Whenever we travel anywhere, it’s always a good idea to learn the basics of the native language. Here is how to say hello in 50 different languages to help you get started!
Not only is learning a few basics of the language helpful for getting around and keeping you out of trouble, but it’s also a sign of respect for the culture.
Although we like to think that English is spoken everywhere, it’s not and even in places where it is spoken as a second or third language, it’s always appreciated if you at least try to greet people in their native language.
So, we’ve got 50 languages here spanning the entire world. By the end of this post, you should be able to respectfully greet someone from each of these places in their own language, without butchering the pronunciation. Don’t worry, the phonetic pronunciation for each one is included – I’ve got you!
Ready to become a greetings-based polyglot? Let’s get started.
1. English – Hello
Okay let’s start off with one that you might already know if you’re reading my site. Hello is the standard greeting in most English-speaking countries. So if you’re in the US, UK, Canada (except Quebec), Australia, New Zealand and a lot of the Caribbean, among others, this is going to be your go-to greeting.
In fact, English is the second most spoken language in the world after Mandarin, so even if it’s not someone’s first language, there’s a good chance that it’s their second or third.
How to pronounce it: huh-lOH
2. Spanish – Hola
Next up we have the language that dominates much of Central and South America as well as much of Spain, Spanish. I say much of Spain because Catalan and Basque are still very much alive and kicking with multilingual signs and a growing base of speakers.
It might not come as a surprise given the US’s proximity to Central America, but Spanish is also the second most spoken language in the US, so it’s well worth learning.
How to pronounce it: OH-laa
3. French – Bonjour
French is spoken in a huge amount of countries due to colonialism – it’s why a lot of the European languages crop up all around the world. There are a whole host of African countries that still have French as an official language as well as Switzerland and Belgium in Europe.
Across the Atlantic, you’ll also find versions of French spoken in the Quebec region of Canada and parts of Louisiana in the Southern US. After all, before there was New Orleans, the original Orleans was still at it’s influential heyday back in France.
How to pronounce it: bon-ZHOOR
4. Italian – Ciao
One of a few languages that uses its greeting as both hello and goodbye is Italian. Although it’s not as far reaching as Spanish or French, as Italian has its linguistic roots in Latin, they say if you can learn one, it’s fairly easy to learn all the other languages in the latinate family!
How to pronounce it: chau
5. German – Guten tag
Germany’s most common greeting directly translates as good day and is used throughout the day alongside more time specific greetings like guten morgen and guten abend. Outside of Germany, German is also spoken in Switzerland and Austria, although with some regional dialect differences.
How to pronounce it: goo-tenn tahk
6. Portuguese – Olá
Despite Portugal being a pretty small country in Europe, its explorer past means that it had plenty of colonies back in the day. As a result, Portuguese in one form or another is spoken in Brazil and African nations like Angola, Mozambique, Cape Verde, and Sao Tome.
You’ll also find Portuguese influences in Macau and in Filipino languages.
How to pronounce it: Oh-LAA
7. Mandarin – Nǐ hǎo
As the most widely spoken language in the world, it’s worth learning how to say hello in Mandarin. Predominantly spoken in China and around parts of Asia, it’s fast becoming a go-to business language.
How to pronounce it: nee-haow
8. Croatian – Zdravo
Just across the Adriatic from Italy, you’ll find the beautiful, historic country of Croatia. A favorite among holidaymakers and expats, it’s a popular spot. Croatian is also spoken in parts of neighboring Bosnia and Serbia, so if you’re traveling around, it covers a lot of bases.
How to pronounce it: ZDRAH-voh
9. Australian – G’Day
Okay, so this greeting isn’t technically another language, but G’Day is the most common way that people greet each other in Australia and sometimes in New Zealand as well. It’s long been parodied, especially by the Brits, so don’t try and do it in an Aussie accent.
How to pronounce it: Guh-day
10. Maori – Kia Ora
Just a hop, skip, and a jump away from Australia, we have New Zealand. Although English is probably the most widely used language in New Zealand, the Kiwi native language of Maori is still on the national language list. You’ll see and hear kia ora a lot during a trip around the country, regardless of whether the speaker is of Maori descent or not.
