12 Basic Phrases to Learn in EVERY Language {+ free printable}

Categories language, resources
If there’s one thing I’ve learned from all of my experiences on the road (hah kidding – I’ve learned loads) it’s how important it is to learn a new language.

From the time we got overconfident in our linguistic capabilities and ended up accidentally ordering fifteen chocolate pastries in a Montenegrin supermarket to the time Tom managed to convince an old lady in a Tallinn prison that he was fluent in Estonian, trying to master the local language is something that’s always been a huge part of travelling for me. 

 My love of travel is the offspring of my love of learning languages. Before I moved to Germany on my Erasmus exchange year in 2010 I could count on one hand the number of times I’d left the UK. I’ve seen more of the world in the last twelve months than I had in my entire life time before then and I know for a fact that had I not decided to learn a new language I never would have had the opportunity to live abroad or the desire to go travelling.


While we were in Quito we got chatting to an Argentinian couple and managed an entire conversation in Spanish. It was such a natural flowing conversation saring travel stories and they didn’t seem to realise that we were self-taught or that we’d been learning for less than three months. We learned so much from the short time talking with them and we were both on such a high by the end of it. We’d spent time with so many people who’d been travelling for much longer than us who still hadn’t even mastered the art of asking for an ice cream in Spanish so we felt pretty accomplished. Up there with the likes of Machu Picchu, the Uyuni Salt Flats and Colca Canyon that simple moment was one of the high points of our entire trip.

Alongside my passport and camera, a few key language phrases is one of my travel essentials.  Nobody expects you to be fluent in every language, but everyone should be expected to at least try. Truthfully – for a linguist – I’m not all that good at languages! However I always try my best to learn a new language and my efforts never go unappreciated.

 I always find it fascinating to listen to people so animated in conversation in noises that make absolutely no sense to me, but there are some phrases that I always make sure I learn to help me get by in a foreign country. Sure most people speak English, but where’s the fun in that? There’s also a printable graphic to use on your next trip at the bottom of the post. Where would you be without me?

12 language phrases you have to learn to get by in any country. If you're travelling you have to learn these phrases. With this free blog printable it's an easy way to learn a new language

Hello / Goodbye

The easiest phrases you can learn. Absolutely no excuses for not bothering to learn these.

Yes / No

Again, no excuses.

Please / Thank you

Unless you like spit in your soup.

Sorry / Excuse me
Are you even British if you don’t learn this?

Do you speak English?
Asking to switch to English in the local tongue is so much more polite than simply assuming and is guaranteed to make even the grumpiest cashier more inclinded to help you.

Where is…?

The bathroom, the tourist information centre, the nearest pub… You can’t always rely on Google Maps y’know!

How much does it cost?
Learning the numbers is always handy too!

A single/return to…

Don’t follow in my footsteps and land yourself with a £40 fine for a two minute bus ride you decided to skip the fare on.

The bill, please
Because I’m all about avoiding awkward situations in restaurants at all costs.

What do you recommend?
Whether it’s a visitor attraction or a restaurant, a great way of finding hidden gems is to shun your guidebook and ask a local to recommend their favourite places to visit or the best dish on the menu.


What’s travelling without sampling the local beers, wines and spirits. Drink them like a regular!

Print it: 

12 language phrases you have to learn to get by in any country. If you're travelling you have to learn these phrases. With this free blog printable it's an easy way to learn a new language
Do you try to learn a new language before you visit somewhere new? What are your most important words and phrases to learn before travelling?


This post was written in collaboration with the GoEuro #travellessons competition where you can win a city trip worth £300. Information on how to enter can be found here.

1 thought on “12 Basic Phrases to Learn in EVERY Language {+ free printable}

  1. This is so essential! So many people I know feel the pressure to learn an entire new language before travelling, and it never really works out for them. I think, even if you only knew these phrases, you could have a good time in just about any country. And the printable is a great idea!

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