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Basic Phrases In The 23 Most Popular Languages In The World To Help You Get By

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With nearly 8 billion people currently living on this planet, there are over 7,000 spoken languages spread out throughout the 195 countries in the world. Some of these languages are more widely spoken than others, whereas some, such as the language Busuu from Cameroon, which by 2005 was only spoken by 3 people, are close to extinction.

Imagine all the languages out there that have been spoken throughout history that have now disappeared. It is heartbreaking to think of, and Busuu isn’t the only language close to extinction.

But with over 7,000 languages still spoken today, this is the perfect opportunity to learn how to say some common phrases in the 23 most popular languages around the world! You just never know when you’ll meet someone who speaks a different language than you, and putting in the effort to say a few key words or phrases in their native tongue can lead to a beautiful, unexpected connection with another person.

The more I travel the more I desire to learn, especially languages. I have never been good at learning languages. During school I took French class until grade 10 and what a fail that was! No matter who the teacher was I just never felt like I understood what was happening in class.

With French clearly not for me, in 2021 I decided to download the Duolingo app to learn Spanish. I am pleased to share that I am doing better with Spanish than I ever did with French, but that is probably due to the fact that I’m learning at my own pace, instead of trying to follow along to a class in a different language.

I’ve now travelled in Mexico, Egypt, and Honduras and spoken a few words to people in Spanish, which not only did they appreciate and enjoy, made me feel pretty cool too!

But while being able to say a few words here and there is something to be proud of, I think learning a few common phrases in the world’s most popular languages is a great idea, especially before you go on a trip!

Common Phrases In The 23 Most Popular Languages In The World

The 23 most popular languages in the world

In no particular order

  1. English
  2. French
  3. Spanish
  4. Mandarin
  5. Arabic (standard, but there are variations between regions)
  6. Hindi
  7. Portuguese
  8. Russian
  9. Bengali
  10. Urdu
  11. Indonesian
  12. German
  13. Japanese
  14. Italian
  15. Korean
  16. Vietnamese
  17. Polish
  18. Swahili
  19. Tagalog
  20. Turkish
  21. Greek
  22. Ukranian
  23. Thai

    A picture of a quarter of a globe shown
    Photo by Jan Kopřiva on Unsplash

Common Phrases To Know In The 23 Most Popular Languages So You Can Get By

  1. English. 

    This may seem a bit silly to start with because this blog is in English and the English language varies so much by region, but I’ll begin with a few Canadian Slang words and phrases for those non native English speakers.

    Pop – Soda

    Loonie – $1 coin

    Toonie – $2 coin

    Toque – Winter hat, like a beanie

    Timmies – Tim Hortons, the best coffee shop

    Double Double – Most popular coffee from Timmies, two creams and two sugars.

  2. French. 

    The language that brings me back to being stressed out in school, because French was just a language I never got the hang of. To be fair, between grades 1-8 our French teacher just gave us wordsearch puzzles with French words in it, then when I got to grade. 9 my French teacher told our class that everyone who went to my Elementary School would most likely struggle in the class due to our previous teacher. And struggle we did. Or at least, I did. Thankfully that grade. 9 teacher saw how hard I was trying and passed me with a 51%. Thank you to her! And then I immediately dropped French after passing that class.

    Bonjour – (pronounced Bon-JOUR, with a soft j, than a ooor). The most common greeting in France, but it also used where people speak French, such as Quebec, Canada.

    Please – S’il vous plaît

    Do you speak English? -Parlez-vous anglais?

    How are you? – Comment ca va

    How much is it? – C’est combien

    Statue of lady in a white, dancing with a man on the Malecon
    Traveling in Mexico inspired me to learn Spanish!
  3. Spanish.

    Where I failed in French I’ve made up for in attempting to learn Spanish. I think Spanish is such a beautiful language, and it’s widely spoken, so I’ve taken to DuoLingo to learn Spanish and it’s going very well!

    Hello – Hola

    How are you? – Como estas?

    Nice to meet you! – Mucho gusto!

    I speak English – Yo hablo Ingles.

    Where is the bathroom? – Donde esta el bano?

  4. Mandarin.

    The official language of China, Taiwan and Singapore, however different regions of China speaks different languages and dialects. Not only does the Chinese language consist of tens of thousands of characters, the spoken words are tonal, meaning you can say the correct word, but speak it improperly and you could be saying a completely different word!

