Say What? Phrases Every International Traveler Should Know

Posted by on in Travel

Traveling the world is undoubtedly fun and exciting, but it also can be a little problematic at times. Knowing what, how and when to say a phrase in a foreign language is necessary for avoiding problems, conflicts or hazardous situations that may not be possible to resolve in English. Provided below is a list of five phrases every international traveler should know when they venture abroad.

The phrases are presented in English with a short descriptive passage, followed by translations in the five most commonly spoken languages of the world (Chinese Mandarin, Spanish, Arabic (modern), Hindi, and Portuguese.) Each foreign phrase has been transliterated, meaning that Chinese words, for instance, are not presented as symbols but are displayed using letters and characters from the Roman alphabet (a system known as Pinyin).

"My name is. . .Joe."

The traveler who relies on exaggerated gesticulations and shouted English phrases to make his point is likely to encounter plenty of confused locals abroad. Speaking English slowly and loudly is no substitute for learning the odd phrase in a foreign language, and perhaps no better phrase to learn first is “my name is.”

Chinese: "wǒ jiào Joe"
Spanish: "me llamo Joe"
Arabic: "esmi/ismee Joe"
Hindi: "mera nām Joe hai"
Portuguese: "o meu nome é Joe (feminine: a meu nome é Jo)"

"I need a doctor."

Unfortunately, travelers do suffer injury or illness on occasions. It is important to be able to communicate the need for medical assistance before a condition becomes unbearable, which is why Americans traveling abroad should learn to say, “I need a doctor.”

Chinese: "wǒ děi kàn yīshēng"
Spanish: "necesito a un doctor"
Arabic: "ahtaju tabeeban!"
Hindi: "mujhko doctor chahie"
Portuguese: "eu preciso um doutor"

"Where is the toilet?"

This common phrase speaks for itself.

Chinese: "Xi shou jian zai na li"
Spanish: "¿dónde está el baño?"
Arabic: "ayn al-ḥammām?"
Hindi: "tāyalet kahan hai?"
Portuguese: "onde está o toalete?"

"Can/do you speak English?"

Flipping through the pages of a travel phrase book ought to be avoided when possible, which is why all travelers should learn how to ask locals if they are able to speak English. Even if the person can’t speak English, asking in their native language is more likely to lead to someone who does.

Chinese: "nǐ huì shuō Yīng yǔ ma?"
Spanish: "¿hablas inglés?"
Arabic: "int betetkalem inglizi?"
Hindi: "āpko angrezī ātī hai?"
Portuguese: "você fala o inglês?"

"I am sorry."

Just like at home, mistakes abroad require an apology, which is perhaps no better expressed than by saying, “I am sorry.” It’s short, sweet and effective.

Chinese: "duìbuqǐ"
Spanish: "lo siento"
Arabic: "Aasef!"
Hindi: "maaf kijiye"
Portuguese: "eu sou pesaroso"



  • facebook
  • twitter
  • pinterest
  • rss


Get bleeding-edge content delivered right to your door, or to your inbox. Sign up, it's that easy.