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.
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.
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.
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!