One in 10 Brits avoids foreign travel 'because of language barrier'

Millions of Britons do not travel abroad because they cannot speak a foreign language, a report says.

A study by hostel booking site Hostelworld found that one in 10 people in this country are put off visiting overseas because of language barriers.

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A survey of 8,000 people in six countries, including the UK, found only half of Britons can speak another language.

Japan topped a list of countries Britons would visit if language was not an issue, followed by Spain and China.

Otto Rosenberger of Hostelworld, said: "The ability to speak other languages isn't essential when travelling and nobody should let it put them off, but it can make a big difference, helping you to fully immerse yourself in the culture in a way you couldn't otherwise.

"Travelling the world is one of the most rewarding experiences in life, yet many still worry that their language skills will let them down while abroad."

How to spot a Brit abroad
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How to spot a Brit abroad

You don't go to Iceland or the Maldives expecting a cheap bar bill (not if you've done your research anyway), so there's no point in banging on about how a beer's twice the price it would be in your local pub. Equally, the guy selling you a rug which costs the equivalent of a week's wages for him probably doesn't LOVE hearing about how  'ridiculously cheap' it is.

'I haven't tried it because I don't like it' isn't an acceptable excuse for not trying new food when you're two years old, so it definitely won't wash now you're old enough to fly without a label round your neck. 

Despite evidence to the contrary, there is no defective gene in British people that renders them incapable of using foreign languages. Yes, a lot of people in the world speak English, but plenty don't and there's absolutely no reason why we shouldn't try to converse in their language, in their country, rather than talking English very s l o w l y and LOUDLY.

Sure, it's disappointing when it's overcast on your beach holiday or the snow's slushy on your ski trip but there's not a sausage your tour rep or the locals can do about it, so quit your whining and look on the bright side - you'll save heaps on sunscreen and get really good at Scrabble.

If you've ever uttered the words 'oh, I'm not a tourist, I'm a traveller', you are most likely the kind of extremely annoying person who considers yourself morally and culturally superior because you've never stayed in a hotel listed in a guidebook. No matter how far off grid you go, how many henna tattoos you get and how many famous sights you actively avoid visiting, if you're travelling in a foreign country, you're still a tourist. End of.

You 'do' the washing-up, a crossword or some gardening. You don't 'do' a country, city or sight, you visit it, see it, experience it, enjoy it. No one ever had a horizon expanding  experience by approaching travelling in the same way as they do their weekly supermarket shop.

I was once swimming in a secluded lake in Sweden.  It was a beautiful summer day and the peace and silence were total. Until suddenly, from the other side of the water, someone shouted: 'Oi! Dave! Get us a beer!', in a voice loud enough to carry across Wembley Stadium. I won't say what nationality they were, but there's a clue in there somewhere...

You're not a war reporter or an intrepid white hunter, you're just checking out the sights of central Rome, so you do not need a lightweight, multi pocket Traveller waistcoat. By the same token, nothing will mark you out as a tourist faster than a fanny pack. You may as well wear a big flashing sign saying 'Yes, I'm carrying all my valuables in this ridiculous bum bag. Please rob me.' Just wear normal clothes, like a normal person.

Its never been easier to access all the information you could possibly ever need, instantly. So if you're still referring to the Czech Republic as Czechoslovakia when you're in Prague, or asking whether they take Euros in a Copenhagen boutique, its time to get busy with Wikipedia before you step off that plane.

You may be on holiday, but all these local people are not merely extras in the movie entitled 'My Holiday.' They have jobs to go to, lives to live and quite possibly they have better things to do for fifteen minutes than getting to grips with your smartphone's camera app while you block the street and pull moronic poses to post on your Facebook page. 


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