Friday, 18 November 2011


Parlay voo onglaze?
Brits ‘terribles’ at foreign languages, with 19% unable to even translate "bonjour"

While everyone loves going on holiday, research by today reveals that this does not 'translate' for Brits into an ability to understand and speak the local language. Shockingly 64% of us are completely unable to say anything in a foreign tongue, and only a third (34%) of us are willing to give the lingo a go when abroad. Even simple words such as "bonjour" and “goedemorgen” failed to register, with 19% and 63% of us respectively unable to translate “good morning” in French and Dutch.

Despite French, German and Spanish being on the National Curriculum, only 13%, 8% and 6% of Brits respectively consider themselves able to speak the language. Of those in this category, 25% can ask a limited range of everyday questions, 21% can just say “hello” and “goodbye” and a strange 2% claim that they can understand everything that is said to them, but are unable to say anything back.

The majority of Brits (61%) rarely or never try to speak a foreign language, with reasons for their lack of effort being put down to simply not being bothered (16%), being too embarrassed they will make a mistake (35%) or simply assuming that everyone can speak English (23%).

Surprisingly 47% of 18-24 year olds reported that they haven’t spoken the foreign language they learnt at school, since they left. Conversely, those aged over 55 were most likely to try and speak the country’s local language when on holiday, with 45% of respondents claiming to very often or always try.

Putting pints before their Ps & Qs, more people (43%) were able to translate “a beer please” in Spanish (“una cerveza por favor”) than were able to correctly translate “thank you” in Portuguese (“prego”) 29%.

Kate Hopcraft, from, said: “The results of our study seem to put British holiday makers to shame, with even languages typically learnt at school such as German, French and Spanish having incredibly low levels of comprehension. Brits often have a negative image abroad when it comes to languages and unfortunately it doesn’t seem to be anything we'll be saying auf wiedersehen to anytime soon.”

Percentage of Brits who could correctly translate these common foreign phrases:

Bonjour 81%
Una cerveza por favor 43%
Prego 29%
Ja 57%
Danke schoen 57%
Goedemorgen 37%
Buenas Noches 56%

For more information, please call:
Freyja Phillips at Frank PR on 020 7693 6999 or email
Or Kate Hopcraft,, 020 7019 2165

Notes to Editors
The research was carried out between 12.10.2011 - 14.10.2011
Sample: 2,000 UK adults

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