Destinations

British travelers almost completely agree that there’s “no point” learning local languages

Nov 20, 2012 3:53 am

Skift Take

The changing face of tourism means that Mandarin and Portuguese could join English in the next few decades as the lingua franca of the international traveler.

— Jason Clampet

Report: Social Media Customer Service in the Travel Industry

Just 10 per cent of British holidaymakers will attempt to speak the local language, according to a new poll.

The reputation of Britons as lazy linguists shows no sign of diminishing, with a new poll suggesting that just one in ten of us make any attempt to learn the local language on holiday.

Around five per cent of those surveyed said they will try to learn a few key words, such as “hello”, “please”, “thank you”, “water” and “beer”, while a further five per cent will attempt anything more complex.

The vast majority of Britons said they only spoke their own language abroad because English is so widely spoken outside of the UK, there was “no point” in learning foreign words.

Others said they were “too shy” to attempt a foreign language for fear of pronouncing words incorrectly and embarrassing themselves.

Women were found to be more adventurous than men when it comes to learning a foreign tongue, while Britons are most likely to attempt Greek, Italian, German or Turkish, according to the poll.

“English tourists are renowned the world over for being particularly poor at languages,” said a spokesman for VIDAFX.co.uk, a travel money specialist which carried out the survey of 800 travellers. “While for many holidaymakers there really is no need as such to learn the local language it was good to report that one in 20 tourists tried their best to communicate with locals – regardless of whether they could’ve got by without doing so.”

A recent survey by TripAdvisor found that only 11 per cent of Britons can speak a foreign language fluently, compared to 70 per cent of Germans, half of Italians and French speakers, and 43 per cent of Spaniards.

The poll also revealed that 19 per cent of British travellers expected public signs abroad to be in English as well as in the local language.

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