General Question

Skaggfacemutt's avatar

Is there a word or two that you know in a foreign language?

Asked by Skaggfacemutt (9780points) October 2nd, 2012

In your travels through life, did you pick up any smatterings of a foreign language? I would be interested to know what words you learned, and why you learned that particular word or phrase.

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24 Answers

wonderingwhy's avatar

Hai, pazhalsta y kamsahamnida.

I’ve always found being polite can go a long way when trying to get by in a foreign country.

Oh and pi jiu is handy too; after all, so much talking makes a person thirsty.

apologies for spelling at best it’s phonetic

Skaggfacemutt's avatar

I learned the word “manzi” while in South Africa. The reason was that the waiters in the restaurants couldn’t understand us Americans when we said “water.” They were used to hearing the British say “woata” so our version “waader” just got blank stares. So, a friendly waiter took the time to teach me his word for water.

marinelife's avatar

un petit peu. (I learned a little French in school.)

Dos cervezas, pro favor (Two beers, please—necessary for Mexico)

gailcalled's avatar


zimmer mit bad.

Ventri litri

Ya sou

Ou est le double vé cé (wc)? Wc stands for water closet…aka…toilet.

Pas devant les servants (not something I used very often)

Skaggfacemutt's avatar

Translations, please! What does “zimmer mit bad” mean?

gailcalled's avatar

Room with bath. (German)

20 litres (of gas in Italian)

Hello (Greek)

Where is the WC? (French)

Not in front of the servants…the English aristocracy in shows such as Downton Abbey say that alot, in French, when the staff is in the room. I wish I had a chance to say it also in front of my servants. Milo sometimes says it in front of me, not knowing that I understand and am deeply, deeply offended.

El_Cadejo's avatar

I know a bit of spanish. Nothing special just the basics like ordering food, asking directions, numbers things like that to get by (and of course cursing). I picked up on the language while I was in Honduras and Guatemala. (I was in their country, the least I could do was try to speak their language.) The experience has motivated me to actually learn spanish so when I go back down to Central America I can have actual conversations with people.

I always felt really bad when people would talk to me and I couldnt understand or I needed to ask someone something but didnt know the words and the conversation just degraded to hand gestures.

marinelife's avatar

@gailcalled Sorry, that was a typo.

JLeslie's avatar

I know a lot of Spanish. I can’t really credit travel for it though. I took it in school, and then I married a Mexican. Living with his parents for three months greatly increased my vocabulary and fluency.

I know just a few words in French. French actually was the second language mostly studied when I was a teen, it was just starting to change to Spanish. Friends taught me some lines like How are you. Very well thank you, and you? And, other basics like merci (thank you). I worked for a Canadian company and we used french to answer the phone saying Good afternoon or Good evening. And, I can recognize some colors in French because the shoe boxes were bilingual. Also, my mom used a few french phrases regularly when I was growing up. She would use, ici and tout suite and tres. I have no idea of those are spelled correctly. She used ici when she wanted us to come to her right now, and tout suite also to do something fast, and tres, when something was very something. Oh, and I can also ask, do you speak English? And, some swear words like mierd (shit). Again, my spelling French is definitely lacking, I never studied the language.

I also know some Yiddish. Not so much travel again, more to do with being Ashkenazi Jewish, and having lived in areas that have a fair amount of Jewish people. Some of the words are used very commonly actually, possibly have been adopted into the American English dictionaries not sure? Words like schmata (refer to a piece of clothing, but more literally means rag) ungapatchke (which is when there is a lot of stuff on something, too much) mishbookah (family) mishigas (chaos) mishugana (crazy) schmuck and putz (idiot, but literally means penis) pubic (belly button) shvitzing (sweating) nosh (snack) tatala (toddler) kenahora (to ward of evil) gelt (money) kinder (children) chotchke (knick knack) there are probably at least 10 more that aren’t coming to me right now.

Some German. I travelled to Germany and learned a few things, like asking where the bathroom is, and where the train is, and hello, good bye, thank you. And, I can ask do you speak English? Also, some words in German are the same in Yiddish. My dad used Gazundheit when we sneezed.

Italian, well this is another New York thing. Not only a lot of Jews around, but a lot of Italians also. And, Venezuelan friends of ours are Italian and drop Italian now and then in the middle of sentences. Plus, I have travelled to Italy so you pick a little up. Ciao (hello and good bye) capiche (understand) vaffancula (go fuck yourself) no me interesa (I’m not interested) bella (beautiful) and I used to go to Larry’s pizza parlor and when he and his son would fight they would use a lot of the hand signals. LOL.

zenvelo's avatar

Terima Kasih – thank you in Indonesian.

agua sans gazzetta – water without bubbles – Italian.

