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  1. ITV Report

Lost in translation: British tourists 'embarrassed' by lack of language ability

Many holidaymakers admitted relying on the assumption that everyone will speak English. Credit: PA

Almost half of British tourists say they are embarrassed at their inability to speak the language of the country they are visiting.

In a survey of more than 1,700 UK adults, 46% of respondents admitted they have been embarrassed at not being able to speak the local language, and more than a third (36%) said they have felt guilty asking someone if they can speak English.

While the survey, which was commissioned by the British Council, shows many Brits will try to speak the local lingo, some 45% said they rely heavily on the assumption that everyone in the country they are visiting will speak English.

That assumption has left many struggling to communicate, with 56% of those polled admitting they have pointed at a menu to try and avoid pronouncing foreign words.

Some 42% said they have resorted to speaking English slowly and loudly to make their point.

And around one in six - or 15% - admitted they had tried speaking English in a foreign accent in the hope it would make them easier to understand.

Pointing at the menu is a popular way to avoid pronouncing foreign words Credit: PA

But an inability to speak the language does not mean that British holidaymakers feel foreign language skills are unnecessary.

Eight in 10 of those surveyed said they felt it was important to learn a few phrases in the local language, while 37% said they always try to speak the language while on holiday.

Vicky Gough, schools adviser at the British Council, welcomed the fact many people were willing to have a go at speaking a foreign language on holiday, but warned that too many were relying on English alone.

With Brexiteers promoting Britain's decision to leave the EU as an opportunity for the country to be truly global in outlook, language ability could become even more important.

Ms Gough said: "Speaking other languages not only gives you an understanding of other cultures but is good for business and for life too.

"Trying out a few words or phrases on holiday this summer - and encouraging our young people to do the same - is the perfect way to get started."