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Two Hundred Words

Words to Know Before You Go

By David Armstrong

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!


Phrases

Greetings and Pleasantries

hello
good morning
good afternoon
my name is …
what is your name?
nice to meet you.
I am from …
how are you?
I am fine.
good-bye
have a nice day.
what time is it?
please
thank you
you are welcome.
excuse me

Going to the Store

what is this?
what is that?
how much does it cost?
what do you call this?
how do you say ...?
I would like ...
yes
no
stop
who
what
when
where
why
how

Adjectives

Comparative Adjectives

small
large
wet
dry
long
short
tall
short
fast
slow
hot
cold
fat
skinny
hard
soft
young
old

Colors

black
white
red
green
blue
yellow
orange
purple

Nouns

House

house
door
floor
window
ceiling
chair
table
bed
blanket
pillow
light
bedroom
dining room
living room
bathroom

Relationships

father
mother
son
daughter
brother
sister
grandfather
grandmother
grandson
granddaughter

Medical

doctor
nurse
hospital
pain
sick

Food

water
food
bread
meat
coffee
tea
vegetables and fruit common to the area

People

man
woman
youth
boy
girl
child
baby
police
teacher

Parts of the Body

head
hair
hand
finger
arm
leg
knee
foot
eyes
ears
nose
mouth
back
stomach

Transportation

car
truck
bus
street
airplane
train
ticket
passport
visa
taxi

Other

store
school
church
pastor
Bible
Jesus
God
song
embassy
tree
street
road
help
emergency
paper
pencil
pen
scissors
ball

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.)


Numbers, Money

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.


Prepositions

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.