English needed?


I blame the French. More specifically, the Frenchman who lost his temper with a 12 year old boy in Montdidier. In 1988. My attempt to put a year's worth of French lessons into practice had caused the octogenarian to rant and rage at me and then the sky, all in a language I didn't understand. Clearly I'd cause offense, although how remains a mystery. I suspect it was the charge of 60 British schoolchildren up the high street asking where the swimming pool is in rudimentary Franglais that tipped him over the edge, the poor bastard.

I'm not great with second languages. I'll make a stab at learning basic greetings before traveling somewhere new, but anymore than a few words is a struggle, but I'll take comfort in the fact that I make an effort rather than assume others will take up the slack and be able to speak English. I'm ignorant, but not as ignorant as some, which makes me clever by comparison. Go me.

It was while reading David's post about learning a second language that got me thinking about this topic - where in the world will a traveller really struggle if they can only speak English?

There may be several reasons:

- the country / region / city in question is rarely visited by English-speaking visitors, or there are few ex-pats - there may be no be tourism or trade that forces locals to speak a language other than their own

- there's no common history between the country and other English-speaking territories

- it's a cultural issue; locals and/or the country as a whole is wary of visitors, or perhaps there's little tolerance for pandering to outsiders

Is English is a truly global language, or are there vast swathes of the globe where you'll  struggle to get by? Which countries don't speak it? Which countries prefer not to? And is there anywhere that learning the basics is a must before you arrive? What do you think? Leave a comment or thought below...



By Paul Smith