78% of British people cannot speak a foreign language to any degree.
A new poll on language learning by our great friends at The British Council points out something that we at Unique have known for a while: British people don't 'do' foreign languages.
According to the survey, 17% of Brits admit to doing the same as footballer Joey Barton and football coach Steve McLaren when they tried to adopt cod foreign accents while working abroad. Admittedly, it is not a bad idea as a lot of people do change their style of speech depending on the people they are conversing with.
While 78% of the people surveyed claim that they cannot speak a foreign language, just 40% admit to being embarassed about it.
It should of course be recognised that English is spoken widely around the world and the standard of foreign language education in British schools is fairly low, but is that really enough of an excuse for not even attempting to communicate in the language of your host country?
However, other surveys have shown that the British are improving at foreign languages. 59% of British people attempt to speak a foreign language whilst on holiday, which we are very pleased about. 25% also ask hotel staff to teach them a few foreign phrases.
Even if we British cannot claim to be the best at speaking foreign language, we can at least claim to be top in terms of politeness. We are regularly ranked number one for agreeability by hotel staff, which is something to be proud of.
British people could translate at least one of these phrases; how many can you do?
• “Parlez-vous anglais?” (French)
• “Oú est la plage?” (French)
• “Dondé esta la estación de autobus?” (Spanish)
• “Dos cervezas por favor” (Spanish)
• “Quanto costa?” (Italian)
You will have problems if you just try and use a phrasebook.