The language barrier can sometimes make traveling difficult. While English is widely spoken in some foreign countries, it isn’t in others. If you travel to certain countries without learning some of the local languages, you’re going to find yourself seriously lost!
We believe that it’s always polite to learn a few words in the local language before traveling anywhere. There are some countries where this is absolutely necessary and others where any attempts to speak the local language will be met with responses in English.
Check out these five foreign countries where everyone speaks English and five where you should learn the language.
10 They Speak English: Singapore
If you’re planning on traveling to Singapore, learning a new language isn’t necessary. The Malaysian city-state is multi-ethnic, and as a result, the majority of people are bilingual. Particularly in the touristy areas, you’ll be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t speak English.
There are four official languages in Singapore, and one of them happens to be English. Malay, Mandarin, and Tamil are also spoken across the various communities of the country. You might like to learn a few words in Malay as a courtesy, but generally, you should have no trouble communicating in English.
9 Learn The Language: France
Most people who have traveled to France will tell you that it’s a good idea to learn a little French before you go. When traveling to the major tourist hotspot of Paris, you might find that a lot of locals do speak English. But they still expect you to learn a few words in French. You are going to their country, after all. Parisians have been known to be rude toward tourists, and this often stems from their irritation at foreigners making no effort to learn their language.
If you are traveling to less touristy parts of France, it’s a good idea to learn some French because locals probably won’t speak English at all. The good news is, French is easier to learn that Joey Tribbiani made it seem in Friends!
8 They Speak English: Ireland
The national and first official language of Ireland is, you guessed it, Irish. A small percentage of the population speak Irish as their main language and you’ll see many signs written both in Irish and English. There are many incentives for locals to learn Irish as a means of preserving their culture.
But that doesn’t mean you’ll have to learn Irish to communicate with the people in Ireland! Although Irish is the official language, nearly everyone speaks English. In some regional areas, Irish might be more common. But generally, in cities like Dublin and Galway, you won’t have a problem.
7 Learn The Language: Russia
Russia is similar to much of Eastern Europe in that a lot of locals aren’t familiar with English. In areas that specifically cater to tourists within the main cities, like Moscow and St. Petersburg, you might be able to get away with speaking only English. But in most areas, locals won’t understand English.
Before traveling to Russia, it’s a good idea to become familiar with a few keywords and phrases in Russian. It’s also wise to study the Cyrillic alphabet so you are able to read signs and menus.
6 They Speak English: The Netherlands
In some ways, Dutch sounds similar to English. If you’re familiar with German, then Dutch is quite easy to learn. If you want to learn a few phrases in Dutch before going to the Netherlands, all the power to you. It’s not necessary to get the most out of your trip, though, as pretty much everyone speaks English.
According to Babbel, the Netherlands is the best non-native English-speaking country in the world. Even if you try to speak to locals in Dutch, there’s a good chance that they’ll respond in English. That’s because there’s a good chance that their English is better than your Dutch.
5 Learn The Language: Spain
In certain cities throughout Spain, you’ll find locals who speak English. This will typically be in areas that receive a lot of tourists, like Barcelona and Madrid. Even so, it’s a good idea to learn the local tongue. Spanish people are known for their pride, so they’ll definitely appreciate the courtesy of you speaking their language.
The tricky part is there’s more than one language spoken in Spain. What you learn depends on where you’re going. In Barcelona, for example, both Castilian Spanish and Catalan are spoken. Other languages commonly spoken in Spain include Galician and Basque.
4 They Speak English: Iceland
When it comes to learning languages as an English-speaker, Icelandic can be a challenge. Even though it has Germanic roots, it is one difficult language to learn! Of course, you could learn some key phrases, like gaman að kynnast þér which means nice to meet you. But it’s not necessary. A lot of people speak English.
You can still learn a few words in Icelandic just to impress the locals you meet. The majority of travelers don’t, though. You’ll also find that many signs have English translations written under the Icelandic.
3 Learn The Language: Brazil
If you’re traveling to Brazil, it’s definitely a good idea to learn the local language, which is Portuguese. Around 99% of the population speaks Portuguese, while only five percent speak English. Keep in mind that Brazilian Portuguese has a few differences from the Portuguese that is spoken in Portugal. In Brazil, the language has a number of influences from the African and Amerindian cultures that have been present in the country.
English definitely isn’t common in Brazil, so to make the most out of your trip, you’ll want to brush up on some Portuguese!
2 They Speak English: South Africa
With 11 official languages, South Africa is polyglot’s dream! The languages that are commonly spoken in South Africa are Afrikaans, Zulu, Xhosa, Northern Soho, Southern Soho, Tswana, Venda, Tsonga, Swati, Ndebele, and yup, English.
Although many people in South Africa speak two or more languages, English is commonly used in business. A lot of locals learn English as a second language because the universities instill initiative schemes to try and get more people speaking the language. You definitely won’t have any problem speaking English here!
1 Learn The Language: Japan
Japan is on the bucket list for many English-speaking travelers. While you may still come across those who understand English in cities like Tokyo and Kyoto, you’re better off learning a little Japanese than expecting the locals to speak English. Even though many Japanese people learn English as a second language, a lot still don’t feel confident enough to converse with a native English-speaker.
Japanese may seem very difficult to learn from an English-speaker’s perspective, but there is a lot of help available! Bring along a translation app and spend a few weeks or months studying the language to get the best out of your trip to Japan!