You’ve just arrived in a brand new part of the world and it’s all incredibly exciting. You’ve remembered to get all your jabs, pack more than two pairs of underwear and your passport is somewhere safe (you can’t quite remember where that place is, but probably in that pouch thingy your mum gave you, stuffed down the front of your elephant pants). You’re ready to explore this new and exotic place all guns blazing – but when you try and find the bus stop you realize you’ve missed something.


Everyone is making these weird sounds, all the signs are in squiggly lines and you can’t for the life of you figure out where to get the bus to somewhere to sleep, let alone ask someone and understand what they are saying. To you, it’s all Chinese. Which it probably is if you’ve come to China (unless you already speak Mandarin, and it’s plain sailing).


Language barriers can be a bit of a struggle, but overcoming them is an amazing way of breaking the ice, especially when you make mistakes the locals are likely to find hilarious, and boom – you have yourself a new best friend for life. Whilst learning every language on the planet can be tempting to some and a living nightmare to others, there are certain little tricks you can use to help you along the way.


The German’s call the Eselsbrücken – or Donkey Bridges. Simple things that help the stubborn, donkey-like learning centre in your adult brain remember things it would have soaked up and stored in seconds for lifelong use when you were a kid. Back in the day, you read a word and it was stored automatically. Cat became gato, dog became inu, or vacuum cleaner pipe became stopsoucherslough, or whatever.



Now though, it helps to remember simple courtesies and random words by remembering what they sound like in your own language. With a little imagination, the Russian word for dog, ‘sabaka’, almost sounds something like the English phrase ‘It’s a barker’.  Handy, huh?


You’ll be surprised what doors open, what new friends are made and how much a little bit of local lingo can smooth your path in this exciting world. So here you have it, dear reader, a non-extensive list of donkey’s bridges for useful words, the language they are in, and what they sound like in English. Enjoy!





Feel and dunk

Sounds a bit like: Vielen Dank

Meaning: Thank you very much


Goo 10 tag

Sounds a bit like: Guten Tag

Meaning: Good afternoon





Grassy arse

Sounds a bit like: Gracias

Meaning: Thank you


Kettle (overpronounce the last e as an a)

Sounds  a bit like: Que tal?

Meaning: How are you?/ How’s it going?





To do bong

Sounds a bit like: Todo bom?

Meaning: How are you?/ How’s it going?



Sounds a bit like: Oi!

Meaning: Hello!





Ya table – loo blue

Sounds a bit like: Ya tebya lyublyu

Meaning:            I love you


Horror show

Sounds a bit like: Harasho

Meaning:            Good, fine, ok



Sounds a bit like: Riba

Meaning: Fish





Don’t touch my moustache

Sounds a bit like:            Doitashimashite

Meaning:            You’re welcome (said in reply to ‘thank you’)


Eat a ducky, mass

Sounds a bit like:            Itadakimas

Meaning:            Something like ‘bon appetite’ (said before a meal)


Gucci sauce on my desktop

Sounds a bit like: Gochisosamadeshta

Meaning: Thanks for a great meal (said after a meal – this one will impress!)



Chinese (Mandarin)


War eye knee

Sounds a bit like: Wo Ai Ni

Meaning: I love you





Come on!

Sounds a bit like: Kah moonh

Meaning:            Thank you


Come car seat

Sounds a bit like: Com Kasi

Meaning:            No problem



Indonesian Bahasa


Tear out my car seat

Sounds a bit like: Terimakasi

Meaning:            Thank you


Summer Summer

Sounds a bit like: Sama sama

Meaning:  You’re welcome (said in reply to ‘thank you’)


Hat-y Hat-y

Sounds a bit like: Hati-Hati

Meaning: Be careful/ caution