Those of us who are native English speakers often feel proud of the fact that we can speak one of the most widely spoken languages in the world and that it will come to our rescue, no matter where in the world we are. Unfortunately, that is not always the case specially in continental Europe. Not only do many people not speak English in Europe, they positively look at the language with disdain. Thus, you will positively feel envious of your multi-lingual friend while on a trip to anywhere in Europe or South America.
To make life harder, every few hundred kilometres, the spoken language in Europe changes. Of course, French, German, Spanish and Italian are the most widely spoken languages, but they wonâ€™t help you one bit in the small towns of Poland, Czech Republic or Holland. The good news is that Europeans also instantly warm-up if they see a visitor make an effort with their language. Their otherwise dour faces immediately break into a smile, and they become a lot more helpful.
So whether you are preparing for an expensive European adventure or just planning cheap holidays, try to make sure you spend some time in learning a few stock phrases of the local language of the countries that you plan to visit. It will make life much easier for you and help you get the most out of your trip. Google Translate is the best online dictionary for translations. It is free, extremely user friendly, and the best part is that you can even play an audio of the phrase you are looking to translate. That is great, especially for languages like French or Polish, where how you spell seems to have no bearing on how to pronounce the words.
Hello and bye
Hello and bye are universal words, but every country has its own local words for them that they insist on using and learning them feel make both you (the visitor) and the native feel happy.
Spanish: Hola & Adios
German: Hallo & Auf Wiedersehen
French: Bonjour & Au Revoir
If you are incredibly time poor and can’t wrap your head around all the ten phrases then make sure you master this one as you’ll need it badly during your travels, specially when shopping, asking for directions and buying food.
Where is the toilet? And signs before the toilet to indicate which is male and which is female.
You may think that â€œhimâ€ and â€œherâ€ are obvious until you visit a German-speaking country and find that all male toilets are marked â€œHerrâ€. No, it is not all those beers you have consumed, â€œherrâ€ is German for â€œMrâ€.
Spanish: Â¿DÃ³nde estÃ¡ el baÃ±o, Male: Caballeros, Female: Damas
German: Wo ist die Toilette, Male: Herr, Female: Damen
French: OÃ¹ sont les toilettes, Male: Monsieur, Female: Mesdames
How much does this cost?
Do you know of the Japanese couple who landed-up consuming fish worth 2000 euros in a restaurant in Rome without quite realising it? If you donâ€™t want to join the legend, better learn to ask â€œHow much does it cost?â€ loud and clear.
Spanish: Â¿CuÃ¡nto cuesta este
German: Wie viel kostet das
French: Combien coÃ»te ce
Are there any discounts?
Always worth a try. Also, look up the local word for â€œSaleâ€ especially if you are visiting in Summer or the Christmas period.
I am vegetarian. No meat, no chicken, no fish
If you are vegetarian, this will be your life-saving phrase. What is not obvious in Europe, however, is that vegetarians include people who have given-up on red meat but are happy to consume chicken or fish. So be clear that you donâ€™t eat meat, chicken or fish either.
Excuse me, we are lost
If you are true wanderer with a poor sense of direction then there is very high probability that you will get lost. To make things easier for you remember to always carry your hotelâ€™s name and address preferably in the local language so that you can at least drop into a cab and find your way back as a last option.
Where is the nearest metro station / bus stop / train station/ police station?
Again, a simply enough phrase but you may find yourself using it pretty often.
Where is the laundry? And if you can, the local words for start, stop and dry.
If you are in Europe for a few weeks, the dirty laundry will pile up. Remember, there will be local public laundries everywhere to machine wash and dry clothes, but often the instructions will be in the local language.
Help. We have been robbed.
Hope you never have to use this one, but it is always better to be safe than sorry.
Finally, if you are about to leave for a trip and scored near zero with the phrases above, then worry not. Just make sure you don’t end up butchering the foreign language of the place you visit like this Italian gentleman (goes to show how difficult Europeans find speaking English)
Checkout Indian Compass for more interesting and engaging stories about travelling in Europe. It not only talks about destinations, but also advises on travel between different countries, budgets, accommodation, paperwork, food and practicalities.