    Hello – Nǐhǎo (Nee how)

    Thank you – Xièxiè (Shieh-shieh)

    Where is the bathroom – Xǐshǒujiān zài nǎlǐ? (See-sow-jian zai na-lee)

    How much? – Duō shǎo? (Dwuh shauw)

    Yes – Shì (Sheh)

    No -Bù shì (Bu-sheh)

  5. Standard Arabic.

    The Arabic language is beautiful, but personally what I think makes it even more so is the fact that each region or country has their own version. For example, when I was travelling in Egypt they spoke Egyptian Arabic, not standard Arabic. While the languages are very similar, there are little differences to listen out for!

    Thank you – Shukran

    No – La

    Peace Be Upon You (the common greeting instead of hello) – As-aalaam alaikum, also spelled Salam Alaikum.

    Please – Min fadlik

    Do you speak English? – Tetkalam Engleez?

  6. Hindi.

    With nearly 500 million Hindi speakers around the globe, Hindi is the 3rd most spoken language in the world! Not only is it such a popular language, Hindi has been around since the 12th century, but what I find to be the most fascinating is that Hindi is written in the Devanāgarī script, which has been around since the 7th century CE!

    Hello and Goodbye – Namaste

    Thank you – Dhanyavad

    Excuse Me – Suniye

    Yes – Haan

    No – Nahin

    Where are the restrooms? – Shauchalay kahan hai

    How much does this cost? -Ye kitne ka hai?

  7. Portuguese.

    Portuguese is a language very similar to Spanish! I have several friends who speak Portuguese and they’ve said that if they have trouble speaking to someone in Portuguese, they’ll change their accents to be more Spanish and it usually works out for them!

    Hello – Ola

    Nice To Meet You – Prazer

    No – Nao

    How Much Does This Cost? – Quanto custa isso?

    Yes – Sim

    Where is the bathroom? – Onde fica a casa de banho?

  8. Russian.

    The Russian language is tricky to remember and pronounce. It is not a quick language to learn, but absolutely do-able. They put emphasis on stressed syllables, and certain letters are spoken hard. The capital letters are where the syllables are stressed.

    Hello – Привет (Privyet)

    Yes – Да (da)

    No – Нет (nyet)

    Do you speak English? – вы говорите по-Английски? (vi govoRIte po angLIYski?)

    Where is the bathroom? – Где туалет? (gde tuaLET?)

    Thank you – Спасибо (spaSIbo)

    Please – Пожалуйста (poZHAlusta)

    Me wearing a long yellow scarf over my shoulders, walking through the pillars at Karnak Temple
    Egyptian Arabic is such a beautiful language to hear!
  9. Bengali.

    The 8th most spoken language in the world somehow ended up at 9 on this list, but we’ll roll with it. While it is the 8th most popular language in the world, it is the most spoken language of Bangladesh, the second most widely spoken language of India, and the official language of West Bengal, in India.

    Hello – (Nômôskar) – for Hindus
    (Asôlamu alaikum) – for Muslims

    Yes – Han

    No – Naa

    Goodbye – Aabar dekha hobe. While this is how to say goodbye, it actually means “We will meet again”.

    Please – Doya kore or onugroho

    I need to go to the bathroom – Ami Toilet e Jabo

  10. Urdu. 

    Urdu is the official language of Pakistan, and is known for being quite similar to a few other languages on this list; Hindi and Arabic. Spoken by over 70 million people as their first language, I was surprised not to have heard Urdu spoken before.

    Hello – Asalam alaikum

    My name is_____ 
     Maira naam _____ hai

    Thank you Tumhara shukriya

    How much does it cost? – Is par kitni lagat aati hai?

    I’m sorry – Mujhe afsos hai. As a Canadian I had to throw this one in!

  11. Indonesian.

    While Indonesia is a country that is home to a magnitude of languages and cultures, the official language of Indonesia is Indonesian (or Bahasa Indonesian). While there are quite a few languages within the country, most everyone speaks Indonesian, even though it’s often mixed in with their own local language.

    Hello, How are you? – Hai, apa kabar?

