72 votes
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In what language should I address foreign customs and immigration?

Unless you're completely fluent, you risk a miscommunication in a legal context. If you're at all uncertain about communicating to them, you should ask for a translator. In your case, if you're ...
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  • 157k
67 votes

What's the best way to signal that I'd prefer to be served in English?

Generally most people respond well when you make an effort, even if you can't speak their language fully. Responding to "Hola" (Spanish for hello) with "Hola", saying "dankie" (Afrikaans for thanks), ...
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  • 157k
60 votes
Accepted

Is it okay to mix in local language when I know it poorly?

It doesn't matter where you go in the world, the locals are pleased when an obvious foreigner makes an effort to be polite in the few words they know. (Even France, these days.) But as soon as it is ...
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  • 1,329
54 votes
Accepted

Is it rude to speak Swedish in Norway?

No, in itself it is not rude. You can do it in a rude way, by just ignoring the signals if the other person is not happy about it. Offer the person you talk with the choice. I would start with a ...
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  • 50.1k
48 votes

Do many Japanese people speak Korean?

No. Most Japanese people do NOT speak Korean. However, the English language is a required subject in the Japanese secondary education; although English education has not gone very well for Japanese ...
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  • 8,242
47 votes
Accepted

What is the main spoken language in Kiev: Ukrainian or Russian?

TL;DR: as of 2016, it was Russian; its dominance is drastically decreasing nowadays; a foreigner who wants to speak on the streets of Kyiv should consider historical, political, and cultural aspects ...
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46 votes
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As a native English speaker, which two further languages would give me the most travel utility worldwide?

Assuming we're a) choosing countries at random, regardless of size, population or popularity with tourists, b) choosing languages that let us communicate where English doesn't, and c) ignoring how ...
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39 votes
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Are there a FEW languages that, along with English, will let a person be understood by the vast majority of people in North-Western Europe?

I assume you speak English so I will discuss other languages. German will be understood by nearly everyone in Germany (!), Austria, and over half of the residents of Switzerland. It's spoken by ...
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  • 96.1k
37 votes

Which Norwegian language to learn?

Unless you plan to read/watch something written in Nynorsk, you should go for Bokmål. Most Norwegians have this as their written language, and it's close to what is spoken in the Oslo/Hurum area. ...
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36 votes
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Which language(s) is most useful for backpacking Africa?

French seems like an obvious choice: Spoken (to some extent, don't expect everybody to be able to communicate with you!) in 20+ countries, not much overlap with English, mostly standardized and easy ...
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  • 96.1k
35 votes
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Which Norwegian language to learn?

First of all, as a tourist in Norway you will be able to get by with English. Nobody expects tourists to have learned any of the Norwegian languages. I do not speak Norwegian but a friend of my does, ...
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  • 50.1k
32 votes

In what language should I address foreign customs and immigration?

The answer to the general question is: It depends. The general options are as follows: I always address U.S. and U.K. border guards in their language, because I don't expect them to understand any ...
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  • 1,495
30 votes

In what language should I address foreign customs and immigration?

Your best bet is to not speak at all. If they ask you to do anything (take your hat off, look into the camera), just do it without a word. Once you get everything stamped and taken care, they will ...
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27 votes

Which Norwegian language to learn?

As a native of Norway, I need to clarify something: Bokmål, Riksmål and Nynorsk are not spoken dialects. They are written languages. You cannot learn to speak or listen to them, you can only learn to ...
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  • 14.6k
26 votes
Accepted

Acceptable terms for describing black people in California

Black vs African-American (and in written English, Black vs black) is a complicated language and cultural question without clear answers. Entire books can and have been written on the subject. This ...
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  • 84.8k
26 votes
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Is English spoken widely in Ireland?

You'll get along fine with just English. According to Wikipedia: There are a number of languages used in Ireland. Since the late nineteenth century, English has been the predominant first language, ...
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  • 5,725
25 votes
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"Speaking" Korean without really speaking Korean, as a tourist in South Korea

That's a lot of questions, son, but I'll give you a general rundown based on my experience. English signage in the major cities is sufficient for getting around, eg. the Seoul Metro and Korea Rail ...
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25 votes

What does this Chinese character 天 mean on my visa?

I think it means "days". It's just a name of the field "days after entry" on chinese language. "Duration of each stay 090 days"
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  • 4,266
25 votes

Is it rude to speak Swedish in Norway?

It is neither rude, nor arrogant, but I am not sure if I see any point in doing so. If you don't understand Norwegian very well, you are very likely to have larger difficulties with the rural dialects ...
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25 votes
Accepted

In what language should I write my city/country name abroad?

Odds are pretty high whatever you write will end up on the passport as is, so I'd suggest you write it the way you want to see it. In your case, "Paris" will be universally recognized, while ...
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24 votes

What foreign language is the most common in Serbia?

While this question is answered (in short: English is probably your best bet), as a native, I'd like to provide a more complete explanation. First of all, the first part of Mark's accepted answer is ...
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  • 742
24 votes
Accepted

Catalan or Spanish in Barcelona?

In general people speak both languages. And because they can tell you are a tourist from the way you breathe :) they will not expect you to speak Spanish, nor Catalan. Having said this, you should ...
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  • 51.7k
23 votes
Accepted

What does this Chinese character 天 mean on my visa?

"天" means "days". You might be confused by the "after entry" part and thought why "天" is translated into "days after entry". This is because of Chinese word order. In English, "after entry" is placed ...
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  • 346
23 votes

What's the best way to signal that I'd prefer to be served in English?

This is much the same as has already been written by Mark Mayo but I have heard some arguments in favour of duplication of answers (basically that one answer may reinforce the other). I think ...
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  • 28.2k
23 votes
Accepted

Most useful languages other than English in Asia and Oceania

I'm pretty sure your best option would be Malay. It's an official language of Malaysia, Brunei and Singapore, and mutually intelligible with Indonesian, which is a designated "working language" in ...
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22 votes

In what language should I address foreign customs and immigration?

As a European living in a part of South Asia where I speak the language: I speak to the natives here in their own language pretty much always. One of the very few exceptions to this is when I go ...
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  • 14.6k
22 votes
Accepted

Using Modern Standard Arabic in Arabic-speaking countries

The first thing to be aware of is, while you can use Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) / Fusha (pron. 'foos-ha') to be understood, unless you also learn some local Amiyah (colloquial dialect) vocab and ...
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20 votes

In what language should I write my city/country name abroad?

I went to my appointment at the consulate and asked the employee which form is valid. They entered (or it was pre-entered like so) Paris, FRANCIA in the database (which is the same as what is in my ...
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18 votes

Is it rude to speak Swedish in Norway?

As a Norwegian I will say that we mostly wouldn't find it rude at all (rightfully so), problem is that the response will be in Norwegian and that might pose a problem for you as you have stated. For ...
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