What vocabulary to pack for an unforgettable vacation

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Sprachprofi
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What vocabulary to pack for an unforgettable vacation

Postby Sprachprofi » Thu May 19, 2022 7:02 pm

To start this discussion, I shall crosspost what I wrote for the LanguageCrush blog. I'd like to hear other opinions. What are your go-to phrases?

Summer, sun, time off work… many of us are drawn to a vacation abroad in the next months. For me, Greece is my favourite destination, because it has 6000 islands, zillions of beaches, but also many ancient sights, and unmatched hospitality. I started studying Greek a few years ago and by now I speak it fluently. However, sometimes I “have to” travel to countries whose language I don’t speak yet - the Polyglot Conference in Japan was an example - and then the question is what I should learn in order to make the most out of the trip.

Most publishers of travel phrasebooks appear to think that I should learn how to book a room at a hotel, how to exchange foreign currency, how to explain a car emergency and so on. In my experience, these are not the kind of phrases that will lead to an unforgettable vacation. For one thing, most people book their hotel online, and even if they had to book a room locally, it’s very unlikely that a hotel wouldn’t have any English-speaking staff. Similarly for the currency exchange. It is possible I'll need to see a dentist or have my car towed while abroad, but I will look up the right phrases then, I don’t pre-learn them.

From the typical phrasebook phrases, I will learn only courtesy ones (greetings, thank you, requests…), numbers, and a few phrases for emergencies that don’t leave time to look up words (Stop! Leave me alone! Help me! Thief!…).

Apart from that, my study is focused on words and phrases that help me to connect with people on the street:

My name is… What is your name?
Where are you from? I come from…
Where do you live? I live in…
Do you like <country>? Yes, I love <country>! It is so beautiful!
How long are you staying? I am here for … days
When is your flight? My flight is in … days.
Have you seen <sight>? No, I have visited …, … and ….
I have seen <sight>. It is very impressive!
Tomorrow I am going to … .
I plan to visit … / You should visit ...
Do you have any recommendations?
Where is …? Is it far?
Is there a good restaurant around here?
I have (not) eaten … before. What should I try (now)?
Is this spicy? Can you make it milder?
Is this meat? Is this fish?
I would like to try something traditional.
This is delicious!
Sorry, I do not speak <language> very well. What is this in English?

Additionally, I learn some phrases that are specific to me, for example to explain my work, to explain that I’m vegetarian, if I had any food allergies I’d learn how to state those in the target language, and so on.

With this baseline, I can talk to local people who don’t know English, and with goodwill on both sides, we can make it work.

For example, I was taking a long-distance train in Japan and the person sitting next to me was an elderly Japanese lady who didn’t speak a word of English. Communicating with her was not without challenges, but I managed to convey that I had come all the way from Germany, that I had seen Nagoya, Osaka and Kyoto, that I had also visited Koyasan, which was very impressive, that the monks at Koyasan prepare really delicious vegetarian food, and she told me that it’s one of three very important places in Shingon Buddhism, and Miyajima (where I was planning to go) is another one of these important places, and so on. The phrase structure we used was very basic and we had to add gestures and the occasional word from Google Translate, but we both wanted to communicate and we made it work.

Any phrases you'd add? What worked well for you, short of reaching A2+ level?
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Re: What vocabulary to pack for an unforgettable vacation

Postby zenmonkey » Thu May 19, 2022 8:16 pm

I regularly look at phrasebooks at Wikitravel or other equivalent tools https://wikitravel.org/en/French_phrasebook
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Re: What vocabulary to pack for an unforgettable vacation

Postby Le Baron » Thu May 19, 2022 8:30 pm

Similar to above. One of my first posts on here was how courses teach obsolete material, which has altered in the internet world full of at least capable English-speakers. So yes the stuff you need to learn is navigational language outside of those basic evergreens like 'book a hotel'. Some might be retained, like: can I get breakfast here (and do I need to pay extra)? Most of this now tends to be in the written information.

20 years ago a friend told me to meet him at his house when he got back from work. I was early or he was late or both, but in any case he lived with his grandmother who was Russian...and so is he. So I was sitting at the table and we had nothing to say because she spoke no English and was weak in Dutch. So I bit the bullet and tried rudimentary Russian. What's your name....how long have you lived here...where did you live in Russia? Within ten minutes she was showing me photographs all animatedly and saying how horrid 'Gitler' was during the war. And then she made some little pancakes. Some of the talk was in broken sentences and single words. There's always a way.

If I was going somewhere where I didn't have any idea of the language I'd do those from your list. Maybe add a few: have you been/do you know/what do you think of?/just let me slip into something more comfortable... Well maybe not the last one.
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Re: What vocabulary to pack for an unforgettable vacation

Postby rdearman » Thu May 19, 2022 9:55 pm

I just got back from a trip to Korea. I kept a list, which you might want to pick some stuff from:

  • Your English is very good.
  • Where do I pay?
  • How many stops is it?
  • Is this ticket all day?
  • What is inside it?
  • What is it made from?
  • Do you sell black English tea bags?
  • Is this seat taken?
  • Am I allowed to take photos?
  • Do you work here?
  • You've dropped something
  • Hold the lift!
  • Can you show me the nearest ATM?
  • Do you sell these?
  • If I buy it downstairs can I eat it upstairs?
  • Is there a book shop nearby?
  • How much?
  • I'm sorry, but I can't speak Korean well.
  • I can speak a little Korean.
  • Do you take Credit Cards?
  • Where is my change?
  • What is the Korean word for "..."
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Re: What vocabulary to pack for an unforgettable vacation

Postby Querneus » Thu May 19, 2022 10:59 pm

rdearman wrote:...
Do you sell black English tea bags?
...

Truly essential phrases. :D
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Re: What vocabulary to pack for an unforgettable vacation

Postby luke » Fri May 20, 2022 1:05 am

Querneus wrote:
rdearman wrote:Do you sell black English tea bags?

Truly essential phrases. :D

Where can I get a good English muffin around here?
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Re: What vocabulary to pack for an unforgettable vacation

Postby jeff_lindqvist » Fri May 20, 2022 5:09 am

Variations on a theme:
  • Is there a vegetarian menu?
  • I'm vegetarian.
  • I don't eat meat.
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Re: What vocabulary to pack for an unforgettable vacation

Postby rdearman » Fri May 20, 2022 7:48 am

I'm allergic to...
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Re: What vocabulary to pack for an unforgettable vacation

Postby rdearman » Fri May 20, 2022 2:05 pm

Sprachprofi wrote:Apart from that, my study is focused on words and phrases that help me to connect with people on the street:

I think I misread what you wanted with my first post. Here are some better conversation starters. (Or Not)

  • What was the highlight of your day today?
  • Enjoying yourself?
  • Can you recommend any unique restaurants around here?
  • What is the best way I could waste some time here?
  • I'm a visitor, so what is the most important thing I should know about this city?
  • Where do you spend your free time? Would I enjoy it?
  • Have you travelled to different countries? Which ones?
  • What flavour of ice-cream do you with existed but doesn't?
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Re: What vocabulary to pack for an unforgettable vacation

Postby MorkTheFiddle » Thu May 26, 2022 6:07 pm

Do you have decaf?
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