“No speak Inglez” Now what? Do not speak English louder and louder unless you want to invite disdain. If one phrase doesn’t work, try another. Speak slowly. It helps to have checked on the local language before arrival. Even when the pundits say, everyone speaks English there, you might not travel in the same circles as those pundits. I highly recommend you bring a phrase book if English is not the main language spoken. You want one with the phrase spelled out in your language for you and spelled out in the local language for showing locals. Then you can point to what you mean in the foreign language so that locals will be able to understand your meaning better.
Generally, I like to do a bit more. I recommend you get a language tape and tailor your own tape from that. I make my tape, listen to the foreign word and repeat, listen to the English and repeat and then listen to how the foreign word is said again. Learn how to say:
- Hello, Goodbye, Please, Thank you
- Where is the toilet?
- How much is that?
- Do you speak English?
- where is the (and point to your map)
- go left, go right, go straight ahead, on the corner, next to
- May I have one of those? And, With, Yes, No
- Interesting, beautiful
- Taxi, bus, train, airport
- museum, post office, restaurant, ticket, pharmacy
- hot, cold, delicious, coffee, milk, tea, wine, water
- more, less, a bit
- red, blue, white, green
- sunny, rainy, cloudy
- today, yesterday, tomorrow
- Enter, Exit, Do Not Enter, Open, Closed
- The name of that country and of your country in the local language
- When does it start? When does it end?
- Could you write it down for me?
- Excuse me (both to interrupt and to apologize if you step on a foot)
- Could you point to it? Could you help me. I am sick.
More is better but this is a good base. Also, it is good to recognize: “How are you?” And know how to respond, “fine thank you” and “Where are you from” and know your response, and “What is your name” and know how to say “My name is…” If buying a tape sounds too bothersome, there are internet sites where you can even listen to some of these words said aloud. If they use a non-Roman alphabet, some signs are good to learn: Male, Female, Danger, Warning, Enter, Closed, Open.
Make yourself a vocabulary list to study. Give yourself a month so if you procrastinate, there is still hope. With tonal languages, I try to give myself 3 months to prepare because I find them especially difficult. Take the vocabulary list with you to review on the plane and just prior to stepping out for the day once there. This bit of preparation can go a long way in making for a much better time. Some people who say they don’t speak English may even be engaging you in English after you handle some small talk in their own language. Just a little effort can go a long way.
“Americans who travel abroad for the first time are often shocked to discover that, despite all the progress that has been made in the last 30 years, many foreign people still speak in foreign languages.” — Dave Barry
“They spell it Vinci and pronounce it ‘Vinchy’: foreigners always spell better than they pronounce.” — Mark Twain
“It’s no coincidence that in no known language does the phrase ‘As pretty as an airport’ appear.” —- Douglas Adams