Essential Swedish 1

Swedish polite phrases and greetings….

Travelers visiting Sweden can learn and practice 50-100 essential words and phrases here. We’ve posted the first 11 below.
Listen.
Record yourself.
Play back and compare. 
(See “Learn and Practice Tips” below!)

The First 11 Swedish Phrases

Learn and Practice Tips

  • Click the black arrow to hear the Swedish speaker.
  • Click the red dot once to record yourself, click the black square to stop recording.
  • When you click the black arrow again, you’ll hear the native speaker and then yourself.
  • Do it several times until you sound like the Swedish speaker.

Why learn these Phrases?

Whenever you travel to a country where you don’t speak the language, you’ll encounter situations when these words will be useful. 
Let’s say, you’ve ordered your first meal in a restaurant in Sweden and as the waiter serves you, you simply say “Tack”. 
Even if the waiter knows that you don’t speak Swedish, your effort may make him smile … 
And beyond “Please” and “Thank you”, basic greetings really are the staple of first words you should know in any country you visit.

Some Pronunciation Tips

Swedish is a Germanic language and shares many sounds with German, Dutch and English. However, while most consonants are pronounced similar to English, some of the vowels have different sounds in Swedish.
Here are examples from the list of phrases below:
“a” in “Ja” sounds like “a” in “father”
“å” in “Varsågod” sounds like “aw” in “saw”
“ä” in “Ursäkta” is close to “a” in “many”
“o” in “god” is close to “oh”
“o” in “morgon” is close to “o” in “frost”
Note: the “g” in “morgon” and “mig” has a “y” sound, as in “yes”.
But don’t worry too much about the above. Try to listen and match the pronunciation you hear to the words you see.
You’ll pick up the differences fast!

Walking in the country side…

While there’ll be many opportunities to use basic greetings in Stockholm and other Swedish towns, knowing them when you’re outside of a city is even more important. 
Being a visitor in a Sweden will make you much more welcome, when you make the effort to greet people in Swedish. 
Yes, the Swedes are one of the most English-speaking people in Europe. But surprising locals you meet with just a few Swedish words and phrases will often get you a smile.

Personal Experiences and a Little History

In 2013 we took a trip to Norway and Sweden. During our trip we met several Swedes and also stayed in Stockholm for a week. We learned quite a bit about the common Swedish/Norwegian/Danish history and wrote about the Norwegian Language Politics in our Gamesforlanguage Blog
We noted there: “The story of the peaceful dissolution of the union between Norway and Sweden (in 1905) makes interesting reading for history buffs, who also may be intrigued by the (Norwegian) people’s election (!) of the Danish (!) crown prince as their new king.”
In 2017 we very much enjoyed our 2 weeks in Denmark and wrote about it in our European Travels 8 post.
While we certainly found many similarities between the Nordic languages, we found Swedish easier to understand than Danish.
If you just compare the first 11 essential words of both languages, you’ll notice that 6 are nearly identical (except for “tak” – Danish vs. “tack” – Swedish)

The next 12 Phrases

Once you’ve mastered some of the basic words, polite phrases and greetings, it’s time to learn asking some “where…?” questions. 
Even with GPS-enabled smart phones, you’ll often want to know where the bathroom is or the next ATM, information those phones still don’t have!
The next 12 Swedish phrases you’ll find in Essential Swedish 2.

Essential Italian 3

Italian directional words and phrases…

While in Essential Italian 2 YOU were asking the questions, it would obviously be quite useful to also understand the possible answers.

The Next 13 Italian Phrases

Why These Phrases?

In Essential Italian 2 we added “Where …” questions – if you’re looking for the bathroom, a pharmacy, a bus stop, the subway or railway station, a bank, an ATM, or the Tourist Information.
Asking such questions in Italian – especially if you’ve practiced your pronunciation a bit – may let your conversation partner assume that you understand Italian quite well.
The result will be an answer and a stream of words that’ll fly right by you.
So asking the person to speak more slowly could be your first reply in such a case.
And it would be good to also know some basic directional words and phrases in Italian – left, right, straight ahead – as the typical answers may well include them. 
In Essential Italian 3, there are only two sentences you really may want to practice saying: “Potrebbe parlare più lentamente, per favore?” and “Molte grazie per il suo aiuto!” 
The other 11 phrases and sentences will be useful to understand as you receive answers to your “Dov’è…?” question. You still may want to record yourself saying them, so you can confirm, what you thought you understood, e.g. where to find the next water-bus stop in Venice. And – you’ll also remember them better that way.

