The Great British Dilemma

When the holidays roll around and it’s time for us Brits to jet off to some exotic destination we find ourselves challenged by the same question: how immersed will I allow myself to become? Although not necessarily asked directly, this question determines our actions leading up to departure. It seems we’re all in when it comes to looking the part; buying stylish bikinis and Hawaiian shirts. Yet we rarely take the time to gain a basic grasp of our destination’s mother tongue.

English is the world’s most studied language with 1 in 5 people learning it. However, only 5% of people worldwide speak English as their first language. Yet, only a quarter of Brits are able to hold a conversation in another language. So with so many people making an effort to master our language, why are we so hesitant to gain basic knowledge of theirs?

Although languages are mandatory in secondary school, there’s been a 7% decline in students taking languages at GCSE level and a 22.8% decline in students applying for European languages at university. However, this isn’t the only way to learn languages. Many language services – apps such as Duolingo and Memrise being my personal favourites – don’t even require a subscription and are free to use. With great services like these being available, making an effort to learn how to ask where the shop is or how much something costs in the host country’s native language is a small price for being able to experience their culture, and is often greatly appreciated by locals.

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