A handful of foreign phrases are all most British holidaymakers know

Hero Image

Brits love the sun, the beaches and the food of other countries but are reluctant to learn the basics of other languages, a new survey finds.

A poll carried out by the British Council reveals that this can cause problems for many British people when they take their annual holidays.

Many prefer to point at a menu when ordering food to avoid trying to pronounce words in another language. Unsurprisingly, this means Brits abroad often have no idea what they ate after ordering something from a menu they could not understand.

Words and phrases British holiday makers do know

The most popular holiday destinations for British tourists have remained consistent for almost fifty years. Spain remains the top holiday choice and is closely followed by France, Italy and Portugal.

But still, the language knowledge most British holidaymakers have is limited to a handful of basic phrases.

The typical British tourist knows only ten French words or phrases, seven Spanish and just three Italian:


Hello (Bonjour)
Goodbye (Au revoir)
Yes (Oui)
Thank you (Merci)
My name is... (Je m'appelle...)
Do you speak English? (Parlez-vous Anglais?)
Good evening (Bon soir)
Wine (Vin)
What time is it? (Quelle heure est-il?)


Hello (Hola)
Yes (Si)
Thank you (Gracias)
Goodbye (Adios)
Good morning (Buenos dias)
Good evening (Buenas noches)
Beer (Cerveza)


Hello (Salve)
Goodbye (Arrivederci)
Yes (Si)

Never too late to learn a new language

At IH London we know that this is only part of the picture, as every year thousands of British people take evening and weekend language courses at our central London language school.

Most recently we launched a popular package of practice lessons in French, Italian and Spanish. These courses are designed to give people enough language knowledge to get by on holiday and provide a foundation on which to build language learning.

Our practice lessons cost only £25 and can be taken as a two week intensive course or 5 week semi-intensive. All taught in the evening at our Covent Garden language school.

The next scheduled practice lessons in French, Italian and Spanish begin in early November and can be booked online.