Food, Drinks, Restaurants

Finding a recommended restaurant, Café, or bar has been made much easier with GPS-equipped smart phones and mobile devices.
And finding a good restaurant in Italy has to be part of your travel adventure.
Once you have arrived at the place, you may have to ask for a table and the Menu, place an order and then ask for and pay the check.
Knowing a few key phrases in Italian will make all this much easier.
You’ll find them among the next 14 Phrases in Essential Italian 4. 
(Check back with us in a few weeks!)
If you are used to the 15-20% tips, generally expected in US restaurants, you’ll be pleasantly surprised: In Italy, as in nearly all West-European countries, tips are included in your check. 
But for good service 5-10% tips are always welcome.
As customary in Europe, when paying with a credit card, the transaction occurs at the table with a handheld device.
European visitors are always amazed, and appalled, that in the U.S. we let a waiter disappear with our credit card, to then return after a few minutes with a paper slip to sign – and certainly with ample time to copy the card specifics. Amazingly – and credit to all the honest waiters an waitresses – we believe this only happened to us once in the U.S.!

Essential Dutch 1

Dutch polite phrases and greetings…

If you’re planning to visit the Netherlands, you can learn and practice 50-100 essential Dutch words and phrases here. We’ve posted the first 11.
Listen.
Record yourself.
Play back and compare. 
(See “Learn and Practice Tips” below!)

The First 11 Dutch Phrases

Learn and Practice Tips

  • Click the black arrow to hear the Dutch speaker.
  • Click the red dot once to record yourself, click the black square to stop recording.
  • When you click the black arrow again, you’ll hear the speaker and then yourself.
  • Do it several times until you sound like the Dutch speaker.

Good Things to Know about Dutch

Dutch is a West Germanic language (like English, German, Frisian, and Luxembourgish).
It’s the official language of the Netherlands and an official language of Belgium, where it is known as Flemish.
Dutch also has official status in the Republic of Suriname (situated north of Brazil), and on the Caribbean islands of Aruba, Curaçao, Sint Maarten, Bonaire, Sint Eustatius, and Saba.
And, did you know that New York was called New Amsterdam, from 1624 until 1664?
It is often said that Dutch is a language “between English and German”. Dutch and English do share a large number of cognates.
They also have similar sound systems. (One huge difference, though, is the ubiquitous Dutch “g”. See below for more.)
The Dutch are masters at learning other languages and many feel comfortable speaking English. But don’t let that deter you from learning Dutch essentials. It’s a good way to push your own language boundaries and it may also be a way to start a conversation with locals – even if you then switch to English or another language.

Dutch Pronunciation Tips

In general, Dutch pronunciation is not hard for English speakers.
The best way to practice is to imitate the pronunciation of the speaker and not worry too much about how individual letters sound.
However, the sound of Dutch “g” (which shows up in about half of the phrases below) does require some special attention.
Dutch “g” (especially as spoken in the northern part of the Netherlands) is pronounced with a slightly raspy sound, in the back of your throat. Think of Scottish word “Loch”, and try it.
The Dutch combination “gr” (as in “graag”, and “graag gedaan”) is especially tricky. Forget about the sound of the English word “great” – and combine the raspy Dutch “g” with a quick trilled “r.”
Still looking at the list below: Dutch “u” sounds like the French “u”. You say “ee”as in “bee”, but round your lips.
The Dutch “u” sound is important, because the word “u” is the polite word for “you”.
Note also that Dutch “oe” has an “oo” sound, as in the English “boot”.

Walking in the country side…

While there’ll be many opportunities to use basic greetings in Amsterdam and other Dutch towns, knowing them when you’re outside of a city is even more important. 
Being a visitor in the Netherlands will make you much more welcome, when you make the effort to greet people in Dutch. 
Yes, the Dutch are one of the most English-speaking people in Europe. But surprising locals you meet with just a few Dutch words and phrases will often get you a smile.

A Little Personal History

I went to school in the Netherlands for 2 years when I was 9 and 10 years old. It’s a language I love, and I always enjoy speaking it during my Dutch family’s yearly reunions.
Peter has been learning Dutch as well and while he can’t yet fully participate in Dutch table talk, he already understands a lot. For a native German speaker like him, many words are familiar, but using them in fast conversations is still challenging.
We’ve combined our reunion visits several times with chartering a boat on Dutch rivers and canals. If this interests you, read about it in our post, European Travels 3: Dutch Language and Canal Boating. As there are few locks in the Netherlands – but many bridges – canal boating in the Netherlands is quite relaxing. It’s also a great way to slowly go through the countryside, passing by wind mills and green pastures, and stopping in small towns.

