the global child traveler: learn 12 phrases in any language

making friends in new countries

One of the Bowman family’s top goals for living and traveling abroad is to raise global children. We want our kids to be open-minded and really explore new cultures, foods and history. A vital bridge to becoming a global child is language. Learning a language can feel daunting, since mastery can take years. But with a few well-planned words or phrases, anyone can communicate, make friends or simply get by.

When we plan a trip, I like to give the girls some research to do. They love this “travel homework” time. I ask them to learn 12 words or phrases in the language of the place we are visiting and to pick a historical story to learn and share with us about the place. The phrases to learn are geared towards what they love to do, like petting dogs and playing with other kids at the playground.

I fill out a set of index cards with the words in English for each girl and it is up to each one to translate the word. Our daughters, being 8 and 14, have different research styles, but both seem to like google translate for words and forvo to hear how the word is pronounced by a native speaker. Learning these 12 phrases gives them confidence to interact a bit when we arrive. Their attempt to use 1 or 2 small phrases in hotels, restaurants or with kids at the local playground breaks the ice and creates goodwill.

New friends in France
New friends in France

So far, the global child initiative is working. They have these phrases mastered in Spanish, French, German, Danish and 6 of the 12 phrases in the Basque language of Euskera.

The kids are making connections regarding the similarity between French and Spanish, or German, Danish and English. And that is another good lesson about the romance languages versus the northern germanic ones! I love when we are watching TV or listening to the radio and they tell us which language is being spoken.

Our word list seems to be growing. Often, our daughters add to the list because they notice a word that they keep hearing, needing or that someone has taught them.

[bctt tweet=”Our 8-year-old is campaigning hard to add french fries in all languages to our travel phrase list.”]

We have vetoed her so far, but appreciate her initiative. She always manages to know how to order fries in any language.

Why not learn these yourself, as well? Here is our list:

  1. Hello
  2. Goodbye
  3. Thank You
  4. Please
  5. The word for a drink of their choice (milk, hot chocolate, orange juice, etc.)
  6. Yes
  7. No
  8. May I pet your dog?
  9. Do you want to play?
  10. How old are you?
  11. What is your name?
  12. My name is…

Potentially adding soon to the list: “Is there free wi-fi?” “What is the wi-fi login?” and yes, “I would like an order of french fries”.

For the second part of travel homework on history, click here.

UPDATE: We are up to 15 travel phrases. We have added french fries, may I have the wi-fi login password and where is the bathroom to the list.


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