Important travel phrases

On Monday I will be travelling to Montreal to have some fun, to soak up a beautiful environment, and mostly to practice my French. This got me thinking about the most important phrases to know when travelling to a country where a foreign language is dominant. Of course, it’s not terribly difficult to find English speakers most places you travel, but knowing some key phrases is indispensible. Plus, locals appreciate it when travelers show respect by trying to communicate in their language.

Below are some helpful phrases in some of the world’s most popular languages.

Chinese (phonetically pronounced)
Hello: nín hǎo
Goodbye: zàijiàn
Please: oǐng
Thank you: xièxiè nǐ
Where is (the train station)?: Zài nǎlǐ (huǒchē zhàn)?
Where is (the toilet)?: Zài nǎlǐ (xǐshǒujiān)?
Right: yòu
Left: zuǒ
How much does this cost?: Duōshǎo qián ne?
I don’t speak (Chinese).: Wǒ bù huì shuō (zhōngwén).
Do you speak English?: Nǐ huì jiǎng yīngyǔ ma?

Fun phrase: Why doesn’t Google work here? Wèishéme bùshì gǔgē zài zhèlǐ gōngzuò?

Hello: bonjour
Goodbye: au revoir
Please: s’il vous plaît
Thank you: merci
Where is (the train station)?: Où est (la gare) ?
Where is (the toilet)?: Où est (le toilette)?
Right: droit
Left: à gauche
How much does this cost?: Combien ça coûte?
I don’t speak (French).: Je ne parle pas (en français).
Do you speak English?: Parlez-vous anglais?

Fun phrase: I would like a glass of (bordeaux) please.: Je voudrais un verre de (bordeaux) s’il vous plaît.

Hello: hallo
Goodbye: auf wiedersehen
Please: bitte
Thank you: danke
Where is (the train station)?: Wo ist (beim Bahnhof)?
Where is (the toilet)?: Wo ist (der toilette)?
Right: rechts
Left: links
How much does this cost?: Wie viel kostet das?
I don’t speak (German).: Ich spreche nicht (deutsch).
Do you speak English?: Sprechen Sie Englisch?

Fun phrase: Your country has very functional architecture.: Ihr Land hat sehr funktionale Architektur.

Hindi (phonetically pronounced)
Hello: hailō
Goodbye: alavidā
Please: krpayā
Thank you: dhan’yavāda
Where is (the train station)?: (Rēlavē sṭēśana) kahām̐ hai?
Where is (the toilet)?: (Śaucālaya) kahām̐ hai?
Right: adhikāra
Left: vāma
How much does this cost?: Jyādā isa lāgata kitanī hai?
I don’t speak (Hindi).: Maiṁ (hindī) bāta nahīṁ karatē.
Do you speak English?: Kyā āpa aṅgrēzī bōlatē haiṁ?

Fun phrase: It’s good that I like vegetarian food.: Yaha acchā hai ki maiṁ śākāhārī bhōjana pasanda hai.

Hello: ciao
Goodbye: addio
Please: si prega di
Thank you: grazie
Where is (the train station)?: Dove si trova (la stazione ferroviaria)?
Where is (the toilet)?: Dove si trova (la toilette)?
Right: destra
Left: sinistra
How much does this cost?: Quanto costa questo?
I don’t speak (Italian).: Non parlo (italiano).
Do you speak English?: Parli inglese?

Fun phrase: How does a country have so many beautiful women? Come fa un paese sono tante belle donne?

Japanese (phonetically pronounced)
Hello: kon’nichiwa
Goodbye: sayōnara
Please: shite kudasai
Thank you: arigatō
Where is (the train station)?: Doko no ekidesu?
Where is (the toilet)?: Toire wa dokodesu ka?
Right: migi
Left: hidari
How much does this cost?: Kore wa ikura kakarimasu ka?
I don’t speak (Japanese).: Watashi wa nihongo o hanasanai.
Do you speak English?: Anata wa eigo o hanashimasu ka?

Fun phrase: Where can I buy a robot? Koko de watashi wa robotto o kōnyū dekimasu ka?