How to pronounce it: ki-ao-ra
11. Serbian – Zdravo
If you’re traveling around Eastern Europe, it’s highly likely that you’ll be passing through Serbia. Their language, Serbian, is similar to many other Slavic languages so you’ll find plenty of similarities and crossovers in phrases if you’re touring Croatia, Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Montenegro.
How to pronounce it: ZDRAH-voh
12. Slovak – Ahoj
Slovakia in central Europe serves as a gateway between East and West and is a common destination with interrailing tourists. Even if you’re just passing through, feel comfortable with this easy-to-remember greeting.
How to pronounce it: AH-hoy
13. Greek – Geia (γεια)
Ready to live your Mamma Mia fantasy? The Greek language goes back centuries and is one of the oldest languages in the world. It’s spoken throughout the mainland and islands, as well as in neighboring Cyprus. It’s also possibly the easiest greeting to remember and to pronounce.
How to pronounce it: ya
14. Cantonese – Nǐ hǎo
Although Mandarin is the most widely used language in the world and spoken across China, if you’re heading to the south of the country, or visiting Hong Kong or Macau, you’re much more likely to hear Cantonese than Mandarin.
How to pronounce it: nie haow
15. Japanese – Kon’nichiwa
Japan has long been a favorite with tourists, expats, and business people, so chances are you’ve probably heard this greeting in pop culture before. Nail the pronunciation and feel like one of the locals.
How to pronounce it: kohn-nee-chee-wah
16. Hindi – Namaste
Hindi is one of the most widely spoken languages in Northern India and is also heard in parts of Nepal. If you’ve ever been to a yoga class, this greeting should be easy to remember and pronounce.
How to pronounce it: nah-mah-steh
17. Korean – Anyeong Haseyo
South Korea is fast becoming a hub for pop culture and expats, especially those working as English Language Teachers. This greeting works in both North and South Korea, but might need some practice if you’re not used to tonal languages.
How to pronounce it: AHN-young-ha-say-yo
18. Dutch – Hallo
Find yourself in the Netherlands? It’s a popular expat and tourist spot, and while locals predominantly speak English, Dutch is still used throughout the country and in Northern Belgium. Although it doesn’t seem too different from the English hello, it’s important to emphasize the ‘AA’ sound.
How to pronounce it: HAAL-oo
19. Thai – S̄wạs̄dī
Having long been a favorite on the gap year South East Asia circuit, you’re definitely going to want to know how to say hello at the very least!
How to pronounce it: sa-wat-dii
20. Polish – Cześć
Poland is a common destination for travelers and expats thanks to its low cost of living. Want to speak Polish while you’re there? It definitely goes a long way and the locals appreciate it as it’s universally known to be one of the hardest languages in the world to learn.
How to pronounce it: cheshch
21. Hungarian – Szia
The capital of Hungary, Budapest is one of the most popular city breaks in Europe. It’s cheap, it’s got great travel links and there’s plenty to see and do. While you’re hanging around in the city’s many public spas, say hello to your fellow bathers.
How to pronounce it: SEE-ah
22. Czech – Ahoj
Similarly to Budapest, the capital of the Czech Republic, Prague, is a city break favorite, and popular with expats. The greeting in Czech is also the same as in neighboring Slovakia which helps when you’re crossing borders.
How to pronounce it: AH-hoy
23. Urdu – Assalam u Alaikum
Heading to Pakistan? The language that you’re going to need to learn is Urdu, not Pakistani – that refers to the people who are from Pakistan, don’t make that mistake and get an Urdu phrasebook!
How to pronounce it: as-salam-u lay-kuhm
24. Bengali – Hyālō
If you’re an English speaker traveling to Bangladesh, you might be surprised and glad to know that the greeting in Bengali is pretty much the same as hello, despite its different spelling.
How to pronounce it: hel-oh
25. Persian- Salām
Persian, sometimes called Farsi is a language that’s widely spoken across Iran, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Bahrain. There are some regional languages in these countries as well, so it may differ based on where you are.
How to pronounce it: saol-am
26. Ukrainian – Dobryj Den
Thinking about heading to beautiful Ukraine once it’s safe to travel again? Memorize this greeting and the locals will really appreciate it.
