Travel Tip: Learn The Language Of The Country You’re Visiting!

From today on, I will start making travel tip blogposts. 1 tip per post, and I will start it in connection to my latest post.

So today’s travel post would be:

I feel that one of the things we, as responsible travelers should make, is to make an effort to learn the language of the country we are visiting. Too often, I hear people insisting English in a country that hardly understands it, and I think that’s sad.

Like the saying goes, When in Rome, do as the Romans do!

I feel it’s very important to adjust to the culture of our destination. I am not saying you should totally convert to their beliefs and practices, but you can begin reaching out by learning simple phrases. You cannot imagine how many smiles and laughs I got just by making small greetings to the Japanese in their language, and when they started really speaking to me, I would just say, “Nihonggo Wakaranai” (I don’t understand Japanese). And they would laugh, sometimes even touch my shoulder, and say goodbye to me as we part ways. Seriously. True story.

And it feels good, you know. You know how it feels when you hear a foreigner speak Filipino (even if they sound funny)? That’s probably how foreigners feel about us, too. A French woman we met in Florida actually told us that while they are perceived as “rude” when you speak to them in English, all they want really, is to hear you try and speak their language. You don’t have to be perfect; they’re not perfect in English as well. You don’t have to take a one-year course. A simple Bonjour! will do wonders. All they want is to hear you try. And yes, I agree in that concept of trying. We should be the ones adjusting, after all. To think English is a universal language that everyone SHOULD speak is one of the biggest mistakes you can ever make as a traveler.

Okay, so am not gonna teach you Japanese because obviously, I don’t speak the language, but here are 7 phrases that proved to be useful to me.

1. Susimasen (see-mah-sen) – Excuse Me. ALWAYS begin your greeting with this (if not Ohayo Gozaimasu or Konnichiwa!)

2. Nihonggo Wakaranai – I don’t speak Japanese.

3. Arigato Gozaimasu – Thank you very much. If you want to stretch it some more, you can say, DOMO arigato gozaimasu.

4. Kore wa takai desu! Waribiki, Onegai Shimasu? – It’s expensive. Discount, please?

5. Kore wa nan desu ka? – What is that?

6. Ikura desu ka? – How much?

7. (name of place) doku desu ka? – Where is (name of destination)?

NOTE: All their U’s at the end of each word are silent. Like GOZAIMASU is pronounced as gozaimas.

So there. Another thing we do whenever we travel, is to download a dictionary app of the language that country speaks. In this case, we downloaded an ENGLISH-JAPANESE dictionary, which proved to be useful, because it tells you the word in Japanese, spells it for you in their writing, and you can even play the recorder to hear how the word is spoken. This is perfect, when you’re describing/ looking for something particular, like the word “VEGETARIAN” in our case.


And so, I will cap off this post with a true story I wrote on my Facebook account after our Japan trip.


After getting out of Akihabara Station, we walked back and forth to look for this building where my in-laws were. Realizing we were lost in translation, I came up to this guy in my best attempt to speak little Japanese.

ME: Susimasen (Excuse me).
HIM: (stopped and looked at me)
ME: Yodobashi doko desu ka? (Where is Yodobashi Building?)
HIM: (in his attempt to speak little English) – Come, I will show you.

So, he actually walked us all the way to the building and made small chats along the way, like where were we from and was it our first time, etc etc.

Finally, we got to the building, and then…

HIM: Actually, I’m not Japanese. Am
Chinese. Also tourist like you.


But really, kindness on the road – something we always get. On my end, I make sure to pay it forward, like
offering to take photos of tourists (with their whole group in it) without asking them to take mine, because really, nothing can restore your faith in humanity as much as witnessing kindness on the road.

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