Russian (phonetically pronounced)
Hello: privet
Goodbye: do svidaniya
Please: pozhaluĭsta
Thank you: spasibo
Where is (the train station)?: Gde (zheleznodorozhnyĭ vokzal)?
Where is (the toilet)?: Gde (v tualet )?
Right: sprava
Left: sleva
How much does this cost?: Skolʹko eto stoit?
I don’t speak (Russian).: YA ne govoryu (russkiĭ )
Do you speak English?: Vy govorite po-angliĭski ?

Fun phrase: I want a big fuzzy hat.: YA hochu bolʹshoĭ nechetkih shlyapu

Hello: hola
Goodbye: adiós
Please: por favor
Thank you: gracias
Where is (the train station)?: ¿Dónde está (la estación de tren)?
Where is (the toilet)?: ¿Dónde está (el baño)?
Right: derecho
Left: izquierda
How much does this cost?: ¿Cuánto cuesta esto?
I don’t speak (Spanish).: Yo no hablo (español).
Do you speak English?: ¿Hablas Inglés?

Fun phrase: No more tequila or I’ll vomit.: N el tequila más o voy a vomitar.

Hello: hello
Goodbye: kwaheri
Please: tafadhali
Thank you: asante
Where is (the train station)?: Ambapo ni (kituo cha treni)?
Where is (the toilet)?: Ambapo ni (ya choo)?
Right: haki
Left: kushoto
How much does this cost?: Kiasi gani hii gharama?
I don’t speak (Swahili).: Siongei (Kiswahili).
Do you speak English?: Je kuzungumza Kiingereza?

Fun phrase: It’s so hot I feel like I’m melting.: Ni hivyo moto mimi najisikia kama niko kiwango.

Funny French Idioms

As part of my final in my French class, I will be performing a scene from a famous French play. I don’t know yet what character I will be, but I do know that I will be wearing a unicorn hat. Because I have one. Because, why not? (And because it may be silly enough to distract my teacher from noticing any mispronunciations.)

To get in the mood for my debut as an actrice française, I have collected a group of funny French idioms for you to enjoy.

Idioms are phrases, sometimes unique to particular cultures, that have a different meaning than the literal phrase. English idioms you may recognize are, “It’s raining like cats and dogs,” and “mad as a hatter.”

French idiom: C’est la fin des haricots.
Literal translation: That’s the end of the beans.
Idiomatic meaning: That’s the last straw.

French idiom: Devenir chêvre
Literal translation: To become a goat
Idiomatic meaning: To get very angry

French idiom: Les carottes sont cuites.
Literal translation: The carrots are cooked.
Idiomatic meaning: I’ve had enough!

French idiom: Casser les oreilles.
Literal translation: To break someone’s ears
Idiomatic meaning: To be offensive with too loud of music, too much talking, etc.

French idiom: Faire un boeuf
Literal translation: To make a beef
Idiomatic meaning: To have a musical jam session

French idiom: Avoir la gueule de bois
Literal translation: To have a wooden face
Idiomatic meaning: To have a hangover

French idiom: Faire un tabac
Literal translation: Make a tobacco
Idiomatic meaning: Be the talk of the town

French idiom: Avoir le cafard
Literal translation: To have the beetle
Idiomatic meaning: To be blue

French idiom: Chercher des puces
Literal translation: To look for fleas
Idiomatic meaning: To annoy someone

French idiom:  A toutes les sauces
Literal translation: With all the sauces
Idiomatic meaning: In all kinds of ways

French idiom: Avoir le démon de midi
Literal translation: To have the midday demon
Idiomatic meaning: To have a midlife crisis

French idiom: Faire le pied de grue
Literal translation: To make like a flamingo stands
Idiomatic meaning: To wait

On that note, I’m going to “make like a tree and leave” until next time. Bonsoir!

I will answer this question after I face east

Lesson: orient versus orientate


Which word is correct, orient or orientate? The answer is actually simple. They’re both correct . . . technically.



Orient and orientate both originated from the same French verb orienter (which came from the Latin word oriens, meaning “east”), Like the English words, orienter means “to position.” One definition literally means “to face east,” toward Asia. Similarly, disorient and disorientate come from the French word désorienter, which means “to lose one’s bearings” and literally “to turn from the east.”

