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Brits break language stereotypes while abroad

We Brits don’t have a great reputation when it comes to learning languages. There’s a common perception that we either expect everyone we meet to already speak English, or we believe that talking loudly and slowly will resolve any communication catastrophe we happen to encounter.

However, new research now suggests that we’re not altogether that bad when it comes to languages – and in fact, we can actually be quite impressive.

It turns out that almost 60% of us make a determined effort to speak the national language of whatever country we visit while on holiday, showing that we really do have a vested interest in showing our enthusiasm and respect towards those we meet.

One of the most common expressions we try to learn is ‘thank you’, with over 75% of Brits making sure they know how to say this in the native tongue before stepping on a plane. Over half of us learn the word for ‘please’, with ‘excuse me’ being mastered by 31% of us.

It’s certainly quite comforting to realise we know more about languages than we might think we do. When tested, 59% of us could understand certain essential words in different languages, and 46% of us believe that we can understand some basic phrases. For example, the question "Parlez vous anglais?" (“Do you speak English?”) was understood by over 90% of those who were asked the classic French question, and the Spanish question “Dondé esta la estación de autobus?" (“Where is the bus station?”) was understood by 88% of people in surveyed.

“The general perception is that British people tend not to be that forthcoming when it comes to speaking a foreign language when they go abroad,” said Linguist professor Yaron Matras from the University of Manchester. “What this research has shown however, is that we do in fact make the effort to try and learn the local language to help us get the best out of our holiday.” Whichever country you choose to test out your language skills in, the importance of taking out travel insurance has never been greater.

Date Created: 17 June 2013

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