The next 12 Phrases

Once you’ve mastered some of the basic words, polite phrases and greetings, it’s time to learn asking some “where…?” questions. 
Even with GPS-enabled smart phones, you’ll sometimes want to know where the bathroom is or the next ATM, information those phones still don’t have!
The next 12 Dutch phrases – with typical “Waar is…?” questions – you’ll find in Essential Dutch 2.

Essential Spanish 3 (for Spain)

Spanish directional words and phrases…

In Essential Spanish 2 we added “Where …” questions – if you’re looking for the bathroom, a pharmacy, a bus stop, or the subway or railway station, a bank , an ATM or the Tourist Information.
Asking such questions in Spanish – especially if you’ve practiced your pronunciation a bit – may let your conversation partner assume that you understand Spanish quite well.
The result will be an answer and a stream of words that’ll fly right by you.
So asking the person to speak more slowly could be your first reply in such a case: “¿Podría hablar más despacio por favor?”
And it would be good to also know some basic directional words and phrases in Spanish – left, right, straight ahead – as the typical answers may well include them. 

The Next 13 Spanish Phrases

Why These Phrases?

In Essential Spanish 1 and 2, we listed greetings and typical “where is…?” questions. Even if you’ve never studied Spanish before, it’ll be useful to learn and practice saying them.
In Essential Spanish 3, there are only two sentences you may want to practice saying: “Could you please speak more slowly?” and “Many thanks for your help.” 
The other 11 phrases and sentences will be useful to understand as you receive answers to your “where is…?” question. You still may want to record yourself saying them, so you can confirm, what you thought you understood – and – you’ll also remember them better that way.

Food, Drinks, Restaurants

Finding a recommended restaurant, Café, or bar has been made much easier with GPS-equipped smart phones and mobile devices.
And finding a good restaurant in Spain has to be part of your travel adventure.
Once you have arrived at the place, you may have to ask for a table and the Menu, place an order and then ask for and pay the check.
Knowing a few key phrases in Spanish will make all this much easier.
You’ll find them among the next 14 Phrases in Essential Spanish 4. 
(Check back with us in a few weeks!)
If you are used to the 15-20% tips, generally expected in US restaurants, you’ll be pleasantly surprised: In Spain, as in nearly all West-European countries, tips are included in your check. 
But for good service 5-10% tips are always welcome.
We don’t know whether it’s the case in all of Spain: But in Barcelona, all through Andalusia and in Madrid, when we asked for the check (la cuenta), the waiter always went back to get a printed check slip, often a second time to bring the change. Never once did he or she add up the total at the table.
When paying with a credit card, the transaction occurred at the table with a handheld device, as customary in Europe.
(European visitors are always amazed, and appalled, that in the U.S. we let a waiter disappear with our credit card, with ample time to copy the card specifics, to then return after a few minutes with paper slips to sign.)

Essential Danish 1

Danish polite phrases & greetings…

If you’re planning to visit Denmark, you can learn and practice 50-100 essential Danish words and phrases here. We’ve posted the first 11.
Listen.
Record yourself.
Play back and compare. 
(See “Learn and Practice Tips” below!)

The First 11 Danish Phrases

Learn and Practice Tips

  • Click the black arrow to hear the Danish speaker.
  • Click the red dot once to record yourself, click the black square to stop recording.
  • When you click the black arrow again, you’ll hear the native speaker and then yourself.
  • Do it several times until you sound like the Danish speaker.

Walking in the country side…

While there’ll be many opportunities to use basic greetings in Copenhagen and other Danish towns, knowing them when you’re outside of a city is even more important. 
Being a visitor in a Denmark will make you much more welcome, when you make the effort to greet people in Danish. 
Yes, the Danes are one of the most English-speaking people in Europe. But surprising locals you meet with just a few Danish words and phrases will often get you a smile.

Personal Experiences and a Little History

In 2013 we took a trip with the Hurtigruten line along the Norwegian coast. During our trip we met several Swedes and also stayed in Stockholm for a week. We learned quite a bit about the common Swedish/Norwegian/Danish history and wrote about the Norwegian Language Politics in our Gamesforlanguage Blog.
Interestingly, the current Norwegian Royal Family was founded by the Danish Prince Carl, (who became King Haakon VII), his British born wife, Princess Maud and son Olav. Prince Carl was “recruited” by the Norwegians after Norway decided by referendum to leave the union with Sweden.
In 2017 we very much enjoyed our 2 weeks in Denmark and wrote about it in our European Travels 8 post.
While we certainly found many similarities between the Nordic languages, we found Danish sometimes difficult to understand because of its tricky pronunciation.

