reveals bashful Brits get tongue-tied overseas

From: Ltd
Published: Fri Sep 24 2010

According to new findings from, 61% of British holiday-makers admit they don't try to speak the local language when travelling abroad for fear of embarrassing themselves.

The research reveals that even though popular holiday destinations are becoming more exotic, Brits are still not learning basic foreign words or phrases before they go away. Happy to rely on English and hand gestures to get by, 35% of respondents said that while they often intend to try the local lingo, when it comes down to it they are just too embarrassed. 28% of those surveyed admitted to having no desire or intention to learn any local language at all.

The trusty phrase 'Do you speak English?' proved to be one of the most important travel language staples with 20% of Brits defaulting to their own native tongue whenever possible.

When asked to look at given phrases in languages ranging from Thai and Greek to Arabic and Indonesian, the majority of respondents were unable to identify words for 'hello' and 'goodbye', while asking for directions to the beach or ordering a glass of wine proved difficult.

But while the languages of newer holiday hotspots may be too challenging, over half of Brits are more comfortable dusting off GCSE and O-Level language skills to chat in French or Spanish.

Alison Couper, Communications Director,, said "People have become more adventurous in where they travel in recent years, but it seems the language skills have yet to catch up. Our survey shows that while we're prepared to travel to more exotic destinations, we're not so comfortable trying less familiar languages".

Additional findings from the survey include:
- 74% of Brits believe 'hello' and 'thank you' to be the most essential phrases to know when abroad 
- Londoners are least likely to try to speak the local lingo as 62% claim to have no intention of learning any foreign words
- Holidaymakers from the South West are most likely to try with 52% saying they'd attempt to learn some vocabulary
- 61% of Brits would feel more comfortable navigating themselves when driving abroad, rather than admitting to being lost and asking a local for directions
- Those aged between 18 and 21 are the least likely to try a foreign language when on holiday with 20% of those polled believing they can rely on English abroad


Notes to editors:
UK research conducted online between 5 July and 19 July 2010. The total sample was 1,246 respondents.

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