Have you ever thought you’d like to study a new language, maybe on your own, just as a hobby, but you find yourself stuck at the beginning, unsure of what are the most important words to learn in order to be useful? Maybe you are planning a trip to Paris and want to brush up on your French, or you have a business conference coming up in Germany and want to be able to order dinner for yourself and your colleagues. In any case, it’s always nice to have some basic knowledge of the language you will be using when you are going to travel, so we did some research on the best vocabulary to start out with.
According to the website Fluent Forever (www.fluentforever.com), it can be helpful to have a few hundred words in the beginning of your language learning journey that you know from the very beginning. It will allow you to be more comfortable with spelling and pronunciation rules, and will give you the confidence to take on more challenging subjects later down the road.
The 1953 General Service List
If English is the language you will be working in, you may be interested to know about the General Service List. Developed in 1953, this list is a set of 2000 words that were selected to be of the greatest “general service” to learners of the English language. Frequency of word use proved important in determining which words one should study. The words that are most frequent are, of course, shorter words such as “the”, “be”, “of”, “and”, etc.
The list is available for free online and is a great resource if you are studying English. Nail those top 600 words and you’ve got most of the language figured out!
There are, however, some other phrases that should be learned no matter what language you are studying!
You should be able to thank someone in their native tongue when visiting their country. One of our staff writers found visiting the Czech Republic incredibly frustrating because she couldn’t remember the word for thank you and kept feeling incredibly rude while out and about in shops and restaurants! The word for thank you in Czech, by the way, is “dekuji”.
It is definitely polite to learn to say you’re sorry. You never know what might happen should you spill your French wine down the waiter’s shirt and forget to say, “pardon.”
Can I have…
You will inevitably be needing things, especially if you are traveling. You should learn the phrase to ask for something or order in a restaurant to ensure you don’t starve!
How much does it cost?
Unless you are completely made of money, chances are you will be watching some kind of a budget during your language learning process. You’ll want to learn this phrase so you can haggle at the bazaar and do shopping in your target language.
My name is…
If you are going to be introducing yourself, you’ll want to know how to say this phrase, and probably learn the phrase that traditionally goes with it, “What is your name?” Now, you’ll be making friends in your target language in no time!
Yes and No.
These are clearly important when learning any language. Be sure not to get them confused!
Where is the…
If you’ll be traveling, you’ll need to know how to orient yourself. Together with this phrase, you should study directions, and words like left and right, forward and backward, etc. in case you get lost and your smartphone suddenly becomes brain dead!
Sorry, I don’t understand.
Communicating in a new language is difficult and it’s perfectly natural that you might have to ask someone to repeat themselves. Learn how to politely ask that question and you’ll be fine when you encounter confusing situations.
Don’t be rude
Be sure to learn the polite way to excuse yourself from or end a conversation in your target language. You don’t want to seem rude by abruptly walking away from a conversation when it hasn’t been properly completed.
What are some other phrases that you find incredibly important when starting out on a new language adventure?
If you are interested in learning Spanish you may also find this beginner’s guide helpful!
Remember that you can study local business cultures and customs together with your language if you are traveling for work, to ensure that you are going to fit in with your local hosts.
Don’t forget to check our article about who is speaking what, where in EU.
Sometimes important details are lost in translation!