Learning some of the language of your host community will demonstrate that you care about the people you’ve come to serve. It will also make it easier to find your way around and to understand what’s happening. Although you probably don’t have time to become fluent, learning 200 everyday words and phrases is an easy and beneficial first step for your adventure in learning as you go overseas.
Following are specific words and phrases to learn. This list focuses on common phrases, adjectives, prepositions, and nouns. Arm yourself with this list and a bilingual dictionary. Try to find someone who speaks the language you are learning and schedule time to sit down with them. Online resources are also available that offer translation and pronunciation help. Have fun!
Greetings and Pleasantries
Going to the Store
what is this?
small – large
wet – dry
long – short
tall – short
fast – slow
hot – cold
hard – soft
young – old
Parts of the Body
Days and Time
yesterday, today, tomorrow, early, late, hour, day, month, year, in the past, in the future
(Knowing the days of the week and the months of the year can be helpful as well.)
Learn to say and recognize the numbers from 1 to 20 (especially 1 to 10). Numbers allow you to count and to handle money. To practice the numbers, look at license plates and try to say them. Learn the names of the money, bills and coins, as well as how many of one bill it takes to equal the next bill.
in, out, under, above, behind, beside
We’re avoiding verbs because, although important, verbs are often complicated since they change forms. Learning the basic form of 20 to 30 common verbs is good but harder; consider verbs extra credit. It would also be helpful to learn words associated with what you will be doing, e.g., orphanage, construction, teaching, medical, church, VBS.
For more information on language learning, SIL International’s site has a host of language learning links.