It’s the oldest linguistic joke of all. What do you call someone who speaks three languages? Tri-lingual. Someone who speaks two languages? Bi-lingual. One language? British.
I’ll be honest, foreign languages came pretty naturally to me at secondary school and I really enjoyed learning both French and Spanish to GCSE level. I’m not fluent in either, I must say, but I’d like to think I know enough to have a brief conversation with someone.
However, it appears this is not the case for most Brits. A recent study commissioned by Holiday Autos found that the average Briton will jet off on their summer holiday this year, knowing only eight words of the country’s language.
The study went on to suggest that French is the most common language British people are familiar with, with the average UK adult being able to rattle off up to 15 words.
Additionally, despite millions of Brits travelling to the warmer climates of Span this summer, most only know a handful of words in Spanish, ‘hello’, ‘yes’ and ‘goodbye’ being the most common, followed by ‘thank you’, ‘no’ and ‘good morning’.
Of the 1,500 people surveyed 27% made absolutely no effort to learn a language as ‘everyone speaks English’ and 23% admitted to holidaying in predominantly English speaking resorts so that there would be no need for them to speak the local lingo.
I find this revelation quite shocking, to be honest. I know the language barrier is a tricky thing to overcome during a relaxing holiday break but I truly believe that if you want to have an authentic experience the best way to do so is by making an effort to speak the native dialect.
The survey also revealed that the limited knowledge of local language has landed 1 in 10 adults in hot water with problems occurring when ordering food and drinks, following directions and settling a bill. Some even admitted to speaking slower, using their smartphones and even resorting to drawing pictures, just to get their point across.
Over 25% of Brits have a funny story to tell about a friend or family member trying to make themselves understood on holiday apparently, and Holiday Autos have put together a really fun video of some of their ‘lost in translation’ moments which you can watch below.
If you are heading off on a holiday to France or Spain this summer, you’ll be pleased to know that Holiday Autos has produced some handy language guides that are available online and include top foreign phrases that you can learn and use while travelling.