Traveler holding map travel with query for the way with tuk tuk touring
Credit: Pakin Songmor/Getty Images

The process of preparing for a trip abroad can be daunting. Between packing and planning, learning foreign words and phrases may get put on the back burner.

However, it’s an important part of preparation. Learning a few basic phrases and words in a foreign language is one of the most effective ways to be a responsible traveler — and make your trip more memorable. And it’s not necessary to gain complete fluency in order to be understood abroad.

There are only about 10 simple sentence structures you need to learn to communicate at a base level in a foreign language. Whatever language you are trying to learn, do an internet search for “10 basic sentence patterns.” These sentences will allow you to express who you are, what you want, what you have, and what is happening to other people or objects.

Linguists strongly suggest learning more vocabulary than grammar to communicate while on vacation abroad. Native speakers will be able to get the jist of what you mean even if you’re just throwing words at them in random order.

Although there are more than 170,000 words in the Oxford English Dictionary, on an average day, a native speaker will only use about 10 percent of those words. And of those 17,000-ish words, only about 800 word families (called lemmas) make up 75 percent of daily conversation.

Wiktionary has a list of the 2,000 most commonly used words in contemporary English fiction. Fluent Forever has a list of 625 words to make yourself understood in any language, organized by “theme” for easier memorization.

But for those on a time crunch, 17 Minute Languages offers a list of the 50 most important words to know in more than 70 foreign languages.

In bocca al lupo, bon courage, buena suerte!