The First 100 Words and Phrases to Learn in a Foreign Language

The First 100 Words and Phrases to Learn in a Foreign Language

One of the most important things to prioritize when learning a new language is to build up your vocabulary. 

You need to familiarize yourself with the most common words in any language, which are used daily by native language speakers.

Here is a list of 100 words to learn in a foreign language. Memorizing these basic phrases will help you achieve your ultimate language goals.

Basic greetings

One of the first words that anyone needs to learn in any language is the most common way to greet people and bid them farewell.

1. Hello

2. Goodbye

Polite phrases used every day

If you want to make friends in a foreign language, you should know that sometimes, how you say something is as important as saying something correctly.

Politely phrasing your requests is very important in almost all cultures in the world. The way to be polite is to make sure you use the different versions of these words correctly. 

3. Please

Almost every culture in the world has a word which means “please”. It is the polite phrase to use when you want to ask for something or when you need to request for help. 

Adding this phrase to any request will make people more apt to listen to you and accommodate your request. 

It will make people think better of you, as they will remember you as the “polite foreigner” who was trying to learn their language.

4. Thank you

As important as it is to know how to politely ask for help, it’s just as important to know how to express gratitude for the help that you received.

Whether it’s a shopkeeper who sold you a t-shirt, a waiter who brought you a drink, or a person who took the time to tell you where the train station was – they all deserve your thanks. Learning how to thank them in their native language will surely make them smile.

5. You’re welcome

It is always a good idea to know how to politely respond to a “thank you”, so make sure the proper phrase for “you’re welcome” is on your polite language words list. 

6. Sorry

While you don’t mean to offend or hurt someone, you could do so inadvertently. It’s always a good idea to know how to make an acceptable apology.

7. Excuse me

You should know how to politely interrupt a conversation or to call someone’s attention. Many cultures have a phrase similar to “excuse me” that you can also inform people you are passing by. 

8. Sir/Ma’am

In some countries, it is very important to show respect for other people, especially if they are older than you or are of higher status. These countries will often have several phrases by which you can respectfully address different people. 

It’s a good idea to work with a native language speaking tutor who can explain to you the proper ways to respectfully address people. You don’t want to be the “rude foreigner”. 

Basic answers to simple questions

Most countries and cultures have certain short phrases where you can say whether you agree with a statement or not. In English, this is “yes” or “no.”

9. Yes

10. No

How to make introductions

Before you engage someone in a conversation, you need to introduce yourself to them. 

11. I am _____

12. My name is_____

After you’ve introduced yourself, you can use one of the following two phrases to ask the person you are talking to about their name.

13. You are?

14. What is your name?

15. Nice to meet you

After exchanging names, it’s usually considered polite to acknowledge that you are happy to meet and make a new friend.

Basic conversation starters – and how to answer them

After the introductions have been made, you now want to start and keep a conversation going. 

16. How are you?

You should ask the person you are talking to about their current state of being. 

17. I need help

If you are traveling to a country where they speak a different language than you, you should know how to ask for help.

18. I am looking for _____

Know how to ask for directions. Learn how to say “I am looking for” in a foreign language to help you ask other people how you can get to a specific place.

19. What is that? 

This is a phrase that you can use to ask about something you see that is unfamiliar. For example, if you see a cute stuffed toy of a character you don’t recognize or if you see a delicious looking sandwich, you can ask “what is that?”

20. Where are you from?

Knowing how to ask someone where they live in a foreign language is a great way to learn more about them and increase your knowledge about the country that you are in.

21. I am from

A conversation is an exchange of information. If you are curious about the person you are talking to, they are probably wondering about you as well. Volunteering information, such as where you are from, will keep the conversation flowing.

22. What is your profession?

This is another good conversation starter. Find out how you can ask what a person’s job is in the language you are trying to learn.

23. Did you watch  ____

One of the most interesting ways to learn a language is to watch television shows and movies in that language. Talking about what you’ve watched is also a great conversation starter, so learn how to ask someone if they have watched the same show or movie that you have.

24. Do you listen to _____

If you are a music lover, listening to music in a foreign language might be more your jam. Asking a native speaker if they also listen to a band that you love is a good icebreaker.

25. Have you been to ______

Locals love to talk about the fun things you can do in their city or country. They can provide you with a lot of tips about what to do and how to get around. This is why it’s a good idea to learn how to ask them if they have visited a certain area.

26. What do you recommend?

You should know how to ask the opinion of locals about what you should do or try while you are in the area.

