Parlez-vous anglais? Brits rely on pointing at menus to get by when abroad

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English is the lingua franca in today's world. It is a blessing and a curse. Wherever you are in the world, you're likely never far from an English-speaker. However, this also means the certain British tourists can be notoriously lazy when it comes to language learning, as confirmed by this latest study.

Unsurpisingly, most Brits abroad rely on English to get by

Unsurpisingly, most Brits abroad rely on English to get by

When abroad, British tourists are known for not being able to speak the local language and instead expect everyone else to speak and understand English - or at least so goes the stereotype. Well according to a damning report conducted by The British Council on language skills abroad, it seems these negative stereotypes do hold a strong element of truth.

The survey found that while 80 percent of people thought it was important to learn some phrases, this did not translate into any concrete action. Of the 1,700 people surveyed, only 37 percent tried to learn a few words or phrases in the local language, while 45 percent relied on the assumption that the locals would speak English.

To get by in foreign countries over half of those asked (56 percent) resorted to pointing at menus in order to be understood in restaurants, 42 percent spoke English more slowly and loudly and a few (15 percent) have even tried speaking English in a foreign accent in the hope it would make their English more understandable.

However, that is not to say that the Brits do not recognize their own short comings, 36 percent felt guilty for asking if the locals spoke English and half of respondents reported that they felt embarrassed at not being able to speak the local language.

29 percent said they were too scared to try speaking a foreign language and 15 percent confessed to being so unconfident in their language skills that they would only eat in British or fast food chain restaurants while overseas, instead of trying out the local dishes on offer.

In an interview with the BBC, British Council schools advisor, Vicky Gough said: "Too many of us are still relying too heavily on English alone. And, if this means we're missing out on holiday, imagine the effect that our lack of language skills is having on the UK more widely.

"The reality is that having more of us being able to speak at least a little of a foreign language is good for the UK's long-term competitiveness, particularly as the country comes to reposition itself on the world stage.

"Speaking other languages not only gives you an understanding of other cultures but is good for business and for life too.

"Trying out a few words or phrases on holiday this summer and encouraging our young people to do the same is the perfect way to get started."

According to statistics in the world today around 60-75 percent of people are at least bilingual.

Speaking multiple languages is a crucial skill

Speaking multiple languages is a crucial skill

Learning a language is essential in our inter-connected and globalised world.

While English for now remains the lingua franca, it's steadily declining in importance. People who speak languages such as Arabic, Mandarin and Portuguese are in high demand in the business world, which is partly due to the focus on emerging economies in Asia, the Middle East and South America, where English holds less importance.

Furthermore, since the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union last year, the language is losing its influence in Europe. In a symbolic move this May, European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker choose French for the State of Union speech because, after all, he pointed out, English is 'losing importance'.

The political direction the USA has taken in recent months is also worth noting.

Since taking office this year, the current administration has been embroiled in controversies and inflammatory comments on topics ranging from freedom of the press to a war of words with North Korea, have drawn widespread criticism and alienated key allies.

While of course, this doesn't mean schools will stop offering English lessons; these developments have opened the door for other countries to take center stage. Once the leader of the free world, the world now looks to other nations, such as Germany, to lead the way on key issues such as terrorism and climate change. But, it's yet to be seen if the declining influence of the USA will have any long term effects on the popularity and global importance of the English language.

Learning a language is a vital skill not only for opening professional doors in pursuit of a well-paid job, but also helps us to learn about and appreciate other cultures. Today, the world is faced with a number of issues which can only be resolved if countries come together. So, now more than ever seems like a good time to learn another language.

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Xenia Evans
Posted on 12/08/2017 7 shares
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