friends, indicate early on that you are learning and ask them to speak slowly. For the best results, carry a pocket-sized dual-language dictionary to help along the way. Here are helpful phrases to know when meeting new people:
Hello, my name is…
I am from…
I am studying...
Do you speak English/Spanish/French?
I don’t understand
Do you have a phone charger?
Tips for learning all these useful phrases
The most effective way to learn any language is to speak it. If you have access to a native speaker before your travel, ask them for help and speak to them as much as possible. Studying grammar is all very well, but often on holiday you’re going to be using your verbal language skills, not written ones. Get your head out the book and start speaking and practice whenever possible.
What Other Phrases Do You Think Will Make Your Time Abroad a Little Easier?