Learning English on paper can be wildly different from getting used to speaking and understanding, especially when faced with situations where you need information from someone. While your English is still basic, having a few useful phrases in your pocket (so to speak) can be a lifesaver when you’re looking for directions, information or just a point to the nearest bathroom!
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Here is a brief selection of phrases and questions that will prove invaluable when in any English speaking country.
1) Hello! How are you?
Probably the most obvious, but also the most important because it will open up conversation with anyone you meet. This friendly greeting is informal and polite – asking a stranger how they are is a standard in polite conversation, and will give them a cue to engage with you. A polite greeting like this should also encourage anyone to help you out should you need it.
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2) Where is the bathroom?
A very important phrase to know! When you’re sightseeing and nature calls, asking where the nearest bathroom is can be pretty crucial.
If the directions are a little beyond you, refer to points 3 and 4!
3) I don’t speak much English – could you speak a little slower?
This is a great basic to have. When you’re learning a language, you will initially struggle to understand if someone is speaking much faster than you’re used to hearing. Asking them to slow down will help you decipher sentences and understand one another better.
Revealing that your English is rudimentary will also encourage the person with whom you’re speaking to help you understand, and to make the extra effort to give you the information you need.
4) Could you write it down?
This is an excellent one for directions in particular. If you are struggling to follow, have the person write it down for you, and if necessary you can later use a phrasebook to roughly translate in your own time.
Most beginner English speakers are also more confident with written word than spoken, so this phrase can be massively useful when traveling or settling into a new country. Just make sure you carry pen and paper!
5) Thank you/you’re welcome
A polite way to end a conversation with a stranger, saying thank you and acknowledging a thank you is important in English speaking communities. If someone has helped you, a quick thank you and a smile is perfect. If you’ve helped them and they thank you, saying “you’re welcome” is the most universal way to politely acknowledge their thanks.
With these useful phrases in your arsenal, you’ll be ready to make your way across any majority-English speaking city! Want to practice your English or begin lessons? Take a look at our lessons here to help you on your way.
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