Which word to use

Though both words are acceptable, I suggest using the shorter words: orient, oriented, disorient, disoriented. It’s a good rule of thumb that the shorter word is usually the best option. Otherwise, when you choose the longer option, it’s easy to fall into the trap of sounding pompous. We’re all familiar with business writing or term papers or cover letters where the writer tried to “smart up” the writing, and it just comes off as being convoluted.

Fun fact: We know orient is also a reference to the eastern part of the world. But, did you know there is a similar word for the western part of the world? It’s occident, which comes the Latin word occidens, which means “sunset” and “west.”

Denglish, Franglais, Germish, and Spanglish – English words find new life across the globe

Lesson: How English words evolve in other languages

Last time we discussed false friends, words that look the same or similar to words in other languages, but have different meanings. Related to false friends are pseudo-anglicisms. These are English words other languages adopt, but use in ways English speakers would likely misunderstand.

Here is a list of some interesting pseudo-anglicisms:

pseudo-anglicism foreign definition
autostop (Greek) hitchhiking
baskets (French / Romanian) sneakers
beautyfarm (German / Italian) spa
college (Finnish) sweater
desk  (Japanese) title  for office worker
dressman (German) male model
face control (Russian) checking if a person looks appropriate (a common practice in Russian night clubs)
funeralmaster (German) undertaker
gadgets (Italian) goodies
gimmick  (Filipino) a night out with friends
golf (Italian) sweater
handphone (Korean) cell phone
handy (German) cell phone
junk  (Dutch) drug addict (In English it would be “junkie”)
magnetron (Dutch) microwave oven (sounds more like a superhero name to me)
mansion (Japanese) condominium apartments
pocket (Dutch) paperback book
relooking (French) makeover
shampooing (French) shampoo
slang (Filipino) a strong foreign accent
skin scuba (Korean) scuba diving
smart (Japanese) skinny
speaker / speakerine (French) Announcer (radio, TV, railway)
style (Vietnamese) Appearing teenage, playful, modern
talkmaster (German) talk show host
topfit  (Dutch / German) physically fit
twen (German) a person in his/her twenties

Some of these I really love. Wouldn’t it sound good to say, “I won’t be back until tonight, honey. I’m going to the beautyfarm,” or, “I’ll get you your stupid food in a minute. Let me throw it in the MAGNETRON!!!”

It’s amazing how much of  American culture we have exported. (Though it’s frightening to think how many people in foreign countries may know who Snooki is. On behalf of America, sorry about that one.)

For your enjoyment, here is a list of more pseudo-anglicisms.

Freud was right the first time: Sometimes a cigar is not just a cigar


Lesson: The dangers of false friends when learning a language

The next time you visit Germany, don’t say danke schön when you receive a gift. In German, “gift” means “poison.” And when in Italy, beware of signs reading “casino,” unless, of course, you are looking to go to a brothel.

“Gift” and “casino” are two examples of “false friends.” False friends are words that look the same or similar to words in another language, but have different meanings. They can be a roadblock to language learners, who may wrongly attribute a familiar definition to the new word (sometimes with accidental comedic effect).

Two kinds of false friends are “cognates” and “false cognates.”


Cognates are words that have a common etymological origin. Or, said another way, they share a parent on the language family tree. For example: night (English), nuit (French), nacht (German), and notte (Italian) were all derived from the same Proto-Indo-European word. Cognates become false friends if Language A borrows a word from Language B, but over time, Language B changes the word’s meaning.

False cognates are words that look similar, but actually formed from two separate languages. In these cases, it’s just coincidence that one word looks like another.

Here are some funny examples of false friends with English words:

Foreign word English word Foreign word definition
after (German) after anus
bald (German) bald soon
bras (French) bras arm
constipado (Spanish) constipated a cold
embarazada (Spanish) embarrassed pregnant
fahrt (German)fart (Swedish) fart speed
fat (Swedish) fat dinner plate
gift (Swedish) gift married
killa (Swedish) kill tickle
limo (German) limo lemonade
mama (Georgian) mama father
smoking (French, German, Spanish, Swedish) smoking tuxedo jacket

False friends are one of languages’ lovable (and sometimes irritating) eccentricities. Be sure to keep note of the embarrassing ones in your learning adventures, or else you may be deeply disappointed when a suave gentleman comes to your door with a glass of lemonade instead of a limo.

If you are interested in a longer list of false friends, click here.