How to pronounce it: DOH-brihy dehn
27. Swedish – Hallå
Heading North to Sweden? Land of delicious cinnamon buns, IKEA and Abba? Can’t say I blame you, it’s beautiful!
How to pronounce it: hal-oa
28. Hebrew – Shalom
Hebrew is an ancient language that’s predominantly used by those who follow the Jewish faith. As such, it’s also the national language of Israel, so if you’re heading out there, brush up on your basics!
How to pronounce it: shah-LOHM
29. Russian – Privet
Due to the Soviet Union, you can still find Russian being spoken in a lot of Eastern European countries, including Georgia and Kazakhstan. It is also listed as a language spoken in Ukraine, but if you’re visiting Ukraine, I strongly suggest you speak Ukrainian, not Russian.
How to pronounce it: pree-VYEHT
30. Afrikaans – Hallo
Heading to South Africa or Namibia? Although English is spoken in parts of these countries due to colonialism, Afrikaans is a language that’s sometimes called Cape Dutch, and has solid Dutch roots due to, you guessed it, colonialism. Afrikaans is also spoken in some parts of Botswana and Zimbabwe as well.
How to pronounce it: hel-OH
31. Norwegian – Hei
Wanting to check out the Midnight Sun or hit up the Fjordlands? Norway is a beautiful, if not chilly and expensive, country. The Norwegian language has a fair bit of crossover with other Nordic languages like Danish, Swedish and Icelandic.
How to pronounce it: hay
32. Arabic – Marhabaan
Okay, so Arabic is a little bit different to many of the languages on this list. While all languages are likely to have different regional dialects and greetings specific to different areas, Arabic has almost completely different languages within it.
This greeting works for Algeria, Bahrain, Chad, Egypt, Eritrea, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, Western Sahara, and Yemen.
How to pronounce it: mur-hah-bahn
33. Malay/ Bahasa Indonesia – Selamat Pagi
Malay, sometimes called Indonesian, is popular all around South East Asia and is actually the official language of Malaysia and Brunei. You’re also likely to hear it around Indonesia, Singapore, and Thailand.
How to pronounce it: suh-lah-met pah-gee
34. Tagalog – Kamusta
Tagalog, if you’re not aware, is a language that’s widely spoken in the Philippines and often referred to as Filipino, even though it’s more specific to the people originally from the central Luzon area.
Interestingly, the language has spread massively as Filipinos have emigrated across the world, with Tagalog now being the second most spoken language in three different US states!
How to pronounce it: kuh-moos-tah
35. Vietnamese – Xin Chào
Vietnam is another popular stop on the gap year circuit, and thanks to its beautiful beaches, great food, and low cost of living, is quickly becoming an expat favorite.
How to pronounce it: sin-CHOW
36. Swahili – Jambo
Swahili is a language that’s mainly spoken in Tanzania, Uganda, and Kenya. It’s actually the secondary language across much of East Africa. It’s also been used in popular culture, with the character names in the Lion King predominantly being Swahili words – Simba translates to the lion in Swahili. It’s a little on the nose but it’s a cool touch.
How to pronounce it: jam-BOH
37. Nepali – Namaste
Wanting to trek in the Himalayas? You’re going to need to be able to greet the locals. This greeting is also the same as it is in Hindi as Nepali and Hindi are spoken on both sides of the border.
How to pronounce it: Nah-mahs-teh
38. Fijian – Bula
Need an island getaway? Fiji is pretty much what you picture when you think of the word paradise.
How to pronounce it: mbula
39. Hawaiian – Aloha
Okay, so anyone who’s seen Lilo and Stitch, surfs or knows anything about Hawaii, knows that aloha means so much more than hello and goodbye. Aloha means family!
How to pronounce it: AH-low-ha
40. Welsh – S’mae
So, you might not know that Wales in the UK has a separate language. It’s predominantly spoken in the North of the country and is having a resurgence after its teaching was repressed by the English government.
Oddly enough, the only other place where Welsh is spoken is in parts of Patagonia, as Welsh miners were drafted in to work the mines down there years ago.
How to pronounce it: shoe-my
41. Icelandic – Halló
Heading to the Land of Fire and Ice? Home to some of the world’s most amazing natural wonders, Iceland is an expensive favorite with travelers.
