Travelling in Europe – Languages

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Euro Vacations Guide - Travelling in Europe - Languages

If you are an English speaker you will probably be able to get by, no matter where you travel in Europe. However, you may find that you receive better service if you make the effort to learn a little of the language of the country in which you’re travelling. You may also find that in the more remote rural areas of any of the European countries, few people do speak English and they may even speak a dialect rather than the mainstream language of the county.

Which Languages to Learn

Unfortunately, it isn’t really practical to learn all the European languages so I would suggest learning a few words (or having them noted down) in French, Spanish, Italian, German and if you can manage it, a few words of Russian.

  • French will cover France, Belgium and part of Switzerland.
  • German is widely spoken in the Netherlands and part of Switzerland
  • Italian is used in Italy and part of Switzerland
  • The older generation in some of the Baltic States speak Russian but most people under 40 speak English.
  • English is very widely spoken in the Netherlands and Scandinavia

Which Phrases to Learn

It’s always appreciated if you can say hello, please and thank you.

If you are more adventurous, you might want to learn how to ask for directions (don’t forget to learn the names of the establishments (e.g. shops, cinema, theatre, etc) which you might need). You also need to be able to understand “left”, “right” and “straight on” or you won’t be any the wiser, even if you’ve asked the right question.

Learn how to order your favourite tipple in a bar; it’s simple to learn water, tea, coffee, beer and wine. Spirits are often the same word as English and branded mixers and soft drinks are pretty much the same the world over.

Knowing which food is which can save embarrassing mistakes although many holiday resorts and major cities have menus with pictures to avoid confusion.

In any event, I would advise downloading some language apps onto your phone so that you can look things up and even show them to someone in the street. Google translate can be useful too, although it’s not always accurate.

If you’re planning your travelling in Europe well in advance, attend an evening class or download language classes onto your phone to listen to while you travel to work or sit at home.

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