    No – Tidak

    Yes – Ya

    Thank you – Terima Kasih

    Where is the bus station/train station – Di mana terminal bus/stasiun kereta api?

    Where’s the toilet? – Dimanakah toilet?

  12. German.

    Before researching for this post I had no idea just how many people spoke German! I obviously knew it was widely spoken, but I didn’t realize that German is not just spoken in Germany, but also the official or co-official language of the following countries; Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Belgium, Austria, and Luxembourg. And that’s not including German communities in other countries.

    – Ja

    No – Nein

    Thank you– Danke

    Do you speak English?– Sprichst du Englisch?

    How much does that cost? – Wieviel kostet das?

    Where’s the restroom? – Wo ist die Toilette?

  13. Japanese.

    Something I find fascinating about the Japanese language is that while it is one of the most popular languages in the world, it’s unrelated to any other language, meaning it is completely unique. No country, aside from Japan, has Japanese as an official first or second language.

    Hello – Konnichiwa

    Thank you – Arigatou

    How much does that cost – Ikura desu ka?

    Do you speak English? – Eigo o hanasemasu ka?

    Yes – Hai

    No – Iie

    Koala sleeping in a tree
    Not everywhere you travel you need to learn a whole new language. Australian slang was so fun!
  14. Italian.

    Like many other languages, modern Italian was derived from Latin. After the fall of the Holy Roman Empire in the 5th century CE, the Italian language went from Latin, to Vulgar Latin (which was nonformal Latin), to local languages, to eventually settle on the the language of Italian writer Dante Alighieri a poet who wrote in his native Florentine language, and now has evolved to modern day Italian.

    Hello – Ciao

    Yes – Si

    No – No

    Thank you – Grazie

    Do you speak English? – Parla Inglese?

    Where’s the bathroom? – Dov’è il bagno?

    Where is the train station? – Dov’è la stazione?

  15. Korean.

    Not many languages can say that their alphabet was created by a king, but the Korean language can! Known as one of the greatest leaders of the Korean Kingdom Joseon, Sejong was the inventor of Hangul, the Korean alphabet which is the official writing system and said to be one of the most perfect writing systems in the world!

    Hello – Annyeong haseyo

    Yes – Neh

    No – Ah-nee-oh

    Thank you – Gahm-sah-hahm-ni-daDo you speak English? – Yeongeo haseyo?

  16. Vietnamese.

    Taking influence from Chinese, French, Latin, and English, the Vietnamese language has existed and evolved for over 4,000 years, and has 6 different periods, Pre-Vietnamese, Proto-Vietnamese, Archaic Vietnamese, Ancient Vietnamese, Middle Vietnamese and Modern Vietnamese. 85% of the Vietnamese population speaks the official language, and the other 15% speak their local minority group language. Something to note about Vietnamese language is that is tonal, and has 3 different dialects; Northern dialect, Central dialect, and Southern dialect, but Northern dialect is the main starting ground for the language.

    – Xin Chao

    No – Khong.

    Thank you – Cam On

    Excuse Me – Xin Lao

    Where is the bathroom? – Nhà vệ sinh ở đâu?

    How much? – Bao nhiêu?

  17. Polish.

    The second largest Slavic language in the world, Polish belongs to the Western Slavic group and closely related to Czech and Slovak. The Polish alphabet has 32 letters, and became an official language, alongside Latin, in the 12th century. Polish is deemed one of the hardest languages for native English speakers to learn, so don’t feel bad if trying to say these words and phrases out loud seems impossible.

    Hello – Czesc

    Yes – Tak

    No– Nie

    Please – Proszę

    Do you speak English? – Czy mówisz po angielsku?

    How are you? – Jak się masz?

  18. Swahili.

    A language heavily influenced from the Arabian traders who would go to East Africa to trade goods, Swahili is now one of the most recognized languages on the African Continent. It’s Bantu origins connects this language to over 400 ethnic groups, and while Swahili originated in East Africa, it has grown and is spoken by many. Like English, Swahili doesn’t use masculine or feminine or accents, so it’s easy to pronounce.

    Hello – Jambo

    How are you? – Habari gani

    Goodbye – Kwaheri

    Yes – Ndiyo

    No – Hapana

    What’s your name? -Jina lako nani?

