Why You Should Learn a Few Phrases Before You Travel Internationally

I recently had a post on Instagram go viral. It was a reel sharing how you ask for tap water in French at the local cafes so that you didn't get charged for bottled or sparkling water. The comments were ridiculous. Most people {ahem, Americans}, weren't sure why you would bother learning a phrase in another language before you travel to a tourist destination where {their quote not mine} "they should know what you want in English." It just solidified a problem I know has long existed in the travel and tourism industry, especially for those of us who speak English. Sometimes we are under the assumption that we don't need to learn the language before we travel to another country, but making an effort to learn a few phrases is important for a few different reasons. Read on!


Why You Should Learn a Few Phrases Before You Travel Abroad


Learning a Few Words/Phrases Makes Travel Easier

Knowing a few words or phrases in the language of the country you are traveling to can make travel easier. You'll be able to navigate through daily activities more easily. Ordering at a restaurant won't feel quite so overwhelming and buying items at a local market won't seem so daunting. You'll also not feel quite so lost and confused when it comes to transportation and navigation through unfamiliar streets.

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Locals Appreciate It

Everyone appreciates it when people show an interest in them. Learning the local language is a great way to show that you care about the local people and the culture. People tend to open up and are more kind and compassionate to a traveler who is making an attempt rather than one who makes an assumption. 


Get to Know the Locals and Make Connections

I have bumbled through several conversations in languages I didn't know well, but was met with some pretty amazing opportunities at connection because of my effort. At the base of the stairs at Sacre Coeur in Paris, I met a woman with a Yorkie, the same kind of dog I have! We chatted for about ten minutes about our dogs, sharing pictures and stories laughing and chatting like old friends at a dog park! She didn't speak a word of English and I knew enough French to get by. It was a real opportunity for connection though and created a different opportunity for me to feel like the world was just a little bit smaller. And really, isn't that the goal of travel?

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Learn About the Culture

The best way to experience a culture is to speak its language. As you learn more about the words used and the meanings behind them, you start to understand more about the culture and the priorities of the culture. 

By learning about the culture, you can also learn how to best approach social situations so that you can have the best experience overall. For instance, it's often considered rude to just walk into a store in France without some greeting and acknowledgment of the shopkeeper. You'll also have a better dining experience if you understand simple dining customs. All of this comes from learning the language.

It Lasts Beyond Your Travels

Learning a few words and phrases will last beyond your travels. If you learn a multi-national language like Spanish or French, you will probably have more opportunities to use your skills on multiple travels. You might even have an opportunity to help someone traveling to your country using a shared language. I'm no neurologist, but I'm pretty sure challenging your brain with a new language is going to keep you sharp too! 

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Basic Phrases to Learn Before Going Abroad

There are a few basic phrases that will help you when you travel abroad. Most of these are easy to learn, you can even have a "cheat sheet" in your phone for reference.

Before my recent trip to France, I started Duolingo {there are free accounts!} and I found it to be very helpful in learning the language before I traveled. A simple google search will help you too!

  • hello and goodbye
  • please and thank you 
  • excuse me and I'm sorry
  • How much does this cost?
  • Do you speak English?
  • I would like...
  • Where is...

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Travel is such an unbelievable way to make the world feel like a smaller place. Learning a few phrases can go a long way in helping you make the most of your travels abroad.

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