U.S. CitiesCity-Data Forum Index
Go Back   City-Data Forum > General Forums > Travel
Please register to participate in our discussions with 2 million other members - it's free and quick! Some forums can only be seen by registered members. After you create your account, you'll be able to customize options and access all our 15,000 new posts/day with fewer ads.
View detailed profile (Advanced) or search
site with Google Custom Search

Search Forums  (Advanced)
Reply Start New Thread
Old 10-02-2014, 01:20 PM
Location: South Minneapolis
4,820 posts, read 5,498,100 times
Reputation: 7089


Originally Posted by RooCeleste View Post
Yes. I've been to many places on three continents and English is spoken pretty universally (even the Middle East) but I've also been to small towns in the northern Italy Dolomites region, where we stayed with family for three days.....and they didn't speak English! We managed very well with a phrase book, hand signals, and my limited Spanish that I could translate a bit to something similar in Italian. It was great!
A good phrase book is the key. You're mostly just doing things like ordering food and asking directions. If the person you are speaking to doesn't speak English, a few simple phrase in broken whatever will work just fine. If you're doing something like taking a taxi in China, ask your hotel clerk to write the directions to where you are going and address of the hotel on a piece of paper, and you can show that to the can driver.
Reply With Quote Quick reply to this message

Old 10-02-2014, 01:23 PM
Location: Mount Juliet, TN
174 posts, read 136,701 times
Reputation: 342
Unfortunately yes. I say "unfortunately" because it gives my fellow Americans an over-inflated ego. I find it amazing that Americans feel like they can travel to other countries and expect them to understand their English, when on the other hand they expect those visiting the US to know English before arriving.

Personally, when my wife and I took a trip to France, Germany, and Italy we at least attempted to get a few basics down. Luckily I had some French in high school and she had some German, so we just had to pick up a little of Italian. Funny enough, it came in handy when we were on a train from Paris to Germany. An older German couple and an older French guy got into an argument over the seats... and the other Americans around them had no idea what was going on. Between my wife and I we could translate enough to show the French guy that he had the correct seat number, but was on the wrong train car and everything worked itself out.
Reply With Quote Quick reply to this message
Old 10-02-2014, 01:31 PM
Location: San Jose, CA
7,688 posts, read 25,782,789 times
Reputation: 3559
I spent a month in Israel and English was understood literally everywhere I went, including a remote winery in the Golan Heights and a quaint storefront in the Arabic quarter of Jaffa. All the signs were in English, Hebrew, and Arabic as well..
Reply With Quote Quick reply to this message
Old 10-02-2014, 01:36 PM
Location: Las Vegas, NV
354 posts, read 253,217 times
Reputation: 815
Originally Posted by EverBlack View Post
Express your thoughts, please
Of course you can, but you should at least try to learn basic pleasantries and how to read a menu/store prices, etc.

I did a lot of travel throughout Europe and while I speak Spanish and can read Italian, French and German with understanding, but I went to places like Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Hungary, The Czech Republic and Slovakia, Russia, Greece and Poland where they have different languages than the ones I do well and I still did just fine. Surprisingly, in Russia, I found myself being able to understand most of what I read (in Russian) in museums.

I just had a big book of European languages on me, and made sure to study the chapter pertaining to the language of the next country I visited when I was on my way there.
Reply With Quote Quick reply to this message
Old 10-02-2014, 02:08 PM
10,524 posts, read 10,440,701 times
Reputation: 4065
Originally Posted by EverBlack View Post
Express your thoughts, please

When this bothers you. STAY HOME
Reply With Quote Quick reply to this message
Old 10-02-2014, 02:09 PM
556 posts, read 768,571 times
Reputation: 688
I'm terrible at languages, but good at non-verbal communication, which helps. I always learn a few pleasantries and basic phrases, because politeness goes a long way. Some countries are easier than others. In Denmark, all school children start learning English in elementary school, so nearly everyone speaks English fluently. All signs are in Danish and English. In Paris, many people speak English, but French is preferred. In this case it helps a lot to use a few French pleasantries, and let your body language and gestures fill in the gaps. In Portugal, young people spoke English. People working in positions serving exclusively tourist clientele spoke enough English to get the job done, but no fluency. I learned a lot of Portuguese on the fly. I traveled to China 20+ years ago (I was 8 at the time) - no one in our tour group spoke Mandarin, but our tour guide did. I don't know how well we would have fared without a translator.
Reply With Quote Quick reply to this message
Old 10-02-2014, 04:17 PM
Location: Eretz Yisrael
21,425 posts, read 24,311,141 times
Reputation: 8888
As listed in most posts, spoken English is pretty common. But due to dialect differences some of the spoken words may not be understood to mean what the speaker intends them to mean. Also there are some words that have a different meaning in US English vs British English.

Here's an example:

American Language, difference between Indian English and American English
Reply With Quote Quick reply to this message
Old 10-02-2014, 06:36 PM
Location: Harbor Springs, Michigan
2,292 posts, read 2,666,763 times
Reputation: 4586
I've found English is understood in most places although its nice to learn a few pleasantries, good morning, good evening, thank you etc.. If in doubt download a translator app or carry a phrase book with you.
On our last trip to Rome we kept our hotel staff amused with our attempts at Italian

To add and said totally jokingly no offense meant but the French can be devils when it comes to speaking English, they just don't like having to do it, coupled with a push for the end of "franglais" a while ago they can and will make life difficult for English speakers. Be prepared to throw your hands in the air and walk away. (Remember I'm English, old rivalries run deep)
Reply With Quote Quick reply to this message
Old 10-02-2014, 07:49 PM
Location: Austin TX
6,524 posts, read 3,621,469 times
Reputation: 8478
I spent three weeks in China (Shanghai and Beijing) earlier this summer. Phrasebooks did me little good; Mandarin is extremely difficult, being a tonal language, to speak well without at least a little prior instruction. I learned how to speak about six basic phrases very well and just winged it from there. As another poster said, some younger Chinese speak English and are easy to chat with, particularly in Beijing, but most Chinese that I encountered spoke none at all. Hand gestures and big smiles went a long way and there were nothing more than a few minorly-frustrating yet humorous communication breakdown moments during the trip.
Reply With Quote Quick reply to this message
Old 10-02-2014, 08:11 PM
1,339 posts, read 2,987,461 times
Reputation: 2220
Reply With Quote Quick reply to this message
Please register to post and access all features of our very popular forum. It is free and quick. Over $68,000 in prizes has already been given out to active posters on our forum. Additional giveaways are planned.

Detailed information about all U.S. cities, counties, and zip codes on our site: City-data.com.

Please update this thread with any new information or opinions. This open thread is still read by thousands of people, so we encourage all additional points of view.

Quick Reply

Over $104,000 in prizes was already given out to active posters on our forum and additional giveaways are planned!

Go Back   City-Data Forum > General Forums > Travel
Follow City-Data.com founder on our Forum or

All times are GMT -6. The time now is 04:31 AM.

2005-2019, Advameg, Inc. · Please obey Forum Rules · Terms of Use and Privacy Policy · Bug Bounty

City-Data.com - Archive 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35 - Top