One of the commonest reasons given for not learning foreign languages is there is no need, as “Everybody speaks English”.
Actually, this is far from the case, as even in Europe, the level of English speaking varies widely. Even including the countries which do have good levels of spoken English, only 38% of people on the continent have some English language skills. This may be higher in resort areas, but step outside your hotel, and if you need to chat with a police officer, a car repair company, a doctor, or most people in less densely populated areas, you may find communication a real struggle.
Europeans are good linguists, with just over half being able to hold a conversation in another language. 1 in 4 can speak at least two additional languages and 10% can manage in at least three other languages. If you are holidaying in Luxembourg, almost everyone (98%) speaks another language. Unfortunately, it may not necessarily be English – people tend to learn the language of their near neighbours first. There are a couple of countries where people are even less likely to have another language than UK residents –
Hungary, Italy and Portugal are the worst language learners.
So how does the 38% of Europeans able to converse in English compare with other languages? French is the next most widely-spoken additional language (12%), with German close behind on 11%. Potentially, if you learn French and Spanish you can reach about 60% of the European population.
Does “everybody speak English” in the rest of the world? In most of South America the proportion of English speakers is less than 20% and the same is true across Asia. Learning some Spanish and Portuguese would help in South America, but there is no real lingua franca across Asia.
Our advice would be to make the effort to have a few lessons in the native language of the country you are visiting – it will help smooth your path in case of difficulties or emergencies, and also allow you to see more of the places you are visiting, and meet the locals. “Everybody” may not speak English, but the language of “making an effort” is universally appreciated! Ring us (0161 491 1444) to arrange a quick course before you go – and get more out of your visit overseas!