Don't be shy.

If you’re thinking of traveling anywhere, make an effort to learn a few simple phrases. If you’re going for a short break somewhere you don’t intend on fully learning the language then here are some words/phrases I have always tried to make the effort to learn. I’ve included how to say them in Spanish, Korean and Hindi

1) Hello

  • Spanish: Hola!
  • Korean: Annyong haseyo
  • Hindi: Namastey

2) Thank you

  • Spanish: Gracias
  • Korea: Kamsahamnida
  • Hindi: Shukriyaa

3) Sorry

  • Spanish: Perdon
  • Korean: mianhamnida
  • Hindi: Kshamaa

4) I don’t understand

  • Spanish: No entiendo
  • Korean: moreugesseumnida
  • Hindi: Mujhey samajh mein nahi aataa.

5) Have a nice day

  • Spanish: ¡Qué tenga un buen día!
  • Korean: joheun haru doeseyo
  • Hindi: Āpkā din acchā bīte!

I’m not going to pretend to be anything close to a language expert but on a good day I can say Hello and Thank you in about seven different languages.
While visiting a country most of the locals will appreciate that you have made the effort to learn even a little of their language. You will find that people will often be a lot more willing to help if you show that you are making an effort to understand them, rather than expecting them to understand you.

I haven’t included Do you understand English? as I think it is a bit of a redundant phrase. If they understand English, it won’t matter whether you say it in their language or not. What does matter is the way you speak English. Understanding English is not the same as fluency. Granted, their grasp of English is likely to be much better than your understanding of the local tongue, but make it as easy as possible for them. Here are some tips for being using English abroad:

1) Speak slowly but naturally
It’s a fine line to tread between speaking slowly and sounding condescending, but you need to learn to tread it.

2) First things first
“Bathroom? Where is the bathroom?” State the most important part of what you want to say first. Often that’s all you need to say.

3) Non-verbal
Don’t be afraid of gestures, actions and sounds. These cross language barriers much more easily.

4) Synonyms are your friend
In many situations there’s a ‘magic word’ that’s needed. Many people around the world have some grasp of English. It’s your job to make yourself as easy to understand as possible. Just because the person you’re talking to doesn’t know the word ‘restaurant’, it doesn’t mean they won’t understand variations such as: cafeteria, café, canteen, diner, dining room, eatery, eating house, eating place, fast-food place or any other variation you can think of.

5) Be creative
While in Korea I forgot the word for ‘airport’, but I could remember ‘house’ and ‘aeroplane’. Asking for the ‘aeroplane house’ got me what I needed. Break complicated English words down in similar ways: zoo = animal park, post office = mail shop, hotel = sleeping place etc.

The most important thing is to not be shy while abroad. Many people will be more than happy to try and help you if you are truly interested in experiencing their culture. So get out there and say hello.