9 useful phrases for when you’re new to a city and don’t speak the language

Whether interns are exploring the museums in Berlin, picking up marketing skills in Shanghai, boosting their entrepreneurship skills in Colombia, learning about the business world in Hong Kong or soaking in Madrid’s freethinking, bohemian culture, these useful phrases will come in handy. Newcomers to any city have to prepare for basic interactions with locals. Languages can be tricky to pick up, so you have to start somewhere: this list. With some practice on the plane or back home and commitment to engage in the new language once you arrive, you’ll quickly become comfortable speaking and listening to these new languages as you travel and do your internship abroad.


9 unbelievably useful phrases for traveling


1. Hello/Goodbye

(How else would you start a conversation?)

Spanish: Hola/Adios
German: Hallo/Auf Wiedersehen
Mandarin: Nǐ hǎo/Zài jiàn


2. Do you speak English?

(Because I do!)

Spanish: ¿Usted habla ingles?
German: Sprechen sie Englisch?
Mandarin: Nǐ huì shuō Yīngyǔ ma?


3. How much does that cost?

(To master that shopping game ASAP.)

Spanish: ¿Cuanto cuesta?
German: Wieviel kostet das?
Mandarin: Duō shǎo qián?


useful phrases for traveling


4. Could you please say that again?

(Because I definitely didn’t understand you the first time!)

Spanish: Díme de nuevo, por favor.
German: Bitte wiederholen.
Mandarin: Qǐng nǐ zài shuō yí biàn.


5. What’s your name?

(Making international friends is fun!)

Spanish: ¿Cómo se llama?
German: Wie heißen Sie?
Mandarin: Qǐngwèn nǐ jiào shénme míngzi?


6. It’s an emergency!

(And I’m kind of freaking out.)

Spanish: ¡Es una emergencia!
German: Es ist ein Notfall!
Mandarin: Shì jǐnjí zhuàngkuàng!


useful phrases for traveling


7. Where is the metro?

(Because everyone needs to find their way home.)

Spanish: ¿Donde está el metro?
German: Wo ist die U-Bahn?
Mandarin: Qǐngwèn dìtiězhàn zài nǎ er?


8. Pardon me/I’m sorry

(Insert sheepish grin here.)

Spanish: Perdóname/Lo siento
German: Entschuldigung/Es tut mir Leid
Mandarin: Duìbuqǐ/Hěn bàoqiàn


9. Please/Thank you

(P’s and Q’s… we need them in all countries.)

Spanish: Por favor/Gracias
German: Bitte/Danke
Mandarin: Qǐng/Xièxie nǐ



Apply now to boost your career abroad and practice these useful phrases for traveling.


Sources: http://www.fodors.com/language/german/basic-phrases/, http://www.fodors.com/language/chinese/basic-phrases/, http://www.tour-beijing.com/beijing_travel/Chinese_Phrases_for_travelers.php#.WDcEAZJ11go, http://www.oncallinternational.com/blog/before-you-travel-key-phrases-to-learn-in-the-local-language/


1. based on London Town, by August Brill, CC-by-2.0

2. based on Madrid, by Surreal Name Given, CC-by-2.0

3. based on A Night in Hong Kong #2, by aotaro, CC-by-2.0


The International Internships Blog is a collaboration by The Intern Group staff, alumni and current participants to give you career advice & tips, program information, & so much more!

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Elizabeth Trovall

After short stints in Argentina and Belize, Elizabeth is finishing up her fourth year in Santiago, Chile. Elizabeth writes about international internships, life abroad and professional development for The Intern Group. She also reports on politics, business and culture in Latin America for public radio and print media. An Austin, Texas native, Elizabeth first left home to earn her journalism degree from the Reynolds Institute of Journalism at the University of Missouri. Besides her friends and family, she misses live music and Mexican food the most.
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