Start a Conversation

With more and more US travelers heading outside of the country to travel, most of us would benefit from adding a few foreign words to our vocabulary. According to an article in Telegraph, it takes a solid knowledge base of about 120 words to get by in a foreign country. “Getting by” means knowing how to ask for the nearest restroom, taxi, and restaurant: Overhearing conversations and understanding most of the vocabulary comes much later. In other words, learning these words and phrases won’t help you get nominated for a national poetry award, but they will help you feel safer and more comfortable in the country you visit.

I always felt more at ease communicating my basic Spanish proficiency right away, so that my “Hola” wouldn’t be followed by a slew of unfamiliar words that I didn’t understand. I found that setting the expectation helps build a relationship with the native speaker and makes the rest of the chat feel more natural.

After that comes the hard part, where you’ll need to start attempting an engaging conversation. Some good starting topics? It’s essential that you master the basics, such as introductory conversation and courtesies, transportation, directions, enough food words to order in a restaurant, and basic feelings. That way, you can communicate desires and needs while getting from place to place. Need some ideas to fill those 100+ words? All of these are a great place to start!

Thanks to Treksplorer’s awesome blog, we found the perfect list of words you should learn:

1) Hello!
2) How are you? / What’s up?
3) I’m fine. You?
4) Please.
5) Thank you. / Thank you very much.
6) You’re Welcome
7) Goodbye. / Bye. / See you soon.
8) Cheers!
9) Excuse me.
10) I’m sorry.
11) What’s your name?
12) I’m… / My name is… / I am called…
13) Nice to meet you.
14) Where are you from?
15) I’m from…
16) I’d like to introduce my friend/wife/husband.
17) How old are you?
18) I’m… years old.
19) What do you do for a living?
20) I’m a/an…
21) What do you do for fun? / What are your hobbies?
22) I (don’t) like…
23) Yes.
24) No.

25) Do you speak…?
26) I (don’t) understand.
27) I speak a little…
28) I (don’t) speak…
29) Could you please speak a little slower?
30) Could you write that down?
31) Could you repeat that?
32) How do you say…?
33) What does… mean?
34) What time is it?
35) It’s (five) o’clock.

36) How much?
37) I would like…
38) Can I pay by credit card/debit card?
39) Here you go.
40) Could I see this/that one?
41) What time do you open/close?
42) Do you have this in small/large/medium?
43) Do you have anything cheaper?
44) It’s too expensive.
45) I’ll give you… for it.
46) Where can I exchange money?

47) How much for a first class/second class/economy ticket to…?
48) A one-way/return ticket to… please.
49) Here’s my passport.
50) What time does the bus/train/plane/ferry from… arrive?
51) What time does the bus/train/plane/ferry to… depart?
52) Which platform/gate/terminal?
53) Is the bus/train/plane direct?
54) Do I have to change buses/trains?
55) Do I need a seat reservation?
56) Is this seat taken?
57) When is the next train/bus/minibus/ferry to…?
58) Could you call me a taxi?
59) I’d like to go to…
60) Could you let me know when to get off?
61) Where could I rent a bike/car?
62) I’d like to rent a bike/car.

63) Could you recommend a good restaurant?
64) What would you recommend?
65) What are some local specialties?
66) What is the special of the day?
67) Could I see the menu, please?
68) A beer/coffee/tea, please.
69) Could I get the bill, please. / The check, please.
70) I’m allergic to…
71) That was delicious!
72) This isn’t what I ordered.
73) Can I buy you a drink?
74) Let’s have another!

75) How do I get to…?
76) It’s on the left/on the right/straight ahead/at the corner.
77) How far is…?
78) Where is the closest bank/post office/exchange office?
79) Where can I find tourist information?
80) Do you have a map?
81) Can you show me that on the map?
82) Where is the (American) embassy/consulate?

83) What is the entrance fee?
84) What is that building?
85) What’s on at the cinema/theatre/opera tonight?
86) That’s a beautiful church/cathedral/building.
87) What is there to see around here?

88) I have a reservation.
89) Do you have any single/double rooms available?
90) Could I see the room?
91) I’d like to stay for… nights.
92) Is breakfast included?
93) The TV/air conditioner/lamp in my room doesn’t work.
94) Could I get a different room?
95) Is there a restaurant here?

96) Help!
97) I need a doctor/dentist/police officer.
98) Is a there pharmacy nearby?
99) Can I use your phone?
100) Call the police/ambulance!
101) Leave me alone!

Like this list? You can follow Ryan on Twitter at @rtorourke for more helpful articles.

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