9 Foreign Phrases That Will Make You Sound Smart

Want to impress a native with your burgeoning language skills? Keep one of these foreign phrases handy in your back pocket.
foreign phrases

When you’re first beginning to learn a new language, there are all these essential foreign phrases you need to get out of the way. You know, things like “hello” and “please” and “I don’t quite agree with you regarding the merits of the Soundcloud rapper phenomenon.”

Once you’re pretty sure you can introduce yourself, find a bathroom and discuss youth music trends with relative ease, you can move on to the fun stuff. Some foreign phrases communicate that you’ve studied the language for a bit, but some communicate that you’re “in the know.”

Here are a few foreign phrases that will show off your cultural competence and make you sound like a real native.

Mexican Spanish

¿Sus tacos con copia o sin copia?

Translation: Do you want your tacos with or without a copy?
Meaning: “Do you want your tacos with or without an extra tortilla?” Some tacos are especially large or greasy, so the first tortilla tends to break easily.


Hvor lang tid tager det på cykel?

Translation: How long does it take by bike?
Meaning: You’re hip to the fact that Copenhagen is one of the most bike-friendly cities in the world—half of all Copenhageners cycle to work every day. That’s why it’s more typical to measure distances in terms of biking times than by car or train.


Smaken är som baken.

Translation: The taste is like the butt.
Meaning: “Different strokes for different folks.” Swedish people care very much about consensus, which is why disagreements often lead to a “let’s agree to disagree” to nip an unfruitful debate in the bud. If you’re still scratching your head over this, the full expression goes “Smaken är som baken – delad” (The taste is like the butt — divided).

Brazilian Portuguese

A continha, por favor.

Translation: The little check, please.
Meaning: This is how you ask for your check like a true Brazilian. Brazilians love to use diminutives because they’re friendly and endearing. Think: cafezinho (little coffee), and pãozinho (little bread roll).

European Spanish

Hacer una bomba de humo

Translation: To do a smoke bomb
Meaning: To leave without saying goodbye (think: Irish goodbye; French exit). This is also a common practice in Spain, especially when you’re at a party that’s too crowded to easily navigate. Spaniards like to hang out in big groups, and saying goodbye to people usually involves more small talk and multiple kisses, so people are generally understanding of the need to occasionally leave without making a fuss.


Jetzt mal Butter bei die Fische.

Translation: Now butter for the fish.
Meaning: Get to the point! The German mentality is an efficient one (in theory), so if you really want to signal your belonging, cut someone’s rant short with this little quip.


Chacun voit midi à sa porte

Translation: Everyone sees noon at his door.
Meaning: Everyone sees things subjectively. Time is relative to one’s time zone, and so are perspectives in general. This is the French way of calling attention to the fact that everyone sees what they want to see (or have been conditioned to).


Parla come mangi

Translation: Speak the way you eat
Meaning: Keep it simple and quit it with the metaphors and literary flourishes. Just speak the way you eat — no one can look that pretentious when they’re eating pasta.


В ногах правды нет. (V nogakh pravdy nyet.)

Translation: There’s no truth in standing on your feet.
Meaning: This is something people often say as a gesture of hospitality (and Russian culture is pretty big on hospitality). Basically, you’re encouraging someone to sit down and make themselves at home.

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