common phrases

I'll be visiting a number of countries in the next year: Azores, Portugal, France, Ireland, Belgium, Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, and Norway. I'm looking to learn what I thought would be common phrases/words wanted to be known by other tourists. Words such as "Stop", "Thief", "Help", and "Police". But I cannot find them listed anywhere. Don't you all think these words should be added to those "Common Word/phrases Lists" present in most travel guides?

Posted by Ed
Pensacola
7967 posts

Maybe preface the question with another one: 'How many people have ever used them?' Maybe there's not a common/frequent need?

Posted by Nancy
Corvallis OR
961 posts

Like the others said they may not be the words tourists expect to have to use but if you want to be prepared maybe you could make a list of the words you want that aren't in the travel guides and then google for them. For example you can just type in "how to say stop in Norwegian". Basically just make your own list of those words. A little more work but tailored just for you.

Posted by Tom
Hüttenfeld, Hessen, Germany
9097 posts

I'd be impressed if you could remember all of these phrases in the unlikely event that you become a victim of a crime. But anywya, here's a little help for the Dutch-speaking part of your trip. Stop- "Houdt op", or more simply, just "Stop" Thief- "Dief" (pronounced "Deef") Help- "Help me" ("muh") Police- "Politie" ("POL-ee-see")

Posted by Norma
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
3404 posts

Perhaps you should also learn how to say: How very kind! Thank you for your help. Our meal was delicious. We are enjoying your country. Your city is very beautiful.

Posted by Lo
Tucson
646 posts

In the bar across the top of Google, there is a "More" option. The first item under More is "Translate". Go there to try all your words. Choose the language(s) from the lists in the "From" and "To" drop down boxes. The To language will usually have a speaker in the bottom right of the results box. Click on it for the pronunciation. The memorization should be pretty easy. Many of the countries you list may spell the word slightly differently, but the pronounced word will be the same, or vice-versa. Many will sound a lot like English and in most, like the last 6 on your list, so much English is spoken that anyone around will know the English words if you yell them.

Posted by Pamela
New York City, NY, USA
3298 posts

I am pretty sure that many of these are in Phrase books. I had one of Rick Steves for German, but it didn't make the cut when I moved to NYC. I think it's in there. If you can find a brick and mortar bookstore anywhere check out the travel section. And you'll find Norma's words in the phrase book as well. And words for food, which will be most useful!

Posted by Lo
Tucson
646 posts

One little story... Back in the 80s I was on the Metro in Paris, sitting on a little jump seat right next to the exit. That made people's waists at my eye level. It was very crowded. There was a woman right next to and facing the door and I saw a guy get on with his back to the door. Then I saw him open her purse. I motioned and yelled to the woman in my very bad French, "Madame, madame! Votre sac!" She looked down and caught him. He stepped right backwards out of the car before the doors closed. He got nothing and she thanked me profusely in French. I asked her what you would call that (comment s'appele la). Her response? Le pick pocket. Most English words are not as ubiquitous as Okay or Coke or Stop, but pick pocket may be close.

Posted by Dick
Olympia, WA, USA
664 posts

Ditto to Norma. The most useful thing I can learn in another language is "thank you." Pretty much anything else can be conveyed with pointing to something or mimicking an action, perhaps bringing a laugh as well as a helpful response. The emergency words Koren is looking for appear in my three phrasebooks for Spanish (Berlitz), French (Rick Steves) and Dutch (Lonely Planet), along with many others. I think they'd also be in most general-purpose guidebooks. But I take along a pocketsize phrasebook wherever I don't speak the language (and even in France where I have a reasonable touristic vocabulary). Last time I went to Britain I could have used one too!

Posted by Brad
Gainesville, VA
7188 posts

This is no help, sorry for that, but my technique is to stick (as much as possible) with one language group per trip. I can cram on virtually any language to get some basics - but I'm not able to cram on Portuguese, French, German, Dutch, Danish, Swedish, and Norwegian at the same time. Fortunately, Scandinavians all use English as a second language. That said, my cramming for Spain didn't do as much good as I would have liked - almost no one speaks what I'd call proper Castilian. I did spend a couple of weeks in Quebec this summer and my French cramming helped some. Even though my French was far from good, I did get positive comments about my effort.

