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What are the absolutely most important survival words/phrases in your language?

If a person were to tell you, "I'm going to [enter place where a language is spoken that you know] and I don't know how to say anything!" what would you tell them are the absolute need-to-know terms and phrases? What sort of topics would you tell them to avoid talking about? What beginner's mistakes would you warn them of that often occur when speaking the language?

October 5, 2017



Generally, the words for politeness are important:

  • Hello, Good morning, Good afternoon, Good evening, Good night, Goodbye

  • Thank you, Please, excuse me, pardon me

Numbers are very important if you plan to buy anything, go anywhere, or call anyone.

Basic questions - where, who, what, where, and so on

Asking for directions - know left, right, east, west, north, south, and so on


Well, that depends were this person is going, what they are doing, and what they want to know; in addition to their knowledge base. That affects everything I would tell them. This is to ambiguos to respond to.


In French the verb faire and avoir are key since they are so commonly used and have so many expressions tied to them.


If (for some odd reason) you find yourself in Kabardino-Balkaria or Adygea and cannot speak Russian (which is a TERRIBLE idea, by the way), a good phrase in Kabardian is "Инджылызыбзэк1э пщ1эрэ?" Do you speak English? If not, you could ask for a translator (Сэ тэрмэш сыхуейщ).



Hello/Please/Thanks/You're Welcome




I think knowing the words for 'left' and 'right' pays off big time. It's saved me a bunch and is useful in so many contexts, and especially when you're given directions.

  • 2013

In Russian

Здравствуйте! [zdrastvuyt'e] - the most universal and neutral greeting (first в is not pronounced, apostrophe marks palatalization (softness) of t),
Привет! [privet] is much easier to say, but informal

Извините! [izvinit'e] - Sorry

Спасибо! [spasibo] - Thank you

До свидания! [do svidaniya] - Good bye


All I can think of for survival is "DASKITE!" but I'm not even studying Japanese.



emergencia - emergency

¡Llame la policia! - Call the police!

¡Auxilio! - Help!

ambulancia - ambulance

¿Habla ingles? - Do you speak English?


чрезвычайная ситуация (chrezvychainaya situatsiya) - emergency

Мне нужна помощь! (Mnye nuzhna pomosh') - I need help!

скорая помощь (skoraya pomosh') - ambulance

Звоните в полицию! (Zvonitye v politsiyu) - Call the police!

Вы говорите по-английски? (Vy gavaritye pa-angliyski) - Do you speak English?

  • 2013

In colloquial Russian emergency - ЧП [che-pe], acronym for чрезвычайное происшествие

Помогите! [pomogit'e] - Help me! -- Cпасите! [spasit'e] - Save me!

Вызовите полицию / скорую помощь ! [vyzovit'e politsiyu / skoruyu pomoshch] - Call the police / ambulance


You wouldn't want to go anywhere where you didn't know a single word in the language.


What is they're going to an English speaking country? I know English, and they must be a fluent and good English speaker if they can say that.

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