Wednesday 20th April 2011: New research out today reveals that the average Brit will head off on holiday this summer – able to speak less than 10 words of the native language while two thirds of holidaymakers simply refuse to learn local languages on trips abroad(1).
The study by Sheilas’ Wheels travel insurance polled 3,000 people who are travelling abroad this year on their ability to speak the language of the country they are heading to.
It emerged that the average holidaymaker only knows six phrases or words in Spanish, despite a fifth claiming it is their all-time favourite holiday destination. At best, people can muster up the Spanish equivalent to ‘hello’, ‘yes’, ‘goodbye’, ‘thank you’, ‘good morning’ and ‘good evening’. But the majority are unable to ask where the local chemist is, request a doctor or tell anyone they are lost.
Despite it being a ‘school language’ the average Brit can only confidently say 10 words in French, despite it being a regular holiday spot for one in 10 people. 11 per cent of people are particularly fond of taking a two week break in Italy – but on average are only able to recognise or use three words.
The one in 20 people who enjoy trips to Germany can only speak six words of the local language.
Jacky Brown at Sheilas’ Wheels travel insurance, said: “The results of this study put holidaymakers to shame, considering that these destinations – France, Spain, Italy and Germany – are all visited regularly by British people.
“We know English is one of the most known languages internationally, but it’s rude and sometimes dangerous of us to assume that everyone understands English when travelling abroad.
“More importantly, if holidaymakers don’t have the most basic knowledge of local languages, it is worrying that they will not be able to communicate in an emergency.”
The poll shows that over half of holidaymakers (51 per cent) rarely bother to learn any local words and phrases before visiting a foreign country and a quarter would be more concerned about how to ask for a beer than asking about flight times or being able to tell someone they have lost their keys.
Unfortunately 46 per cent of holidaymakers abroad admit they would be uncomfortable visiting restaurants and hotels abroad if the staff couldn’t speak any English, while 22 per cent only visit places where they will have access to English speaking people.
Incredibly, when abroad a fifth of folk (20 per cent) will only eat in an establishment with English menus and staff, and one in 10 holidaymakers have walked out of somewhere because they couldn’t understand anything.
Of those holidaymakers who would like to be able to speak a few key phrases when going abroad, four out of five would like to be able to say thank you. ‘Hello’, ‘yes’, ‘no’, ‘please’ and ‘goodbye’ are also amongst the words British holidaymakers wish they could master.
Unbelievably, one in 20 people claim not to know a single word in French – not even ‘bonjour’ or ‘oui’. Similarly 14 per cent can’t speak any Spanish at all, claiming not to understand simple phrases such as ‘gracias’ or ‘porfavor’. Furthermore, a third of Brits don’t know any Italian at all, while a fifth can’t speak any German.
Jacky Brown further commented: “There is a lot of pressure on holidaymakers to be able to speak fluently in a foreign language for the country they’re visiting – but with the hectic lifestyles many of us lead it’s not always possible. Our research shows that nearly half of holidaymakers usually carry a foreign language book when going on holiday, and we would recommend everyone does this as a matter of course.
“The language barriers may make it difficult to communicate should anything unfortunate happen - so for peace of mind, it’s vital for holidaymakers to make sure they’ve got travel insurance and double check what they are covered for, as while you can’t plan for every eventuality, you can make sure you have done everything you can before leaving the UK.”
10 MOST COMMON FRENCH WORDS BRITS CLAIM TO KNOW:
Hello - Bonjour
Goodbye - Au revoir
Yes - oui
Thank you - merci
My name is - je m’appelle
Do you speak English? - tu parlays anglais?
Good morning - bonjoir
Good evening - bonsoir
Wine - vino
What time is it? - Quelle heure est-il?
6 MOST COMMON SPANISH WORDS BRITS CLAIM TO KNOW
Hello - Hola
Yes - si
Thank you - gracias
Goodbye - adios
Good morning - buenos dias
Good evening - buenos noches
6 MOST COMMON GERMAN WORDS BRITS CLAIM TO KNOW
Hello - hallo
Yes - ja
Thank you - danke
Goodbye - auf weidersehen
Good morning - guten morgen
My name is - ich heisse
Good evening - guten abend
3 MOST COMMON ITALIAN WORDS BRITS CLAIM TO KNOW
Hello - salve
Goodbye - arrivederci
Yes - si
- ends -
Sheilas’ Wheels press contacts:
Asia Yasir, Public Relations Officer: 01737 641305
Adrian Webb, Head of Corporate Communications: 01737 641000
Notes to Editors:
(1) SWNS conducted an online research survey via Onepoll which interviewed a random sample of 3,000 holidaymakers aged 18 and over between 7th – 15th March 2011.