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While it would be ideal to be fluent in the native language before visiting a foreign country, most of the time that is not going to be the case. Fortunately, it’s not too difficult to communicate what you want, even when you are not fully fluent. Many people in Europe speak some English, and it’s not uncommon for them to know some of the language of a neighboring country, such as it’s not uncommon for people in the Netherlands to know some German, or Spanish in Portugal, and vice versa.  Even so, it’s polite to at least introduce yourself in the native tongue and try to explain what you’re looking for using simple phrases. Try to memorize as many common phrases as you can, especially phrases for times you know you’ll have to interact with a local, like when ordering in a restaurant or checking into a hotel. Come up with a list of phrases you think you might need to learn before you go on your trip and memorize as many as you can. You can also bring a phrase book with you everywhere you go, or download a phrasebook app to your phone, but this can be slower and more awkward than just learning the phrases.

Here are a few phrases to get started with translating into the local tongue:

Greetings (Good morning, good day, good evening etc.)

French: Bonjour, bonsoir
German: Guten Morgen, Guten Tag, Guten Abend
Spanish: Hola, buenos días, buenas tardes

“My name is…”

  • French: Je m’appelle…
  • German: Ich heisse…
  • Spanish: Me llamo…

“Where is…”

  • French: Où est…
  • German: Wo ist…
  • Spanish: Dónde está…

“I would like…”

  • French: Je voudrais…
  • German: Ich möchte…
  • Spanish: Quisiera…

Goodbyes

  • French: Au revoir
  • German: Auf Wiedersehen
  • Spanish: Adiós

It’s also a good idea to come up with your own list of phrases based on the activities you plan on doing.

Tourist Guides

Tourist Guides will help you to experience, understand and enjoy the places you are visiting. They are particularly useful when you don’t speak the local language. Their role is to interpret the area specific environment and to help you to see what you are looking at. They will always be there to help you get the right picture in a clear and entertaining way.

The European Federation of Tourist Guide Associations (FEG) is a network of Europe’s tourist guides, which comprises most European countries and provides a useful resource to find out more about the guiding experience.