Breaking Down The Language Barrier When Travelling Abroad

I’ve always been quite good at languages, I studied French, German and Latin and love learning different languages. When we go abroad I hate not knowing the language and always try to learn a few bits and pieces before I go just so that I can make polite small talk, order food and ask for directions if I need to.

Holiday Autos has recently done some research into how much British people struggle with speaking different languages when they are abroad and I found it really interesting.

Did you know that British people are most familiar with French, and on average we know about 15 French words. Despite this, millions of us holiday a lot in Spain and we only know a paltry 8 Spanish words! Here are some other shocking facts about foreign languages and British people…

  • 27% of Brits don’t make any effort to learn a language before their holidays because they believe that everyone speaks English!
  • The 6 most common words British people know how to say in a foreign language are HELLO, YES, GOODBYE, THANKS, NO, GOOD MORNING
  • More Brits can ask for a beer in a foreign language than can ask where the bathroom is!
  • Interestingly the 1,500 respondents surveyed 23 percent said they holiday in popular resorts so there was no need to make an effort and speak the local language.

The survey did reveal that most adults  (nearly two thirds) said they were embarrassed that as a nation we make such little effort to learn foreign languages and one in ten admitted that not knowing the local language when on holiday had led to problems ordering, following directions and paying bills and communicating when they had a problem such as lost luggage.

Bearing this in mind here are my top tips for breaking down the language barrier when you are on holiday…

  1. Learn as much as you can of the new language before you go. There are quite often cheap language for holidays courses on at local community learning centres so do keep an eye out for those. Otherwise get some books and tapes from the library and get studying!
  2. Take a phrase book or dictionary with you. This might come in very handy when you are trying to decipher food labels at the supermarket or when you are asking directions of someone.
  3. Try to speak as much of the language as you can when you are there. It’s tempting not to if everyone speaks English but putting what you’ve learnt into practice will help you to remember it for next time.
  4. Don’t be embarrassed. Anyone you speak to will be pleased you are trying to speak their language and it doesn’t matter if you get a word wrong, the important thing is to try!

A spokesman for Holiday Autos added: “The survey has uncovered some really interesting insights into how Brits seem to have the confidence to communicate while traveling without necessarily learning any of the native language. “It shows that having confidence leads to happier holidays — something which Holiday Autos believes in wholeheartedly, as we provide book and go car hire and we are committed to find the best car at the best price for everyone’s holidays.” Holiday Autos have put together a funny little video full of stories about what happened when something got lost in translation abroad!

How do you feel about learning a new language when you go abroad? Do you have your own lost in translation moment? I’d love to hear it!

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breaking down the language barriers

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