A tourist in Havana, Cuba

The Language Barrier: Are We Self-Conscious Or Bad-Mannered?

A tourist in Havana, Cuba

Almost one third of British travellers admit to speaking louder and slower, waving their arms or pretending they understand the locals while abroad. Sound familiar?

A new, independent survey on how British people cope with language barriers whilst abroad has found that one third resort to potentially insulting measures including; making hand gestures, speaking loudly and slowly or even pretending they understand what is being said to them, when they don’t.

The survey commissioned by i-interpret4u, a new personal telephone interpreting service for holidaymakers, business travellers and those living, studying or working overseas, polled over 1,000 Britons and discovered that women were more guilty than men of using an impolite approach.

What do the stats say about us?

The majority (83%) of those surveyed had visited countries where they could not speak the language. 53% of British travellers said they don’t worry about language barriers because they believe that most people overseas speak English; even though 82% of the world’s population do not speak any English whatsoever.

61% of laid-back Britons simply hope to understand the odd word to get by, but 17% of those surveyed have never ventured to a country where they don’t speak the native language and 4% would avoid a country altogether for this reason. More alarmingly, and despite a clear lack of language skills only 10% worry that they would struggle to communicate in an emergency situation.

Michael French, director at i-interpret4u said: “There are misconceptions about the number of people that speak English abroad; the fact is 5.7 billion people don’t; so the chance of encountering a language barrier whilst overseas is very high. The British are notoriously laid-back about learning a second language, most people just hope to get by on a wing and a prayer and that isn’t the safest option if you are travelling with a young family or elderly relative.”

So what’s this i-interpret4u all about?

i-interpret4u puts an interpreter in your pocket 24/7 and is designed for the everyday traveller. The service connects the traveller to live interpreters in 85 languages often in less than one minute.

If you are in a situation where you can’t communicate in the native language, the telephone interpreting service can be accessed worldwide by calling i-interpret4u from any landline or mobile phone and following the voice prompts. You enter an account number and a PIN followed by the language required and the user will be connected to the interpreter of choice – the landline or mobile speakerphone can be used or the handset can be passed back and forth providing it is safe to do so.

It’s an interesting idea, but does it sound like a lot of hard work.

There are also a lot of apps for mobile devices that can help too. What do you think?

One thought on “The Language Barrier: Are We Self-Conscious Or Bad-Mannered?

  1. Tried this it is brilliant. Very easy to use, download their free app,, once you have set up (also easy) to get the interpreter enter your PIN, select the language hit confirm and you have a professional interpreter on the line. Simple!!! Graham Haines Wakefield

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