By Ellie Buchdahl

26 September 2017 - 10:23

House door. Photo: dimitrisvetsikas1969, licensed under CC0 1.0 and adapted from the original
‘If you Έφαγα πόρτα’ you’ve ‘eaten door’ – or rather, you’ve been rejected from entering somewhere.’ Photo ©

dimitrisvetsikas1969, licensed under CC0 1.0 and adapted from the original

For European Day of Languages, colleagues from British Council offices across Europe collected 17 words and phrases that will make you sound (almost) like a local, curated here by Ellie Buchdahl. Find out why you don't want to 'go to Rome for cheese', but might be flattered if someone 'ate the world' to find you. 

Austrian German

Austrian German has a word for every situation. 'Oida' literally means ‘old one’, and could be translated as ‘dude’ or ‘mate’. And it can mean pretty much anything you want. If your friend is looking good today, ‘Oida’. If your favourite team has lost a match, ‘Oida’. If you want to wish someone a happy birthday, ‘Oida’.


Bulgarian native speakers never ‘get into trouble’. They simply ‘wade the onions’ (сгазвам лука). And even if your Bulgarian isn’t perfect, a Bulgarian speaker will never tell you that you were ‘bad at something’… although they might say that you’re ‘naked water’ (гола вода).

Cypriot Greek

Throw in the phrase 'Που λαλείς' at the start of a sentence, which means ‘as you say’. For example: ‘Που λαλείς, θυμάσαι την κουβέντα που λέγαμε εχτές’ – ‘As you say, do you remember the talk we had yesterday?’

Cypriot Turkish

Ensure everyone knows you’re a Turkish speaker who comes from Cyprus by greeting them with 'Napan Gardaş?', the Cypriot-Turkish-only expression for ‘What’s up, mate?’.


There's much to admire about French food, but if you're eating in a restaurant and want to sound like a local, you can exclaim 'Oh la la, c’est trop bon ce truc, je kiffe!'. That means 'Wow, it tastes so good, this thing, I love it'.


Non-native German teachers will often advise you to use the word ‘oder?’ meaning ‘or?’ at the end of a sentence as a translation for ‘isn’t that right?’ or ‘isn’t it?’ Don’t be fooled – native speakers rarely use this when speaking fluent German, particularly those speaking regional dialects. Instead, you might hear ‘ne?’. In Berlin, this changes to ‘wa?’, and in southern Germany ‘ge’, ‘gell’ or ‘gelle’.


Let’s start with things you might eat – or at least, things you might eat figuratively.'Έφαγα τον κόσμο να σε βρώ' meaning ‘I ate the whole world to find you’ means you looked everywhere for someone. If you Έφαγα πόρτα’, you’ve ‘eaten door’ – or rather, you’ve been rejected from entering somewhere, such as a fancy club or restaurant.

Irish and Irish-English (Hiberno-English)

Many people know (and use, even outside Ireland) the Irish Gaelic word ‘craic’, pronounced ‘crack’. The literal meaning is ‘fun’, but it is used much more generally to mean ‘How are things?’ – ‘What’s the craic?’ – or to describe a situation characterised by jokes and general enjoyment, as in ‘That was great craic’.

Irish Gaelic

If you’re ready to try some Irish Gaelic expressions, a nice place to start is 'astórín' or 'a ghrá' which mean ‘pet’, translated as ‘dear’ or ‘love’. In a slightly different frame of mind, you might exclaim: ‘a dhiabhail!’ – literally: the devil, used as an expression of panic as in: ‘The deadline is 17.00 today.’ ‘A dhiabhail!’


If you’re struggling to make head or tail of the Italian language, you might want to explain: 'Prendere Roma per toma'. This means ‘I don’t understand anything’ – although the literal translation is ‘take Rome for cheese’.


You’ve got a choice for how to say ‘hi’ or ‘heya’ to people in Polish – 'siema', 'elo' and 'yoł' will all raise you to the level of native speaker. Especially if you add 'co słychać?' ('What’s up?') at the end. The best way to say goodbye is 'nara' – the Polish native speaker’s way of saying ‘see ya’.


When you’re hanging out with Romanian-speaking friends, try saying the word for ‘concrete’ a few times – 'beton'. Everyone will know you mean ‘cool’. Even if you get it wrong, Romanian speakers will never ‘lose their temper’, although you might hear people describe someone who is angry by saying 'îi sare muştarul' - literally, 'his mustard will jump off'. Make sure you don’t ‘sell someone doughnuts’ in Romanian – 'a vinde gogoși'. The expression means that somebody is trying to lie to you.


In times of stress, your friend from Scotland might advise you to 'keep the heid'. 'Heid', pronounced 'heed', means 'head'. It means 'stay calm and focused'. Use it when someone is getting ready for a job interview or presentation, or a more serious confrontation.


There are lots of ways to say 'you know' in the middle of a sentence. 'A ver' means ‘let me explain myself’. 'Claro' and 'es verdad' both mean ‘yes, sure’, and 'Jooooo' is a way to complain about something.

Swiss German

Swiss German has its own catch-all word: ‘äuä’, an untranslatable filler word that adds that native-speaker flourish to every sentence. ‘Äuä scho’ – ‘Probably yes’ or ‘I guess so’. ‘Äuä nid’ – 'Probably not' or 'I guess not'. And then there’s ‘Äuä!’ – 'No way!'

Welsh English 

Welsh speakers of English like to give you several options in one sentence. For example, ‘Where was you going when I seen you coming back?’ or ‘Over by here my bike was and there it was gone!’ A Welsh speaker might give you several versions of a word, just to avoid confusion – for example: ‘Whose coat is that jacket?’


But to really show someone you care, switch to the Welsh language and give someone a 'cwtch' – meaning the best hug you’ve ever had.

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