The Power of Thank You, Gracias, Obrigada, Merci!

  I spent the month of January in South Africa, where 11 official languages are spoken.

Something I have tried to do each time I get into an Uber or pay for an item is ask how you say thank you in the language of the person I am interacting with.

The look of sheer delight on the person’s face is always worth the effort, even if I butcher the pronunciation.

This is something I have been practicing for decades. Indeed, everyone everywhere wants to feel seen and heard. And the rewards for being respectfully curious and learning about the plethora of people and cultures around the world are bountiful.

Here are some tips that make it easy:

1. There is a Netflix/streaming show in almost every language. Watch in the original language with subtitles and write down words you hear that are repeated often.

“Hello” and “Thank you” are always among them.

2. When interacting with someone from a different country, politely ask how people are greeted and how you say “thank you.” There are always more and then less formal options.

3. Don’t feel self-conscious about practicing. We often don’t try for fear of mispronunciation, but I have found that people appreciate the effort.

4. Once you have learned the greeting or how to say “thank you,” take the opportunity to enquire further about the person’s country and culture.

5. Use associations to remember the words; for example, in Afrikaans, thank you are “baie dankie,” which is easily remembered by saying “buy a donkey.”

6. Be endlessly respectfully curious and enjoy learning about other people and cultures. I truly believe that we all want to feel seen and heard. Learning how to say “hello, ” “goodbye,” and “thank you” in a range of languages is a great place to start!