When you really need to get something across, you might not have the time to thumb through your phrasebook if you did indeed bring it with you. If you’re anything like me, you might not even be able to find it in the bottom of your backpack! Consider spending some time before you leave on a trip to get familiar with these important words and phrases. Gather the family, play some culturally appropriate background music, and make a game of it. It’ll be fun!Check out for some on line language games that are free.

  • Cover your safety concerns. Consider learning the phrase “my child is sick,” and related words like “help, hospital, and pharmacy.” You’ll probably never have to worry about it. But if you ever do, you’ll be thankful to know these words.
  • Question words. If you’re not so linguistically inclined, try to master just a small handful of single words. It’s amazing how far you can get on the standard question words, in particular where, when, how and who.
  • No comprendo! In the U.S., this little Spanish tidbit is universally recognized. Find out how to say it in other languages. In a foreign country, there’s never a guarantee that you’ll understand what you need to, but it’s always helpful when people can pick up on a communication breakdown.
  • Gracias, Danke, and Merci! Chances are you recognize this multilingual offering of thank you ‘s. Learn how to say it wherever you go; every host appreciates a polite visitor, and showing gratitude properly is a great way to build goodwill for all Americans traveling abroad.
  • Smile!  When all else fails, smile.  A smile is universally understood.


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