Questions to help you get around

When in a foreign country, it’s a good idea to know how you can ask for help getting around. 

27. Where is______?

Similar to “I am looking for”, but this is specific to when you are looking for a place, like a hotel or a restaurant. 

28. Where am I?

You should know how to ask about your current location in a foreign language.

29. How do I get to ______?

Learn the phrases or words to ask for directions to a specific place.

30. How far is/to

Learn how to ask about the distance from where you are to where you want to go.

31. Can you show me on a map?

If you are having a hard time understanding the verbal directions that they are trying to give you, this might be an easier way to get over the language barrier. 

32. What time is it?

If you are going to catch a time-specific event, like a play or a departing train, it’s a good idea to be able to ask what time it is.

33. Do you know when the show starts?

If you are waiting for a specific event or show, you should know how to ask around about the starting time.

34. Do you know when the place opens?

If you go to a museum or store and find it’s closed, you should be able to ask the locals about the opening time.

Basic directions

Of course, if you learn how to ask for directions in a foreign language, you need to learn how to understand those directions. 

35. Left

36. Right

37. Straight

38. Behind

39. Turn around

40. Near

41. Next to

Modes of transportation

Some of the most important places you will need to go while traveling in a foreign country are these transportation hubs. You also need to know what certain modes of transportation are called.

42. Airport

43. Airplane

44. Train station

45. Train

46. Subway station

47. Subway

48. Taxi 

49. Car

50. Motorcycle

51. Bike

52. Boat

Places to go

As we mentioned, “where is” is an important phrase or word to know in a foreign language. It’s also important, however, that you know what the name of the place you are looking for is.

If there is a specific name for the place, like McDonald’s or the Ritz, you can ask where those specific places are. But if all you want is someplace to eat or sleep and you don’t have a specific place in mind, you should know how to say the following.

53. Restaurant

54. Hotel 

55. Department Store

56. Grocery

57. Drug store 

58. Market

Phrases you will need when going shopping/making a booking/eating out

You will need to know the following phrases and words to enjoy yourself while out and about in a foreign country. 

59. What is this?

You should be able to know the word or phrase to point out something that interests you.

60. Do you have _______?

If you have come to a store looking for a specific item, you should know the word or phrase that will allow you to ask for it. 

61. Can I see?

This is similar to “what is that”, but the implication here is that you want the salesperson to bring the item closer to you, maybe let you handle it.

62. How much does it cost?

63. Do you have anything cheaper?

Know how to ask about the cost of things and maybe bargain for a better rate.

64. Where can I find

Depending on the country, sometimes what you thought you would find in say a grocery is actually sold elsewhere. Know how to ask a local about where you can find a specific item.

65. Can I order ____?

66. Can I have ____?

67. Can I see the menu?

68. Can I have the check?

If you are dining out at a restaurant, you should be able to say these four phrases in the local language.

69. What is the best?

70. Where is the best?

71. What is fun to do here?

72. When is the best time to go?

These phrases can be used to ask a local about the activities that are available to you in the area. 

How to count things

You should know how to count in the local language. At the very least, it will help you keep track of your money and also help you understand time and address directions.

73. 1-10

74. 100

75. 1,000


Know about dates

You should know the following words and phrases which indicate dates as they will help you get around in a foreign country. At the very least, knowing these words will ensure that you don’t miss anything important like a flight or your check out time at your hotel.

76. What day is it?

78. What day is ______open?

79. What day does ______ happen?

80. Days of the week

In English, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and so on.

81.  Names of the months

In English, January, February, March, and so on.

82. Seasons

You should learn what they call seasons because it will help you make travel plans. If they say it is “winter” you want to be prepared with cold-weather clothing or if they say it is “summer” you know now is the time to ask about visiting the beach.

Important words or phrases for language learners

There’s no shame in admitting that you are just learning a language and admitting so will make it easier for people to know how to help you.

83. Do you speak_____?

84. I am learning to speak ______

85. Can you repeat that?

86. Can you speak slower?

87. I don’t understand

Words or phrases that will help keep you safe

These are words to learn in a foreign language that can help keep you safe on your travels.

88. Help

89. Emergency

90. Caution

91. Danger

92. Fire

93. Thief

94. Doctor

95. Police

96. Hospital

97. I am hurt

98. I feel sick

99. I am allergic

100. I am lost


So now that you know some of the most basic words and phrases that you need to learn in a foreign language, you should compile your own language words list.

Remember, practice makes perfect, so try and use these words and phrases in conversations with your tutor or with friends who speak the language.

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