The next 12 Phrases

Once you’ve mastered some of the basic words, polite phrases and greetings, it’s time to learn asking some “where…?” questions. 
Even with GPS enabled smart phones, you’ll often want to know where the bathroom is or the next ATM, information those phones still don’t have!
The next 12 Danish phrases you’ll find in Essential Danish 2.

Essential Icelandic 3

Icelandic directional words and phrases…

In Essential Icelandic 2 we added “Where …” questions – if you’re looking for the bathroom, a pharmacy, a bus stop, the harbor, a bank or an ATM.
Asking such questions in Icelandic – especially if you have practiced your pronunciation a bit – may let your conversation partner assume that you understand Icelandic quite well.
The result may well be an answer and a stream of words that will fly right by you. 
So asking the person to speak more slowly could be your first reply in such a case: “Gætirðu talað hægar?”
Especially if you’re taking self-driving tours to explore the island, it would be good to know some basic directional words and phrases in Icelandic – left, right, straight ahead – as the typical answers may well include them. 

The Next 13 Icelandic Phrases

Why These Phrases?

In Essential Icelandic 1 and 2, we listed greetings and typical “where is…?” questions. Even if you have never studied Icelandic before, it will be useful to learn and practice saying greetings and questions.
In Essential Icelandic 3, there are only two sentences you may want to practice saying: “Could you speak more slowly?” and “Thanks for your help.” 
The other 11 phrases and sentences will be useful to understand as you receive answers to your “where is…?” question. You still may want to record yourself saying them, so you can confirm, what you thought you understood- and – you’ll also remember them better that way.

Food, Drinks, Restaurants

Finding a recommended restaurant, Café, or bar has been made much easier with GPS equipped smart phones and mobile devices.
Once you have arrived at the place, you may have to ask for a table and the Menu, place an order and then ask for and pay the check.
Knowing a few key phrases in Icelandic, especially if you’re outside of the capital city, Reykjavik, will make all this much easier. (Look for some food related words and phrases in one of our next “Essentials”)
If you are used to the 15-20% tips, generally expected in US restaurants, you’ll be pleasantly surprised: In nearly all West-European countries, tips are included in your check. That’s also true for Iceland, and it’s not customary to add a tip.

Traveling around Iceland

As you’ll travel around Iceland you’ll encounter some names, which you’ll have a hard time pronouncing. Just try “Þingvellir” or “Fjaðrárgljúfur ” for example.
Icelandic Essential 4 will have those and the names of some other places as well as Icelandic words for “geyser, water, islands, fields”. Maybe you can then figure out how to pronounce the names of the villages and sites you are exploring.

Essential French 3

French directional words and phrases…

In Essential French 2 we added “Where …” questions – if you’re looking for the bathroom, a pharmacy, public transport, a bank/ATM, or a “boulangerie”, etc.
Asking such questions in French – especially if you’ve practiced your pronunciation a bit – may let your conversation partner assume that you understand French quite well.
The result will be an answer and a stream of words that’ll fly right by you.
So asking the person to speak more slowly could be your first reply in such a case: “Pourriez-vous parler plus lentement, s’il vous plaît!”
And it would be good to also know some basic directional words and phrases in French – left, right, straight ahead – as the typical answers may well include them. 

The Next 13 French Phrases

Why These Phrases?

In Essential French 1 and 2, we listed greetings and typical “where is…?” questions. Even if you’ve never studied French before, it’ll be useful to learn and practice saying them.
In Essential French 3, there are only two sentences you may want to practice saying: “Could you please speak more slowly?” and “Many thanks for your help.” 
The other 11 phrases and sentences will be useful to understand as you receive answers to your “where is…?” question. You still may want to record yourself saying them, so you can confirm, what you thought you understood – and – you’ll also remember them better that way.

Food, Drinks, Restaurants

Finding a recommended restaurant, Café, or bar has been made much easier with GPS-equipped smart phones and mobile devices.
And finding a good restaurant in a French-speaking country has to be part of your travel adventure.
Once you have arrived at the place, you may have to ask for a table and the Menu, place an order and then ask for and pay the check.
Knowing a few key phrases in French will make all this much easier.
You’ll find them among the next 14 Phrases in Essential French 4. 
(Check back with us in a few weeks!)
If you are used to the 15-20% tips, generally expected in US restaurants, you’ll be pleasantly surprised: In France, as in nearly all West-European countries, tips are included in your check. 
But for good service 5-10% tips are always welcome.
In the French-speaking parts of Canada, e.g. Québec, tipping of 10-15% is expected, as tips are typically not included in the check.