Wo ist der hauptbanhof? – Where is the train station? (German)

Si pericoloso sporgersi – don’t stick your head out of the train window. (Italian)

Kayak8's avatar

Ima nanji desu ka? (What time is it?)
Ikura desu ka? (How much does it cost?)
Akai no desu ka? Doso (The red one, help yourself/please)
Omoshiroi (interesting)
etc. From going to high school in Japan . . .

Sunny2's avatar

Traveling, I usually learned to say hello, thank you, and beer where ever I went.

Tachys's avatar

Wo ai nee. Chinese for I love you. Never fails to make the waitresses at a Chinese food restaurant blush.

Haleth's avatar

Ni shuo hanyu ma? Do you speak Chinese?

Wo hui shuo yi diar hanyu, bu hao. I can speak a little Chinese, (but) not well.

Parla Italiano? Do you speak Italian?

Parlo un po d’Italiano, ma non molto bene. I speak a little Italian, but not well!

I’ve also picked up some odd French words and phrases from wine. So I know things like “old vines” or “hillside” or that the French don’t have a word for “winemaker” (it’s called “grape grower” instead, because their philosophy is that the land makes the wine.) But I couldn’t order food in a restaurant, or have a conversation on the street.

CWOTUS's avatar

I know some greetings, smatterings and odd words in many languages, including Dutch, French, German, Russian, Greek, Japanese, Chinese, Bahasa (Indonesia and Malaysia), Hindi (with a little refresher and reference to a photo I took at the time, I could also know the appearance of the Hindi word “Blasting”—good to know on a rocky greenfield construction site there!). I’m not exactly conversational in any of those, and I can’t read any of the non-Roman alphabet languages: Greek, Hindi, Chinese & Japanese.

I also took four years of high school Spanish over 40 years ago, and could become conversational given the time and opportunity.

KNOWITALL's avatar

I can introduce myself and a few basics in French, Japanese and Vietnamese. And a few dirty words as well…lol

Skaggfacemutt's avatar

I love the Yiddish! And the Italian. Wish I knew how to pronounce vaffancula.

I literally only know a word or two in a few languages. In Afrikaans, I remember the word “tikmasjien” (typewriter) because it is pronounced “tick machine”. Makes sense to me. And a typist is a “tikster” of course.

I remember a train conductor asking me for my kartjie. Sounded like he was asking for my car key – I wanted to tell him that I wouldn’t be on the train if I had a car key.

JLeslie's avatar

@Skaggfacemutt Yiddish sounds very funny to me, funny ha ha, makes me giggle. I like it because of that, and because it is mostly spoken by people who I identify with. Too bad the language seems to be disappearing. But, the top 50 words more or less seem to be hanging on. Maybe in parts of Europe it is spoken more? Maybe Israel also? I believe there is still a Yiddish newspaper published out of New York. I don’t think it is a daily paper though.

LostInParadise's avatar

I know a smattering of words in different languages. Here are some of my favorites:

German – achtung! (attention!), verboten (forbidden), mach schnell (hurry up)
Yiddish (hard to translate) – Mensch, Schlemiel, Schiksa
Italian – buon giorno (greetings, literally good day)
Russian – Ya ne znayu (I don’t know)

susanc's avatar

My German is as follows: Diese schriebenzier ist nichts vertoye. (This is phonetic.) It means This screwdriver is not expensive.
My Italian is as follows: Sto in casa sta sera perche sono molta stanca. I’m staying home tonight because I’m very tired. Oh wait, there’s more: Oggi noi siam’ percossi dal fato. Today we are percussed by Fate. It’s from Aida. “Percussed”... maybe not. Maybe “oppressed”.
Here’s my Indonesian: Selamat pagi. Afternoon greetings. Or Morning greetings. I can’t remember my times of day any more. I knew them when I was in Bali.
Here’s my setswana: Dumela mma, dumela rra. But you know those are polite greetings from reading the Ladies Detective Agency books.
I speak okay French and stumbly Spanish. But very good English and plenty of it.
Oh wait, I forgot my Scots. When you think something is cool, you say, rolling your “r” violently, “Grrrrreeeeett!”

gailcalled's avatar

@susanc: Thank you for triggering a memory.

I have a friend who speaks only operatic Italian. He can jump into a taxi in Rome and say, “Take me to the home of the commendatore so I may exact vengance on my child bride, who was seduced by him.”

Skaggfacemutt's avatar

@gailcalled Ha, I would love to see the reaction of the taxi driver to that line!

gailcalled's avatar

Being an Italian cabbie, he probably knows just what do to (and does it in the key of D major.)

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