Posted by koren
manchester, md, usa
3 posts

Norma et al I like to think I'm still a very courteous individual (as my elders taught me). Also, I plan on learning (and/or keeping a crib sheet) with many different phrases to a) be polite, b) show I have an interest in their country, and c) show I have an avid interest in their culture. In my OP, I wasn't asking for translations, nor about if I'm courteous or not, but upon reviewing peoples answers I came to the realization that maybe, perhaps, guidebook authors should take a look at this issue. "Common phrase" lists appear in many guide books, but it's always the usual phrases that come to mind first i.e. "Where is the ......", "Thank you", and "You're welcome", yes? Perhaps the authors of theses guide books could include additional words/phrases related to say for this post:Public and Personal Safety. Phrases such as the following: 1. Please call a Doctor. 2. Please call an ambulance. 3. Please call the Police. 4. Please call the Fire Department. 5. Please call the hospital. 6. Please call the bomb squad. 7. Stop, thief! 8. Help! 9. Pickpocket 10. "He", or "She" is stealing from you. 11. Please help me.
12. Please help us. Just think about someone being in an emergency situation:for example their spouse having a heart attack, and there they are, not knowing the language to tell, or ask someone, for help, or even what kind of help is needed. In a situation like this, when minutes count, you are literally, and figuratively at a loss for words.

Posted by koren
manchester, md, usa
3 posts

I can other lists being included, a list for Dining, Lodging, Train Travel, and Air Travel. Again, common phrases and words specific to those headers.I know that some members of this board may/will critize me no matter what I write on here, (as they do on most Travel Forums), I don't care - I'm interested in this issue, and I believe that there are others also interested in what I have to write also - so here goes - first - Please note: a) these are just examples, and b) when speaking with a "countryman", always precede each phrase with the phrase "Excuse me", in their own language... "DINING - COMMON PHRASES" 1. Is that included? 2. Is that extra? 3. Is there a charge for...? 4. May I have a (fork, spoon, knife, napkin)? 5. Where is restroom? 6. Is service charge included? 7. What is that/this? 8. Waiter 9. Waitress 10. Excuse me. 11. Rare/medium/well-done 12. May I have a glass of water/milk/soft-drink/beer? 13. May I have a cup of Tea? 14. May I have a cup of Coffee? 15. My compliments to the chef. 16. I'm sorry, but this does not taste good. 17. Please have this cooked a bit more. 18. May I have the check/bill? 19. This is delicious. 20. The aroma is breathtaking. 21. The food is terrible! 22. Where is my change? 23. This is not the correct amount. 24. I did not order that/those!
25. This soup tastes like dirty baby diapers! Did you at least smile??? Koren

Posted by George
Canada
817 posts

WOW ... that's quite the list! Personally, I just use a translate app on my iPhone and iPad to get me through the day.

Posted by Jim
Bern, Switzerland
341 posts

Just think about someone being in an emergency situation:for example their spouse having a heart attack, and there they are, not knowing the language to tell, or ask someone, for help, or even what kind of help is needed. In a situation like this, when minutes count, you are literally, and figuratively at a loss for words. Maybe to put on this, in Europe we use common language frame work to classify one's ability to use a language. Level A1 covers most of the stuff you need to know to use the language as a tourist and takes about 10 weeks of intensive classes - about 20 hours per week. The EU objective is that every citizen, in addition to their native language, speaks two others at A2 level. So I'd suggest putting all your time into one language would be more useful than trying to learn a few words in each - remember you need to be able understand the responses as well! Most Europeans learn at least one of English/German/French, so if you have English plus one of the other two at A1 level you'll be ahead of most people.

Posted by Brendon
Auburn, Washington, USA
494 posts

What I do in each country I have visited is to ask them if they speak english in their language. In Europe, English is their second language. Just learn the basics: Hello How are you? Please Thank you Where is.. How much... Do you speak English? Do you have... Goodbye
Cheers!

