August 9, 2023

Bonjour! Parla Italiano? Muy bien! Communicating abroad for monoglots

Written by:
A1 Travel
Definition: using or speaking only one language

We’ve all heard the stereotypes. One of the most pervasive ones? That French people are all snobby and treat non-French speakers with disdain. Well, I’ve been to France and I can assure you, that’s just not true. The French are some of the friendliest people I’ve met. What they appreciate, even if you don’t know your pain au chocolat from your escargot, is that you learn a few key phrases, and try your best.

It’s a good approach for going anywhere where you don’t speak the language. No one is going to expect travelers to be fluent, but it sure helps to master the basics. Whether you practice on the plane, buy a phrasebook, or download a translation app, locals will love that you’re putting in the effort to communicate.

Ready for a language lesson? Here are some important words and phrases to use on your next international vacation.


Spanish: Hola! (OH-lah)

French: Bonjour! (bohn-ZHOOR)

Italian: Formal: Salve! (Sahl-vay) or Informal: Ciao! (chow)

German: Hallo! (HAH-low)

Good day!

Spanish: Buenos dias! (BWAY-nos DEE-yas)

French: Bonjour! (bohn-ZHOOR)

Italian: Buongiorno! (bwon-JOR-noh)

German: Guten tag! (GOO-tin tahg)

Thank you!

Spanish: Gracias! (GRA-see-yahs when you’re in Mexico and Latin America, or GRA-thee-yahs when you’re in Spain)

French: Merci! (mare-SEA)

Italian: Grazie! (GRAHT-zee)

German: Danke! (DAHNK-keh)

  • Expert tip: Are you really thankful? Try “muchas gracias,” “merci beaucoup,” “mille grazie,” or “danke sehr.”


Spanish: Por favor! (pour fah-vore)

French: S’il vou plait! (sea-vu-play)

Italian: Per favore! (pear fah-VOH-reh)

German: Bitte! (BIT-uh)


Spanish: Si! (see) No! (no)

French: Oui! (we) Non! (nohn)

Italian: Si! (see) No! (no)

German: Ja! (yah) Nein (nine)

Do you speak English?

Spanish: Habla Ingles? (AH-blah een-GLAYSE)

French: Parlez vou Anglais? (parlay-VOO ahn-GLAYSE)

Italian: Parla Inglese? (PAR-la in-GLAY-say)

German: Sprechen Sie Englisch? (SPREH-ken zee English)

  • Expert tip: Sometimes being a little self-deprecating about your foreign language skills will encourage locals to admit that, actually, they do speak a little bit of English. One of my favorite phrases in Paris is “Desole, je ne parle pas Francais.” It translates to “I’m sorry, I don’t speak French.” French speakers liked that I took the time to learn a tiny bit of their language, and I didn’t have any issues communicating after that.


Spanish: Adios! (ah-dee-OHSE)

French: Au revoir! (oh-VWAH)

Italian: Formal: Arrivederci! (ah-reeva-DARE-chee) or Informal: Ciao! (chow)

German: Auf Wiedersehen (auf VEE-der-zein)

Of course, these phrases are just a start. Since you’ll be sitting for awhile on the plane ride there, it might also be worth learning how to say “Where is the bathroom?” “How much does this cost?” “Would you please take our picture?” “I would like…” and whatever other sentences you think you might use. Your pronunciation doesn’t have to be perfect, but again, it’s the thought that counts. At the very least, you’ll get a smile in return for your efforts. So, buena suerte, and bon voyage!