  19. Tagalog.

    The name Tagalog translates in English to Settlers of the River, which I think is beautiful. While there are no documents confirming the origins of the language, it seems that Tagalog first began several thousand years ago when Mongoloids and people from the Malay Archipelago arrived. Then, people from China, Indonesian islands, and Vietnam came, and all contributed to what is now Tagalog (or Filipino, as it is now “officially” called). When the Spaniards took over the Philippines for over 300 years, the Spanish language also influenced Tagalog.

    Hello – (informal) Musta. (Formal) Kumusta.

    Goodbye – Paalam.

    How are you?  – Kamusta Ka?

    Thank you – Salamat.

    How much? – Magkano.

  20. Turkish.

    Modern Turkish language is descended from Ottoman Turkish, and prior to that Old Anatolian Turkish, which dates back to the 11th century. It is the 13th most spoken language in the world and has nearly 90 million native speakers. In 1923 the first president of Turkey, Atatürk, chose to reform the language and change the writing system, making the switch from Arabic letters to Latin, the same we use in English, to become more Westernized.

    Hi – Selam.

    Welcome – Hoşgeldiniz

    Goodnight – İyi gecelerThank you – Teşekkür ederim

    How much is this? – Bu ne kadar?

    Can you help me? – Bana yardım eder misin?

  21. Greek.

    Greek is an ancient language that has been around for thousands of years and has the most documented history of any Indo-European language. The Greek alphabet has been used for 3,000 years, but there was written language before the alphabet came to be. This language is so ancient that it was brought to Egypt by Alexander The Great, and spoken during the Hellenistic period in Egypt. But make no mistake, while Alexander the Great brought the language to Egypt, it was documented and spoken long before then.

    Hello – Γειά σου (YAH-soo)

    Goodbye – αντιο σας (Antio sas)

    Thank you – Ευχαριστώ (eff-kha-ri-STOE)

    How are you? – Tι κανείς (tee-KAH-nis)?

    Yes  – Ναί (neh)

    No -όχι (OH-hee)

  22. Ukranian.

    Dating back to the Old East Slavic language of the ancient state of Kievan Rus, Ukranian has survived through a long period of decline in native speakers and two bans from Imperial Russia. Closely related to Russian and Belarusian, Ukranian uses the Cryllic alphabet, which was created in the 9th century from Missionaries, and was said to be based on the Greek alphabet.

    Hi – привіт (pronounced Pryvit)

    Goodbye – до побачення (pronounced Do pobachennia)

    Thank you – Дякую (pronounced Dyakuyu)

    You’re Welcome – Ласкаво просимо (pronounced Laskavo prosymo)

    How much? – скільки (pronounced skilʹky)

  23. Thai.

    We don’t quite know where exactly the Thai language originated from. Some believe it originated from the region between China and Vietnam, but there is simply no proof to say for certain. What we do know is that Thai has evolved from the large Tai language family, Proto-Tai, and around the 1200’s several of these languages merged together to create Old Thai. The Thai writing system came into existence shortly thereafter, and we can credit King Ram Khamhaeng for this, as he wanted to improve literacy of the Thai people.The Thai language does change depending on gender, so for all the phrases shown down below I will show male/female.

    Hello/Goodbye – Sawasdee (Krub/Ka)

    How are you? – Sabai dee mai (Krub/Ka)

    Thank you – Kob kun mak

    Yes – Chai (Krub/Ka)

    No – Mai (Krub/Ka)

In conclusion, this world has so many languages, tones, dialects, and ways to communicate, and I find it quite beautiful the way that people have found to communicate with each other.

But when you travel, if you could learn just a few basic words or phrases, it opens doors to new experiences while traveling, as it shows respect for the local culture and helps navigate unfamiliar environments. Speaking even a few words in someone’s native language can break down barriers and create a more positive and inclusive atmosphere. Not only is learning some basic phrases helpful to you, but it demonstrates your respect for the place you are traveling, and those locals who live there.

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Brooklyn standing in front of the pyramids of Giza

Brooklyn Murtaugh

travel blogger

Hi! I’m Brooklyn. Like many, I thought my purpose in life was to go to university, settle down and have kids. But that is not me. 

My aim is to inspire you to travel as much as you can while you can, whether that be through au pair work, or on your limited vacation days. It CAN be done. This world is incredible, let’s explore it!

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