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Polite vocabulary can help you overcome a language barrier and clarify that you have good intentions.
But if you only have a limited amount of time to learn a language, or if you want to be prepared for chance encounters with languages you don’t speak fluently, your best bet is to learn polite vocabulary first since it’s the most essential.
Below are some of the most polite words and phrases in popular world languages to prepare you for pleasant interactions!
Why Learn These Polite Phrases?
First of all, learning polite phrases in the language of a country you’re visiting simply shows respect. Everyone knows that it’s impossible for one person to speak all the world’s languages, but if you show you’re making an effort to learn someone’s language by using some polite vocabulary, it will show that you respect the language, which in turn shows respect for the people who speak it.
Secondly, learning polite phrases will help you avoid being offensive, or coming across that way. Assuming that everyone everywhere speaks English is rude and ethnocentric, so you don’t want to come across like you’re making that assumption. If you’re traveling, most people will cut you some slack and understand you might not be fluent, but using some polite vocabulary will allow you to avoid conveying the idea that everyone should speak your native tongue.
Additionally, learning polite phrases will help you communicate clearly. After all, even if someone speaks English, you can’t count on them understanding everything you say. Learning polite words and phrases that they’ll understand will help ensure that your communication is clear and that you avoid any awkward misunderstandings.
Finally, learning polite phrases will help you build bonds with people. When you speak at least some of someone’s language, it builds more of a bond than if that person must consistently speak your language. This will help you connect more easily with more people. This holds true no matter where you are, so even if you’re not planning on traveling to a foreign country, you may want to learn polite phrases in any languages you might be likely to encounter in your own country—or just learn all the phrases for the common languages below!
Be Polite! Learn the Politest Phrases in 9 Foreign Languages
Combined with other basic Chinese phrases, these words and phrases will prepare you for simple interactions.
For the purposes of this list, we’ve used simplified Chinese characters, which are used in mainland China and Singapore. Traditional Chinese characters have a different appearance and are used in Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan and Malaysia.
你好 (nǐ hǎo) — Hello
An important caveat: While this phrase is considered polite, it may not actually be used as often as you think it is. This post goes into more detail about different ways to say hello in Chinese and will help you understand the context surrounding Chinese greetings more.
Speaking of context, FluentU can help you learn a much more context-based, nuanced version of most of the languages on this list. FluentU takes real-world videos—like movie trailers, music videos, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language lessons.
很高兴见到你 (hěn gāo xīng jiàn dào nǐ) — Nice to meet you
我的名字是… (wǒ de míng zì shì . . . ) — My name is…
请 (qǐng) — Please
谢谢 (xiè xiè) — Thank you
别客气 (bié kè qì) — You’re welcome
抱歉 (bào qiàn) — Sorry
打扰一下 (dǎ rǎo yī xià) — Excuse me
你会说英语吗？ (nǐ huì shuō yīng yǔ má？) — Do you speak English?
Hola — Hello
Encantado and encantada actually mean “enchanted.” They’re used like “nice to meet you.” If you’re male, you would say encantado. If you’re female, you’ll say encantada. Remember: The ending reflects your gender, not the gender of the person to whom you’re speaking.
Mucho gusto — Nice to meet you
Like encantado, mucho gusto doesn’t literally mean “nice to meet you.” Instead, it means “much pleasure.” However, it’s used just like the English phrase “nice to meet you.”
You’ll hear both encantado/encantada and mucho gusto.
Me llamo… — My name is…
This translation also isn’t literal. Me llamo… actually means “I call myself…” If you want a more literal translation, you can also say “Mi nombre es…” However, this is less common.
Por favor — Please
Gracias — Thank you
De nada — You’re welcome
Lo siento — Sorry
Disculpe — Excuse me
Disculpe comes from the verb disculpar, which means “to excuse,” so this is a fairly literal translation.
Perdón — Excuse me
Perdón, on the other hand, means “pardon.” Either can be used to mean “excuse me.”
