Country: United States of America


Saying “Hello” And Common Phrases In Other Languages

June 29, 2011

Whether you are going abroad for leisure, volunteer experience, research, studies, or another reason, it is important to memorize a few common phrases in the language of your host country.

Through my personal experience, I have learned the most important phrases to be “Hello,” “Please,” “Thank you,” “I’m sorry,” and “Where is it?”

If you find yourself in a rut, remember that simple hand gestures and a smile can usually get you father than a grammatically butchered sentence, and humility is your best friend.

Here is a list of words and common phrases in their most simple English pronunciation of the most common languages that you will need while volunteering abroad, with help from and


People in a Cafe, Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Spanish: “Hola”
French: “Bonjour”
Dutch: “Goedendag”
Portuguese: “Oi,” “Boas,” or “alô”
Arabic: Mar-ha-ban
Mandarin: Nee how


Spanish: Por favor
French: S’il vous plait
Dutch: Alstublieft
Portuguese: Se faz favor, por favor
Arabic: Min fadlak (to man), min fadlik (to woman)
Mandarin: Qing

Thank you

Spanish: Gracias
French: Merci
Dutch: Dank je
Portuguese: Obrigado/a
Arabic: Shokran
Mandarin: Shyieh, shyieh 

Where is (something)?

Spanish: ¿Donde está?
French: Où est-il?
Dutch: Waar is het?
Portuguese: Onde?
Arabic: Anya ajedu
Mandarin: Nar Yowe

I’m Sorry

Spanish: Lo siento
French: Je suis désolé
Dutch: Het spijt me or vergeef mij
Portuguese: Desculpe
Arabic: Aasef
Mandarin: Dui bu qi

Before you head abroad, don’t forget to pick up a dual language pocket dictionary. Most dual language dictionaries offer sections with specific categories, such as directions, lists of common foods, and short phrases upon meeting someone. If you are unsure of how to pronounce something and don’t want to buy a “how to” book, go online for sources which allow you to listen to the language spoken by native speakers.