‘Couilles de poulet.’ This was my friend’s helpful suggestion when I told him I was putting together this article. As this translates as ‘chicken testicles’, it’s not really an essential phrase. Here are some sayings that might actually help you get around Europe’s capitals:
Wo ist die zoo? – Where is the zoo? You might also want to visit the Neue Nationalgalerie, the Jewish Museum, or the Märkisches Museum, which covers the history of Berlin.
Was kostet das film? – How much is that film? Watching movies is a great way to pick up bits and pieces of other languages. The best modern German director is probably Werner Herzog, who made some fantastic films with the volatile actor Klaus Kinski.
Haben sie tintenfisch – Do you have squid? If you’re not feeling that brave, try gulash (beef stew) or kaseschnitte (open melted cheese sandwich)
Wann fährt der nächste Bus/Zug nach…? – When is the next bus/train to…?
Sprechen sie Englisch? – Do you speak English? Always a useful phrase to have on standby. Of course, if you want to beef up your language skills, you can check out the German courses London language schools offer before you head off on your travels.
Dov’è un albergo? – Where is a hotel?
Che cosa mi consiglia? – What would you recommend? This is essential for people who suffer from menu-indicisiveness and post-order anxiety.
A che ora parte il treno? – What time does the train leave?
Quanto costa il libro? – How much is this book? If you can already read Italian, this guide probably won’t help you much, but if you just want to buy a book and worry about reading it later, go for Se questo è un uomo by Primo Levi or Il nome della rosa by Umberto Eco, which are both great (in the English translation, at least).
Parla inglese? The trusty old fall-back.
Avez-vous une chambre pour deux personnes? – Do you have a room for two people?
Où est le supermarché? – Where is the supermarket? You might also want directions to the Père Lachaise cemetery, where lots of notable French people are buried, Café des 2 Moulins, where part of Amelie was filmed, or Le China, a cool nightclub.
Qu’est-ce que c’est? – What is this? Best used when pointing at the Eiffel Tower.
Combien le tableau? – How much is this painting? Best used while pointing at the Mona Lisa.
Parlez-vous anglais? The get-out-of-jail-free card, if you need it.
¿Dónde puedo coger el autobús? – Where can I catch the bus?
¿Qué tipo de bocadillos tiene? – What kind of sandwiches do you have? Traditional Spanish recipes include fabada asturiana (bean stew), Basque tuna and potato casserole, and paella, though none of these are generally available in sandwich form.
¿Cuánto es esa camisa? – How much is that shirt? To ask what size it is: ¿Qué talla es?
¿A qué hora sale el próximo avión a Londres? – When is the next plane to London? If you’ve behaved anything like the standard British tourist in Spain, the locals will be only too pleased to tell you how to leave as soon as possible.
¿Habla inglés? Uttered by many a bewildered tourist.
Wherever you’re going on your travels, you’d be wise to look into the German, Spanish, Italian or French courses London and other UK cities offer first. Knowledge of just the bare essentials in the languages spoken where you’re going will make a huge difference to your trip. You’ll find it easier to get around, easier to meet people and easier to relax and enjoy yourself.