When Jen and I travel, almost everyone we meet is fluent in at least one other language other than their native one. And if their native language isn't English, they are almost certainly fluent or at least proficient in English. So I'm more than a little ashamed that I really have no other languages under my belt.
After doge knows how many years of public school Spanish, elementary school Hebrew, a college semester of Hebrew, and a semester of Italian, the only non-English language I'm fluent in is 5,000 Ways to Say Dick in Yiddish.
Of course I try to be respectful and learn as many basics as I can before a trip. Of course, there's always the fear that I'll speak it too well, and someone will start talking to me in a completely different language. It rarely happens, but when it does...
Regardless of where you go, here are some useful phrases to learn before you go.
Let's be real, if the rest of the world didn't already think Americans were assholes, now that Donald Trump is our primary representative, they certainly do. Making an effort to learn the basics, like "THANK YOU," goes a long way. Literally everyone we talked to told us the French would be snobby and look down on us, but we couldn't have had a more opposite experience. Everyone was friendly and helpful, and I attribute this partly to the fact that we were respectful enough to say "merci," even when they responded with "you're welcome." Other must-have basics in your Trump-sized foreign vocabulary: "Please," "Excuse me," "Where is..." and "Do you speak English?"
NECESSITA UNA BEBIDA
GUYS. YOU'RE ON VACATION, RIGHT?!?! Chances are you might want a drink or three. If you're not already a world-class drinker, it may behoove you to learn that country's drink of choice. Yeah, we all know Spain has bomb-ass sangria, and France has ALL the wine, but what about the lesser known beverages of Portugal? When Jen and I visited Lisbon, we discovered vinho verde (translation: green wine), a lightly sweet, tart, and crisp white wine that comes from the lushest parts of Portugal. Jen was also introduced to one of my favorite cocktails -- the caipirinha -- a Brazilian drink made with cachaça, sugar, and lime juice. It's basically a delightful alcoholic limeaid. But if you're like Jen, and you want to order one, you might want to practice asking for one beforehand.
ALIMENTAME (POR FAVOR)
Sure, in some places you might already be familiar with the cuisine, or the words might be close enough to ones you already know enough to figure out if there isn't an English translation on the menu. But in other places, like Japan, for instance, if there is no English translation and you can't even read the alphabet, welp, you're fucked. Luckily, my handy-dandy Lonely Planet Tokyo guide included the phrase "What would you recommend?" This is how I ended up eating what is the best ramen I've ever eaten in my life (and probably will ever eat). Downside -- I have no idea what was in it, so I can't even come close to attempting to replicate it in the States.
Look, words like "Vaffanculo" are a last resort. I do not recommend being an asshole in a country other than your own. But if, for instance, a "romantico" Italian male thinks it's cool to follow you down the street, cat-calling you, you might want to know how to say GFY in Italiano. Or, if you're attending a soccer game and want to fit in with the crowd...
What words have you learned abroad?