The Beginner’s Phrasebook for Travelling Abroad

Many of us come home from holiday vowing to ourselves that by this time next year, we’ll have learnt enough of a language to be able to pass off as a native on our next holiday. Unfortunately, life will often find a way to keep you too busy to take those French classes or to write with your German pen friend, leaving you getting off the plane once again in a foreign location with little knowledge of the local language.

Many locals are really helpful, and some knowledge of English is expected in most European businesses these days. However, it’s important to be able to converse with locals in their native tongue, not just as a sign of cultural respect, but also because it will infinitely increase your enjoyment of the location.

Here are our top most useful phrases for holidaymakers abroad, along with phonetic pronunciation and translation. Bookmark it!

French (Français)

french_flag

Basics

Hello

Salut/Bonjour

sa-LOO/bohn-ZHOOR

 

Goodbye

Au Revoir

oh ruh-VWAR

 

Please

S’il vous plait

siv-oo-PLAY

 

Thank you

Merci

mehr-SEE

 

Sorry

Désolé

deh-SO-lay

 

Phrases

I don’t speak French very well, can you speak English?

Je ne parle pas bien français, parlez vous anglais?

zhuh nuh PAHRL pah by-ANG frahn-SEH, par-lay VOO ahng-LEH?

 

Excuse me, where is the…?

Excusez-moi, où est le/la/les…?

ehk-SKEW-zay MWAH, oo-eh luh/la/ley…?

 

Can I have…. please?

Est-ce que je peux avoir….. s’il vous plait?

esker zhuh PUH av-warr… siv-oo-PLAY ?

 

Could you write it down?

Est-ce que vous pouvez l’ecrire?

esker voo POO-vay lay-kreer?

 

How much does…cost?

Combien coûte…?

com-bee-OHN cot …

 

I’m sorry but I don’t understand.

Je suis désolé mais je ne comprends pas.

zhuh swee day-zo-lay, may zher ner kong-prong pah.

 

Can you help me?

Est-ce que vous pouvez m’aider?

esker voo poovay may-DAY?

Spanish (Español)

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Basics

Hello

Hola

ohla

 

Goodbye

Adios

ah-di-OSS

 

Please

Por favor

pour fav-OR

 

Thank you

Gracias

gra-see-ASS

 

Sorry

Lo siento

low see-en-TOW

 

Phrases

Hello, I don’t speak Spanish very well. Can you speak English?

No hablo muy bien español, ¿usted habla inglés?

no ah-blo mwee bee-en ess-panyol. Oo-sted ab-lah in-glez?

 

Excuse me, where is the…?

Disculpe, ¿Dónde está …?

dis-KUHLL-pe, don-deh ess-TAH…?

 

May I have the…. please?

¿Me puede dar … por favor?

meh PWEH-deh darr…. pour fav-ORR?

Could you write it down?

¿Puede escribirlo?

PWEH-deh ess-creeb-EER-lo?

 

Excuse me, I don’t understand

Disculpe, pero no le entiendo.

dis-KULL-peh. Peh-roh noh leh enn-teeyen-doh

 

Can you help me?

¿Puede ayudarme?

pwed-deh ah-YOO-darr-meh?

 

How much does…cost?

Cuánto cuesta…?

kwan-TO kwess-TAH …

 

German (Deutsch)

german_flag

Basics

Hello

Guten Tag

goo-TUN taahg

 

Goodbye

Tschüss

chuse

 

Please

Bitte

bitter

 

Thank you

Danke

dan-KEH

 

Sorry

Es tut mir leid

ess toot meer lied

 

Phrases

I don’t speak German very well, can you speak English?

Leider spreche ich nicht so gut Deutsch, sprechen Sie englisch?

lie-der shpreck-e ich nicht soh goot doytsh, shpreck-en zee english?

 

Excuse me, where is the…?

Entschuldigen Sie mich, wo ist…?

ent-shool-digen zee mich, voh ist..?

 

Can I have…. please?

Könnte ich bitte….haben?

kuhnnt-eh ich bitte…haben?

 

Could you write it down?

Könnten Sie das bitte aufschreiben?

kunnt-en zee das bitt-eh auf-shribe-en?

 

I’m sorry but I don’t understand.

Es tut mir leid aber ich verstehe nicht.

es toot meer lied, aber ich ver-shtee-ye nicht.

 

Can you help me?

Können Sie mir helfen?

koon-en zee meer helf-en?

 

How much does…cost?

Wie viel kostet…?

vee-VEAL koss-TET…?

 

Italian (Italiano)

italian_flag

Basics

Hello

Buongiorno

bwon zhor-no

 

Goodbye

Addio

AD-dio

 

Please

Per favore

pehr fah-VOH-reh

 

Thank you

Grazie

GRA-tsee-eh

 

Sorry

Scusa

SCOO-sah

 

Phrases

I don’t speak Italian very well, can you speak English?

Non parlo italiano molto bene, parli Inglese?

non par-lo ee-tahl-ee-ah-no mohl-toh beh-neh, par-lee een-gleh-zeh?

Excuse me, where is the…?

Scusi, dov’è il/la/ …?

skoo-zee, doh-veh il/la

Can I have…. please?

Posso avere …per favore?

Po-so AVER-re… pehr fah-VOH-reh

Could you write it down?

Potresti scriverlo?

Pwoh –tes-sti scree-VER-lo

I’m sorry but I don’t understand.

Mi dispiace, ma non capisco.

mee dee-SPYAH-cheh, ma non kah-PEES-koh

Can you help me?

Potresti aiutarmi?

Pwoh-TES-ti ah-yoo-TAR-me?

Whilst these phrases may not prove too useful with regard to impressing a date or discussing politics with the locals, they may help you out of a sticky situation or two.

For vocabulary and more advanced phrases, there are a number of smartphone apps that will help you out. For iPhone, your best bet is iTranslate voice, which lets you speak your phrase into it and returns the translation in automated speech.Android users should make sure that Google Translate is installed on their phone, especially since it offers offline language packs, saving you from desperately searching for a Wi-Fi hotspot in order to continue a conversation about the intricacies of European politics with a local. For Windows Phone users, Bing’s translation service is surprisingly efficient and also offers an offline mode.

If you have a few months before you leave, devote some time to Duolingo, a free app which offers extensive lessons to help you become conversational in French, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch or Italian!

If, even with this newfound elementary knowledge of European languages, you still don’t feel confident about haggling car rental prices whilst on holiday, why not book your car in advance with easyCar? We sort out all of the logistics, leaving you only to pick up the keys, offer a quick word of thanks (merci, gracias, grazie, or danke) and jump in the car.

From there you can decide exactly how much (or how little) conversation you want on your break.

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