How to pronounce it: hal-law
42. Irish Gaelic – Dia Duit
Gaelic is a traditional language that’s split into two sections: Irish Gaelic and Scottish Gaelic. Much like Welsh, the English tried to repress the teaching of both, but the language still survives and is having a resurgence.
How to pronounce it: DEE-ah GHWIT
43. Navajo – Ya’at’eeh
Navajo is the native language of the Navajo people. Predominantly spoken in the Southwest US, it’s regaining popularity and even has a Duolingo course!
How to pronounce it: yah-tah-hey
44. Albanian – Përshëndetje
Albania isn’t somewhere that gets a lot of tourists, but it’s gaining popularity now that its Balkan neighbors are getting busier and busier. Its language, Albanian, is not the easiest and is also spoken in Kosovo, with 90% of Kosovans being ethnic Albanians.
How to pronounce it: per-shen-DEAT-ye
45. Mongolian – Sain uu
Mongolia as a country is ancient. Home to Genghis Khan, the Mongolian empire used to be one of the largest in the world. As such, Mongolian is spoken in parts of Russia, and Kyrgyzstan in addition to Mongolia.
How to pronounce it: say-noo
46. Pashto – Salam
In addition to Farsi or Persian and Urdu, Pashto is also spoken in parts of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iran. Again, this changes depending on the region that you’re in, so check before you travel so that you can brush up on the right language and don’t offend any locals!
How to pronounce it: sah-laam
47. Tamil – Vanakkam
Tamil is a language that’s spoken by the Tamil people who predominantly live in Southern India and Northern Sri Lanka. Due to the civil war in Sri Lanka, you should check the languages of the areas you’re visiting so that you don’t greet someone in the wrong language and offend them. There is also a large population of Tamil expats in Singapore, so you may hear it spoken here.
How to pronounce it: vaa–NAK–kam
48. Sinhalese – Ayubowan
Speaking of national languages in Sri Lanka, Sinhalese is probably the most common language that you’re going to come across during a stay on the Pearl of the Indian Ocean. It’s the language of the Sinhalese people who make up around 75% of the Sri Lankan population.
How to pronounce it: ah-yuh-boh-van
49. Khmer – Choum Reap Sor
Cambodia is enjoying a renaissance following years of brutal oppression and genocide at the hands of the Khmer Rouge regime. Now, tourists are discovering the beautiful history and culture of this amazing country. The language, Khmer, is a historic language and the name comes from the Khmer people – not the brutal regime.
How to pronounce it: jum reap sour
50. Taiwanese Hokkien – Li-hó
A lot of people who want to live in a Chinese-influenced place, but don’t want the restrictions that the state sometimes enforces, head to Taiwan. Taiwan is a country that’s quickly becoming a tech and business superpower. If there’s a niche language to learn that’s going to help you get ahead in business, it’s Taiwanese Hokkien.
How to pronounce it: lee-hoh
So there you have it, how to greet new friends and acquaintances in fifty different languages. Obviously, there are a lot of languages that haven’t been covered on this list, but this is a good place to start.
A lot of languages get their roots from each other, from either neighboring countries, religion, or through empire rule, so you’ll find some similarities between different languages. Sometimes that’s just by hopping a border, or you might travel halfway around the world and hear a familiar language from back home.
Learning the basics of the language of the place you’re visiting is a fundamental courtesy that any traveler should adhere to. It’s just the polite thing to do! Even if you can’t hold a conversation, most locals will appreciate the effort, and it’s helpful if you get yourself into any trouble.
If you’re looking to move to another country, you absolutely need to learn the basics and probably should get on with learning as much of the language as you can.
A destination or people’s language helps shape their culture. For example, the Inuit people have between 40-50 words just for different kinds of snow because it’s integral to their society.
If you can speak the language, even a little bit, it’ll help you understand their way of life and the history of the people that live there! It all starts with learning how to say hello, the rest is up to you!
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Dayna Brockbank is a travel and language-learning blogger who has lived around the world but has now settled in Nice, France. She speaks 3 languages at varying levels of fluency: Spanish, Italian, and French, and graduated with a Bachelor’s in Spanish Education. She and her husband focus on making travel part of life by living cheaply and traveling on a budget.