Learning a language to go on holiday. Would you?


Last night I was watching an old re-run of 8 out of 10 cats from 2009, when the contestants were asked this question. True or false: Do Brits think there is any point in learning a language before going on holiday?


I must admit, I wasn’t sure whether it was true or false. Out of our European partners, us Brits don’t tend to learn languages. If you have a Brit who is bilingual or dare I say it, trilingual – that’s quite special. Whereas you look at the Dutch, and that’s normal for someone to know 3 languages fluently. Look at our holiday brochures – most places will have a British flag nearby, so you know that you’ll be able to happily speak English. But in a warmer climate!

We tend to go for the comfortable, easy option when going on holiday. If going on holiday with children, we’d tend to go to a resort where there’s a children’s club – where everyone speaks English. We want to get away from the boring, cold weather of Britain, but not to explore and enjoy the foreign culture of the country. Unless we are supervised by an English-speaking tour guide!

language 800 × 598I know in W.H. Smith, at any airport you will find books with travel lingo for various languages, but who buys them? Sometimes us Brits think if we know our please and thank you, that will be enough to get us through a holiday. Times have changed now. With Brexit hitting the headlines on a weekly basis, we are now realising the importance of trying to learn a language if going to another country.


So, did we think there was any point?

I was taken by surprise that 9 years ago, Brits overwhelming decided there was a point to learning a language before going on holiday. The figure I believe was 82% of those polled! I remember studying for my A levels the year before and in my school at least, languages were not important to students. I was pleasantly surprised and happy that 9 years ago we recognised the importance of language when going abroad.


Now, it’s all well and good knowing us Brits see the importance of languages when visiting another country, do we actually learn anything? Do most of us say we will, then forget, then buy that book of helpful lingo at the airport, and try and cram as much in while on the flight over? These days, information is so easy to get our hands on. Instead of buying a travel lingo book, we could use WIFI or data and search the internet for key phrases. We could try and use accessible machine translation if stuck in a pickle at the hotel (like google translate). Some smart phones probably have apps where you can have phrases translated.


And for us few who try and learn some key phrases to get us through a holiday – from general restaurant language, to asking for directions. Do we continue to learn? Say we had a family holiday to Spain 2 years ago, chances are we would revisit Spain again this year or maybe next year? Would we try and remember what we learnt 2 years ago and build on that. Maybe we could have a conversation with a local instead of pointing at a map to them? Might be something to consider.

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Wouldn’t it be great to not look like a tourist while on holiday?

To find out the history of the place you’re visiting, rather than their nearest beach. Europe is full of exciting and historical places! We only need to explore them!