Speaking in Tongues

With St. Patrick’s Day coming up, I found myself brushing up on the Gaelic word for “cheers” – if only to start getting myself into the spirit of things (even if there might be a hint of a slur in my speech when I finally do get around to using it). The phrase “Sláinte” is now firmly in mind and ready for use.

My family history is nearly equally divided between Irish and German, so my doing this small bit of research is also about getting back in touch the Irish side of my ancestral roots. After all, everyone else considers themselves Irish on St. Patrick’s Day, so why not separate myself from the pack a little by speaking some Gaelic, right? I just hope I’m not murdering their otherwise beautiful, melodic sounding language in the process.

Actually, I plan on making a trip to Ireland at some point, so my research will come in handy even outside of the St. Patrick’s Day venue. So, as I was considering destinations for my trip to Ireland, I began thinking about (and tallying) the number of countries I’ve visited and toured.

I’ve learned quite a few things from many years of international travel that I’d like to share with you. There are basic words and phrases that any Cheers!good tourist worth his or her salt should learn when traveling abroad. Usually those phrases are “hello,” “goodbye,” “please,” “thank you” and “toilet.” For those of you planning on taking a break from work or school in the upcoming warmer months, I would like to offer that the word “cheers” be added to your list of handy words and phrases to learn while touring or visiting the country of your choice. Nothing help builds mutual respect and a sense of friendship faster with non-English speakers like the languages of politeness and well-wishing, especially if you get the chance to pull up a bar stool with them. If you’re an “off-the-beaten-path” type tourist, like myself, who enjoys experiencing everyday life (instead of just the major tourist attractions) this sort of information will help to ease yourself into their culture, their way of life, and their good graces. Not to mention that this will help break the stereotype of Americans as “ugly tourists.”

Regardless of your language skills, nothing says “I’m interested in your country and your culture” more than an attempt to speak the language – despite what the ominous, ever-present “They” say. So, if you find yourself hanging out and drinking with the people of the country you’re visiting, be sure to learn “cheers” along with all the swear words you might pick up.

Call me a geek, but even if you’re not planning any trips abroad, it’s kinda neat to use a different language’s version of “cheers” even when you hang with buds – if only to see who can come up with the most obscurely known version of “cheers.”

Here’s a list of “cheers” in a few of the planet’s many languages:

Afrikaans: Gesondheid
Albanian: Shëndeti tuaj / Gezuar
Arabic: Fi sahitak
Armenian: Genatset
Asturian: Gayola
Austrian: Prosit / Prost / Zum Wohl
Azerbaijani: Afiyæt oslun
Bali: Selemat
Basque: Topa
Belgian: Op uw gezonheid
Bengali: Joy
Bosnian: Zivjeli
Brazilian: Saude / Viva
Breton: Yec’hed mat
Bulgarian: Naz drave
Catalan: Salut
Chinese: Kong chien / Yum sen
Cornish: Yeghes da
Creole: Salud
Croatian: Zivjeli / U zdravlje
Czech: Na zdraví
Danish: Skål
Dutch: Proost
Egyptian: Fee sihetak (or Bisochtak)
English: Cheers /Chin Chin
Esperanto: Je via sano! / Sanon
Estonian: Teie terviseks
Ethiopian: T’chen chen
Farsi: Ba’sal’a’ma’ti
Finnish: Kippis
French: À votre santé / Santé
Frisian: Tsjoch
Galician: Chinchín / Saúde
German: Prost
Greek: Eis Igian / Stin ijiasas / Jamas / Gia’sou
Greenlandic: Kassutta
Hawaiian: Hipahipa / Okole maluna
Hebrew: Le’chaim (loc’hiem)
Hindi: Apki Lambi Umar Ke Liye
Holooe: Kam-poe
Hungarian: Egészségedre
Icelandic: Skál / Santanka nu
Ido: Ye vua saneso
Irish: (Gaelic) Sláinte
Italian: Salute / Cin cin
Japanese: Kampai / Banzai
Kenya: Jambo (or Rathima andu atene)
Korean: Konbe /Gombei
Latin: Sanitas bona / Bene tibi
Latvian: Prieka
Lithuanian: I sveikata
Malaysian: Minum
Maltese: Aviva
Mandarin: Gan bei
Maori: Kia ora
Mexican: Salud
Moroccan: Saha wa’afiab
Norwegian: Skål
Occitan: A la vòstra
Pakistani: Sanda bashi
Polish: Na zdrowie / Sto lat
Portuguese: Saúde (or Viva)
Rumanian: Noroc
Russian: Budem zdorovy
Serbian: Zivjeli / U zdravlje
Sesotho: Nqa
Slovak: Na zdravie
Slovenian: Na zdravje
Spanish: Salud
Swahili: Afya / Vifijo
Swedish: Skål
Tagalog (Philippines): Mabuhay
Thai: Chook-die / Sawasdi
Turkish: Serefe
Ukrainian: Na zdorov’ya
Welsh: Llechyd da / Hwyll
Yiddish: Lechaim
Yugoslavian: Ziveo / Ziveli




  • mankso March 11, 2008 @ 10:35pm

    In my experience of a lifetime’s drinking with Esperanto-speakers a more usual toast is “Je via sano!”, although your “Sanon!” is also grammatically possible. “Saluté” is not Esperanto, but some other language! (If you removed the acute accent it would be Italian).

    Lá Fhéile Pádraig shona duit [sg.]/daoibh [pl.]!

  • Ed March 12, 2008 @ 8:45am

    Hey there, mankso. Thanks for the info. (I promise I didn’t mean to make that rhyme.)

    Anyway, I’d like to ‘play-off’ that entry by saying, “Congrats, you passed the test,” but alas my Esperanto isn’t just “lacking” – it’s completely absent.

    If I’m not mistaken, “Je via sano” is “to your health” and if (as you suggest) it’s used more frequently in casual settings – particularly amongst friends, I already prefer it.

    Please note that the entry has been corrected.

    It’s great knowing that readers like you are out there to lend a helping hand.


    P.S. What does the last line of your comment mean?

Leave a Reply

Your name is required.
Comment field is required.