The best thing you can do when you travel to a foreign land is learn how to say ‘thank you’ in the local language. While you can’t become fluent in Japanese, Italian or Arabic in the weeks leading up to your big trip, you can learn some manners and at the very least pick up how to say ‘thank you’ in different languages. As we’re giving thanks this Thanksgiving, here’s how to say ‘thank you’ wherever you are in the world.
Why learn a few words in foreign languages?
When travelling the world a little effort can go a long way. Imagine you work in a cafe and someone wanders in and just starts speaking fluent Chinese at you. You will definitely be confused, and possibly feel like it’s a bit rude for them to launch straight into their native tongue, ignoring yours.
While plenty of tourism hotspots around the world are used to dealing with travellers speaking foreign languages or using English as the lingua franca, it’s always more polite to make some attempts in the local tongue. Even if it’s just a simple ‘hello’ and ‘please’, you will likely get better treatment and be met with kindness when you put in some small effort.
Wherever your globetrotting adventures take you, here’s how to show gratitude in the mother tongue so you can travel the world and pay respects to local culture as you go.
How to say ‘thank you’ in different languages
Let’s dive in starting with the most spoken languages across the globe. The order might surprise you!
Mandarin Chinese – 1,100 million speakers
After English, Mandarin Chinese is the language with the most native speakers, and due to its high number of native speakers, it has been growing in popularity as a second or third language.
How to say thank you in Chinese
谢谢 [xiè xiè] (syeh-syeh) – Thank you
Where to speak Mandarin Chinese: China
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Hindi – 600 million speakers
While Hindi is mostly spoken in India, foreigners are starting to learn the language in order to do business there too. Luckily almost half of India is able to communicate in English too.
How to say thank you in Hindi
धन्यवाद [dhun-yuh-vaad] Thank you (pure Hindi)
बहुत शुक्रिया or बहुत धन्यवाद [bahut shu-kri-yaa or bahut dhun-yuh-vaad] Thank you very much
शुक्रिया [shu-kri-yaa] Thanks (colloquial Hindi)
Where to speak Hindi: India
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Spanish – 545 million speakers
Spanish, a Latin language that originated in the Iberian Peninsula, is widely spoken across the world and is popular to learn as a second language. It’s the official language of 21 countries, including Spain, most of Central and South America, Mexico and the USA.
How to say thank you in Spanish
Gracias (gra-see-uhs) – Thank you
Muchas gracias (Mu-chas gra-see-uhs) – Thank you very much
Where to speak Spanish: Spain, Argentina, Peru, Chile, Costa Rica, Mexico, Bolivia, Cuba, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Puerto Rico, Uruguay and Venezuela.
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Arabic – 315 million speakers
Arabic is a beautiful ancient language spoken widely across North Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, and other parts of the Middle East. Written Arabic goes from right to left and linguists love the unusual sounds and pronunciation.
How to say thank you in Arabic
شكرا لك (shoe-kraan) – Thank you
Where to speak Arabic: Morocco, Egypt, Jordan, Tunisia, Algeria, Bahrain, Chad, Comoros, Djibouti, Iraq, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen.
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French – 285 million speakers
Ooh la la, French is traditionally the language of art and culture and is spoken in 29 countries across the world, not counting the territories that are still French colonies.
How to say thank you in French
Merci (muh-see) – Thank you
Merci beaucoup (muh-see bow-coo) – Thank you very much
Where to speak French: France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Monaco, Switzerland, Canada, Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Chad, Ivory Coast, Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, Haiti, Madagascar, Mali, Niger, Rwanda, Senegal, Seychelles, Togo and Vanuatu.
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Bengali – 265 million speakers
This 1000-year-old language is spoken in Bangladesh and West Bengal, the western part of India. It’s said to be part of the Eastern Indo-Aryan sub-branch.
How to say thank you in Bengali
Dhonnobad (dhon-no-baad) ধন্যবাদ – thank you
Where to speak Bengali: Bangladesh and Indian state of West Bengal
Portuguese – 275 million speakers
Portugal might be small, but the language of its former empire stretches far across the globe. While there are just 10 million Portuguese speakers in Portugal, you can find the language in South America, Africa, Asia and beyond.
How to say thank you in Portuguese
obrigado (oh-bree-GAH-doo) said by a male
obrigada (oh-bree-GAH-dah) said by a female
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Russian – 260 million speakers
A mix between several Slavic languages and classical Greek, Russian uses the Cyrillic alphabet.
How to say thank you in Russian
Спасибо [Spasiba] – Thanks
Благодарю [Blagadaryu] – Thank you
Большое спасибо [Bol’shoye spasiba] – Thank you very much
Where to speak Russian: Russian Federation, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.
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Indonesian – 200 million speakers
The islands of the Republic of Indonesia speak Indonesian as their mother tongue, but many grow up bilingual and the language is more popular in the urban centres than rural areas.
How to say thank you in Indonesian
Terima kasih (Thank you)
Anda sungguh baik hati (Thank you kindly)
Terima kasih banyak (Thanks a lot)
Where to speak Indonesian: Indonesia, including Bali, and some parts of Malaysia and East Timor.
Japanese – 126 million speakers
With 126 million inhabitants, the islands of Japan all speak Japanese. When you say thank you in Japanese, you can also bow as a sign of respect and thanks. Sometimes you can bow, a tradition dating back to the 5th century, to say thank you instead of saying any words.
How to say thank you in Japanese
ありがとう [Arigatou] (ah-ree-GAH-toh) – Thanks
ありがとうございます [Arigatou gozaimasu] (ah-ree-GAH-toh go-ZAI-ee-mus) – Thank you
Where to speak Indonesian: Japan
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German – 135 million speakers
German is widely spoken across the Europe Union as the native tongue of Germany, Australia, Switzerland, Luxembourg and Liechtenstein. Some studies suggest there are around 300 million speakers of it across Europe.
How to say thank you in German
Danke (dan-car) – Thanks
Dankeschön (dan-car shern) – Thank you kindly
Danke sehr (can-car zehr) – Thank you very much
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Other languages to learn how to say ‘thank you’ in
Beyond English, those were the 11 most spoken languages in the world. But we know our Trafalgar guests love to travel to a few smaller countries with less global mother tongues, so let’s learn how to say thank you in Italian, Turkish and more.
How to say thank you in Italian
Grazie (GRAHT-sea) – Thank you
Grazie mille (GRAHT-sea mill-y) – Thank you very much
Where to speak Italian: Italy
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How to say thank you in Turkish
Tesekkür ederim (teh-sheh-kur eh-deh-rim)
Where to speak Turkish: Turkey, Northern Cyprus, Cyprus
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How to say thank you in Dutch
dank u (dahnk oo) – thanks
dankjewel (dahnk-uh-wel) – thank you
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How to say thank you in Vietnamese
Cảm ơn (come-un) – thanks
Cảm ơn bạn (come-un-baan) – thank you
Where to speak Vietnamese: Vietnam
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How to say thank you in Polish
Dziękuję (dsyen-koo-yeh) – thank you
Where to speak Polish: Poland
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How to say thank you in Greek
Σ’ ευχαριστώ! [S’ efharistó!] (ef-hah-rees-TOH) – Ι thank you (singular – less formal)
Σας ευχαριστώ! [Sas efharistó!] (ef-hah-rees-TOH) – thank you (plural – formal)
Where to speak Greek: Greece, plus it is a minority language in Albania, Armenia, Hungary, Italy, Romania, Turkey and Ukraine.
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Brushed up on your international manners and are ready to travel? Tell us where you want to go in the comments….