¿Habla usted Inglés? — Do you speak English?
Continue on with basic French phrases to prepare yourself for better communication.
Bonjour — Hello
While this is used like “nice to meet you,” it literally means “very happy.” If you’re male, you’ll say très heureux. If you’re female, you would say très heureuse.
Je m’appelle… — My name is
S’il vous plaît — Please
Merci — Thank you
Je vous en prie — You’re welcome
Je suis désolé — Sorry
Pardon — Pardon
Je suis désolé literally means “I am sorry.” Pardon, on the other hand, means “pardon.” Either phrase can be used as an apology.
Excusez-moi — Excuse me
Parlez-vous anglais ? — Do you speak English?
Learning these polite words will help you, but if you really want to interact with German speakers, you should also dig into these basic German phrases.
Hallo — Hello
Ich heiße… — My name is…
Bitte — Please
Danke — Thank you
Bitte — You’re welcome
Maybe this word looks a little familiar to you. That’s because you saw it just a couple lines up. The German word for “you’re welcome” is in fact the same as the word for “please.” You’ll also notice this in the Russian language.
Verzeihung — Sorry
Entschuldigung — Excuse me
Sprechen Sie Englisch? — Do you speak English? (formal)
Sprichst du Englisch? — Do you speak English? (informal)
Polite Japanese phrases are essential if you’re traveling to Japan. You might also study basic Japanese survival phrases to prepare yourself.
こんにちは — Hello
初めまして (はじめまして) — Nice to meet you
私の名前は…です (わたしの なまえは…です) — My name is…
お願いします (おねがいします) — Please
ありがとうございます — Thank you
どういたしまして — You’re welcome
ごめんなさい — Sorry
すみません — Excuse me
This phrase is particularly useful and expressive since it can convey regret, confusion and even gratitude. It’s like the Swiss Army knife of Japanese vocabulary.
英語を話しますか？(えいごをはなしますか？) — Do you speak English?
Italian sounds good no matter how you use it, but it’s still better to be polite. Once you have that down, you might want to learn some more useful Italian phrases.
Ciao — Hello
While ciao is better known across the world, in formal situations, salve is more fitting.
Piacere di conoscerti — Nice to meet you
Mi chiamo… — My name is…
Per favore — Please
Grazie — Thank you
Prego — You’re welcome
Mi dispiace — Sorry
If mi dispiace is too much of a mouthful, you can shorten it to mi spiace.
Scusi — Excuse me
Lei parli inglese? — Do you speak English?
If you’re going to Russia, these polite phrases are essential, but they’re just the tip of the iceberg. Delve deeper with Russian travel phrases to prepare yourself more fully.
Здравствуйте — Hello
Меня зовут… — My name is…
Пожалуйста — Please
Спасибо — Thank you
Пожалуйста — You’re welcome
Простите — Sorry
Извините — Excuse me
Вы говорите по-английски? — Do you speak English?
Visiting Korea? You’ll definitely need these polite phrases. Tack on some Korean travel phrases, and you’ll be set for a much easier trip.
안녕하세요 — Hello
만나서 반갑습니다 — Nice to meet you
제 이름은… — My name is…
부디 — Please
고맙습니다 — Thank you
천만에요 — You’re welcome
죄송합니다 — Sorry
실례합니다 — Excuse me
당신은 영어를 하십니까? — Do you speak English?
You can use these phrases if you’re traveling to a Portuguese-speaking country or to start teaching yourself Portuguese.
Olá — Hello
Prazer em conhecê-lo — Nice to meet you
Meu nome é… — My name is…
Por favor — Please
Obrigado — Thank you
Seja bem-vindo — You’re welcome
Desculpa — Sorry
Com licença — Excuse me
Let’s face facts: Invisibility and super speed are overrated.
With these words and phrases, politeness can be your superpower that will allow you to have enjoyable interactions with people from around the world!
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