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learn a languageMy entire life my dad has joked that he can say “Everybody loves Saturday night” in five languages. I don’t know how helpful that has been to him, but I do know that no matter where in the world you travel, people love it when you try to speak their language.

It’s not simply polite; it shows that that you are aware that you are the stranger in their land and that you’ve taken the time to learn a few important phrases. It’s even more effective if you say the words from memory and not simply try to read from a phrase book or phone app (though at least that’s something).

Every time I travel to a non-English-speaking country I try to learn a series of words and phrases: “please,” “thank you,” “how much is this?”, “do you speak English?” and the all-important “where is the bathroom?” When I got married in Romania I made a laminated phrase guide for all my out-of-town guests. It was a hit. The Romanians at my wedding loved it when folks from the United States and England said thank you in their own language.

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Believe me when I say just attempting one or two words in someone’s native language goes a long way in fostering good will — especially in an age when so many Anglophones just assume the rest of the world speaks English.

Since “thank you” and “please” are probably the most common words travelers make an effort to learn, I’ve decided to list “how much is this?” and “do you speak English?” in several languages. Audio clips are included where available so you can listen to the pronunciation.

How Much Is This?
Chinese (Mandarin) – Zhe ge duoshao qian?
Dutch – Hoveel kost dit?
French – C’est combien?
German – Wievel kostet das?
Italian – Quanto costa?
Japanese – Ikura desu ka?
Portuguese – Quanto custa?
Romanian – Cat costa?
Russian – Skol’ko eto stoit?
Spanish – Cuanto cuesta?
Swahili – Hii ni bei gani?

Do You Speak English?
Chinese (Mandarin) – Ni shuo Yingwen ma?
Dutch – Spreek ge engels?
French – Parlez vous anglais?
German – Sprechen Sie English?
Italian – Parla inglese?
Japanese – Eigo ga dekimasu ka?
Portuguese – Fala ingles?
Romanian – Vorbitz Engleza?
Russian – Vy gavarite pa angllyski?
Spanish – Habla ingles?
Swahili – Unasema kiingereza?

Know these phrases in other languages? Add them in the comments!

— written by Dori Saltzman

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13 Responses to “2 Phrases Every Traveler Should Know (in 11 Languages)”

  1. Nancy James says:

    I don’t know those phrases in other languages (both good ones!) — but I also find this one helpful (in Spanish here) ¿Dónde está el baño?

  2. In Czech, “How much is it” is “Kolik to stoiji (Ko-leek toe stoy-yee)” and “Do you speak English” is Mluvite anglicky (mloo-vee-teh ahn-glits-kee)”

  3. Ieva Zinnikas says:

    How Much Is This? – Kiek tai kainuoja?
    Do You Speak English? – Ar Jus kalbate angliskai?

  4. Kaye says:

    Here’s “I love you” in Swahili, nakupenda! I think this a good one to learn too:)

  5. It’s true – locals really appreciate it when travelers try to speak their language! And “Do you speak English?” comes in handy a lot too!

  6. Swahili for “Do you speak English” should be “Unaongea kiingereza[/kizungu]” or “Unajua kiingereza”.

  7. Wander Woman says:

    I think the two most important phrases in other languages are “please” and “thank you,” and I find that with a smile, those two words will get me anything.

  8. Brieegs says:

    Indonesian/ Bahasa Indonesia:

    How much is this: Harganya berapa? (Hurr-guh-nyuh buhh-rah-pa)
    Do you speak English? : Bahasa Inggris? (Bah-hah-suh Ink-grease) which means “English?”

  9. Raphael says:

    Do you speak English in Swahili is ‘Unaongea Kiingereza?’

  10. Kenya Avacado Exporters says:

    “Unaitwa nani?” – Kiswahili Whats your name? – English

  11. Afya Njema says:

    “Karibu” – Kiswahili. welcome – English

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