Posted by Jim
Bern, Switzerland
341 posts

I can't advise you with those phrases, but I do recall from my own French lessons at school that we had to know: "la plume de ma tante est dans le jardin" (apologies for poor spelling/grammar). I've never had to use this, but perhaps you will find it helpful. I also recall we had to know how to ask a German the best way to the railway station. If that would be useful please say, and I will pass it on.
Mostly, though, I remember, "amo, amas, amat" etc. from Latin. Would that help? Hi Keith, I guessing it's a while ago since you were in school, no more than myself <g>. But I think things have moved on a bit, at least they have in Switzerland. The objectives for foreign language teaching in schools here follows the standard European language framework and makes use of the typical books you find on adult language courses. So the first year (A1) covers things like introducing yourself, finding out a little about others, seeking directions, travel, tourist accommodation and so on. Jim

Posted by Jim
Bern, Switzerland
341 posts

Susan: If I were in an emergency situation I wouldn't be able to remember what the appropriate word(s) are and I wouldn't have time to find my phrase book and open to the right page. Same if I had a smart phone and a translation app. Luckily we (anyone reading this) speak English (which many people in Europe understand), and hopefully someone passing by will understand. And if they don't understand exactly what I'm saying, they'll understand I have a problem and they'll try to help. Very true and actually I'd suggest what is more important is that you understand the differences between American English and British English - which is what most Europeans learn. I well remember an American work colleague asking one of my Swiss colleagues if it was OK to drink water from the faucet, only to receive the reply "I don't think we have that make (brand) over here"!!!

Posted by Susan
Sausalito, California
3202 posts

Jim, I'm talking about an emergency situation. Not a random question in a calm situation. Words like: Help, Police, Hospital, Doctor, Urgent have a good chance of being understood. If I'm asking about something under the hood of my truck I'll be sure to say bonnet and lorry... ;)

Posted by Zoe
Toledo, Ohio, US
2460 posts

True story: I was in the cathedral in Strasbourg, France, today, and a laminated sign was attached to one of the columns in the right side aisle: "ATTENTION AUX PICKPOCKETS"

Posted by Ed
Pensacola
7967 posts

If you really understood French nuance you'd realize that it's an effort to bring miscreants back into the fold with a special mass and not made such a naive post.

Posted by Matt
Washington, DC, USA
566 posts

Most publishers have to make editorial decisions about what to put into small carry-on reference books. That goes for phrase books as well as guide books: there is only a limited amount of pages and endless possible conversations. I think they go with some common sense rules. I'm not sure what good it would be to have your bag taken, and then you open your phrase book, turn to Common Phrases, and repeat phonetically "Stop, Thief!" as the fellow has already departed the scene, boarded the Metro, changed lines, and is home romancing his wife while you fumble for the the correct phrase. Besides, what if he stole your phrase book, too? On a slightly more serious note, I've never found what I need to say about a meal in a generic phrase book. Usually the preparation of the dish is too complex to be found just under "chicken," etc., but the Marling Menu-Master guides have been useful on those occasions and are very easy to carry around.

Posted by Keith
United Kingdom
679 posts

I can't advise you with those phrases, but I do recall from my own French lessons at school that we had to know: "la plume de ma tante est dans le jardin" (apologies for poor spelling/grammar). I've never had to use this, but perhaps you will find it helpful. I also recall we had to know how to ask a German the best way to the railway station. If that would be useful please say, and I will pass it on. Mostly, though, I remember, "amo, amas, amat" etc. from Latin. Would that help?

Posted by Susan
Sausalito, California
3202 posts

If I were in an emergency situation I wouldn't be able to remember what the appropriate word(s) are and I wouldn't have time to find my phrase book and open to the right page. Same if I had a smart phone and a translation app. Luckily we (anyone reading this) speak English (which many people in Europe understand), and hopefully someone passing by will understand. And if they don't understand exactly what I'm saying, they'll understand I have a problem and they'll try to help. Should those words be in a phrase book? Yeah. If they aren't, just Google them and write them in.

Posted by Norma
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
3404 posts

The one and only time I had to shout for help was on Wenceslas Square in Prague when a friend and I were suddenly surrounded by 4 guys intent on getting their hands in our purses. Without even thinking about it I just started yelling "HELP! POLICE!" over and over again. Other people stopped in their tracks to stare at us and the villains slunk away. Had I known the Czech words for help and police I doubt I'd have had the wit to recall them.

Posted by Maryam
Washington, DC
560 posts

I understood what you meant: Polite phrases (i.e., thank you, please, etc.) exist in current guidebooks, and you are looking for "emergency" words that are left out. In my experience, I have always seen them in the guidebooks (at least Rick Steves' phrase books), however, use your Google translate (app or on the computer) and you will get what you are looking for. Perhaps they should be included, but I think the list of words you have above are pretty universal. To be honest, in my handful of travels to foreign lands, I never thought to want to know those words. Have fun (and stay out of trouble!).