You had me at ‘Hello!’

As an interpreter, we not only develop programs that have universal concepts which incorporate different perspectives, cultures, and ideas, but we also try to interpret for people who speak different languages. We can be what some feel is the definition of an interpreter, translating foreign languages.

            Now most of us in the interpretation field probably cannot speak a foreign language, but those skills are an increasing need, especially in the National Park Service. International visitors are as common as Americans to some of the most popular sites like Grand Canyon, Everglades, Yellowstone, and Yosemite. Those sites even have brochures in several different languages. As a former front line interpreter, I only spoke one language fluently, English, but conversationally in French, not interpretively. However, I found out that a great way to create an interpretive opportunity for international visitors was to greet them in their language.

            I start off with “Welcome to (Insert Park Name Here). Where are you from?” This produces the visitor’s country of origin. I would then say in their language, “Hello. How are you?” As a simple ice breaker, this greeting technique would certainly open up a conversation. Now the audience may seem less intimidated by the language barrier and happy to hear familiar sounds. Furthermore, I would have their attention and they seemed more engaged since I took the extra effort to know something about them, my audience. A simple ‘Hello’ can go a long way!

            If you have many international visitors, or just want to impress your friends and coworkers, here are a few common language greetings that you may want to consider using for your next international audience.  You may also want to search the internet for other greetings, sayings, and pronunciation guidelines.



One person – “Buenos dias. Como esta usted?” (bwen-O’s D-us. Ko-mo S-t’us ooh-sted?) GOOD DAY. HOW ARE YOU?

2+ persons – “Buenos dias. Como estan ustedes?” (bwen-O’s D-us. Ko-mo S-t’us ooh-sted-S)



Bonjour! Comment-allez vous? (bunh-jur! Comb-onh tally voo?)

or Bonjour! Ca-va? (sah-vah?) GOOD DAY. HOW ARE YOU?



“Hallo, Guten tag. Wie Geht es Ihnen?” (ah-low, goo-tin tock, V gait S ee-nen), HELLO, GOOD DAY. HOW ARE YOU 



One Person “Ni hao.” “Ni hao ma?”(Knee how. Knee how ma?), HELLO. HOW ARE YOU?

2+ persons – “Nimen hao” “Nimen hao ma?”(Knee-men how. Knee-men how ma?)




Informal “Czesc. Jak sie masz?” (che-sh-ch, y-ah-k shay m-ah-ch) HELLO. HOW ARE YOU?

Formal “dzień dobry” (jane doh-bray). GOOD DAY

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