Survival phrases can encapsulate a variety of things when in a foreign country and the list can go on and on. To get you started, we’ve compiled a list of emergency phrases and useful words you can use in many situations. Becoming familiar with a handful of essential phrases or questions can really facilitate your journey through any hiccups you may encounter when traveling. These include phrases that will help make understanding easier between you and a local, how to get help if you need it and how to find your way in case you get lost. You may feel it’s easier to simply fall back into English, but making an attempt to speak to locals in their language is an important part of learning. Even better, native speakers usually appreciate it when you try (even if you stumble through every word) and it may make them even more amenable to helping you out. If your grasp of Hebrew is still a little shaky when you set off for Israel, make sure you at least have these in your pocket before you go. We’ve put the male and female forms of each sentence where applicable.
1. Can you help me? – Ata yakhol laazor li?
There is always a strong chance you will need to get directions or information from someone while in Israel. You may even have an emergency, and a simple “can you help me” can cover any of these scenarios and will likely get you a quick response.
2. I’m lost – Ta-iti baderekh
Getting lost is a frequent occurrence when in a new city or country, so make sure you memorize this phrase in case you need someone to point you in the right direction. Have a map too, so that anyone helping you can demonstrate or draw (in case you don’t understand each other further).
3. Where is (…)? – Eyfo?
If you are looking for something specific and have lost your way, this is an easy word to remember. If they can tell you, but speak too quickly or are difficult to understand, you can follow up with the point 4.
4. I don’t understand – ani lo mevin (m); mevina (f)
If you do run into trouble in Israel and have used the above phrases or any others, there’s also a good chance you may not understand the person’s response. Having this phrase in your pocket will help communication greatly, and will help you to work with the person to get the information you need, whether that comes in miming or writing.
5. Do you understand? – ata mevin? (m); at mevina? (f)
Since communication can be dicey when you’re a newbie in a foreign country (and to its language), locals may not be able to understand you either. You can ask them if they understand you, and if not, you can both speak slower or write things down to help each other out.
6. Could you speak more slowly? – tukhal ledaber yoter le-at? (m); tukhli ledaber yoter le-at? (f)
This is another good follow-up to “I don’t understand”. Asking someone to speak slower can aid in understanding. If you still struggle, there’s always point number 7, the best fall-back in situations like this.
7. Please write it down – bevakasha ktov et ze (m); bevakasha kitvi et ze (f)
These days, you don’t even need to have pen and paper ready. Your Hebrew-speaking helper can type their sentence into your phone and a quick Google translate can help sort things out.
8. Do you speak English? ata medaber anglit? (m); at medaberet anglit? (f)
If all else fails, you can ask the person if they speak any English. If they don’t, say thank you and try asking someone else.
9. Sorry – slikha
Politeness will get you far too, and apologising comes in useful in many situations, especially if you struggle to understand or can’t make yourself understood.
10. Thank you – toda
Not strictly a survival phrase, but essential to close off a conversation once someone has helped you. Even if the person is unable to help, thank them before moving on.
If nothing else, make sure to memorize at least these 10 phrases before heading off on your Israeli adventure. You can also use this list as a jump-start for any other phrases and questions you feel are necessary in particular situations. If you want to really improve your speaking skills, you can take lessons; whether you are brand new to Hebrew or an intermediate learner, find a lesson close to you.