Are you planning to go abroad but don’t speak the local language? Worried that you might have problems ordering or buying vegan food as a result? Never fear; I have a simple tip and printables for you!
I usually prepare and print a page of translated words and phrases that I may typically need, specifically around avoiding non-vegan food. My lists typically include phrases like “I am vegan” and “I don’t eat meat, fish, dairy or eggs”, alongside words like “cheese”, “beef”, “lamb”, “honey” etc. They have helped us out a number of times.
Errr, why print anything out in the 21st century?
Guidebooks come with a limited dictionary, but are hardly tailored to our vegan requirements. It’s handy to have printed phrases ready for communicating with non-English speakers; either to read from if you’ll brave the accent, or to sheepishly point at if you aren’t!
Printed lists of translations are also helpful for doing random translations quickly in supermarkets or shops.
“But we have phones”, I hear you say. “But we have the mobile internet with capped data charges in the EU”, I also hear you say. Well that one time you’re in a basement restaurant or a giant supermarket with no signal and/or a flat battery, you’ll be grateful for a physical copy!
Besides, it can be helpful to have a piece of paper to hand over to a waiter or helpful stranger rather than nervously pull out your expensive phone.
But doesn’t everyone speak English anyway?
Typically in tourist resorts and hotels, you’ll always find someone that speaks English. On some trips I didn’t need to speak the local language at all. However, I usually needed to be able to read it. Sometimes we’ve been to places where the labels didn’t have English at all and I had to rely on my knowledge of French or Spanish to get by!
That being said, I have no chance of communicating in German, Norwegian or Japanese… So I always find myself grateful that English operates as something of a universal language.
Sometimes people are very understanding. One Norwegian lady waved aside my apologies for not being able to speak Norwegian; she questioned why anyone would bother to learn it outside of Norway. They and others like the Finns and Hungarians are aware of how hard their language is to learn. They also know that it is rarely spoken outside their countries, so don’t feel embarrassed.
However, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try, nor expect everyone to speak English everywhere. Imagine if someone approached you in your hometown for help and started talking in a language you couldn’t understand with no effort made to speak English whatsoever. Would you want to help?! Could you?!
A simple “thank you” can go a long way
Not everyone enjoys speaking other languages, for sure. My husband is hopeless, thanks to a GCSE French teacher that let them watch films instead of teaching them anything! But, if you can demonstrate even a small amount of effort, it encourages the people you encounter to be more likely to try and help you.
So, if you can learn one thing, always learn the phrase for “thank you”. It seems especially valued in countries with trickier languages. It shows some appreciation for their culture, but also seems to express an unspoken gratitude to the person for knowing English to be able to speak to you!
After all, human nature is universal, and we all want to feel appreciated, and our cultures valued.
To the free printables!
To help you on your way, I’ve prepared some translation sheets as PDFs for you. They are free for you to download and print in the languages specified:
More languages to follow… If you have any suggestions or corrections, let me know.
I hope you find it useful, and enjoy your travels!