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73 per cent of millennials surveyed recognised the importance of learning a few foreign phrases when heading abroad
73 per cent of millennials surveyed recognised the importance of learning a few foreign phrases when heading abroad

Smartphones overtake phrasebooks for millennial travellers

Technology has its limits, however

Joanna Whitehead
Tuesday 07 August 2018 10:51

The traditional phrasebook appears to be falling out of favour for tech-savvy millennials heading abroad.

Rather than referring to a phrasebook to get to grips with the local lingo, younger Britons are more likely to consult their smartphone to translate different languages when travelling.

The findings are the result of a survey conducted by the British Council of 2,000 adults, as part of its work to build global relationships for the UK around language, culture and education.

Over 60 per cent of 16 to 34-year-olds said that they’ve used their smartphone and apps like Google Translate to decipher the local language, with only 39 per cent opting to use a phrasebook.

Technology isn’t always reliable, however, with more than one in five surveyed experiencing inaccurate translations on their phone that have created confusion during attempts to communicate.

A shocking 65 per cent said they rely on locals being able to speak English when travelling, with 21 per cent failing to learn any foreign phrases at all for their most recent trip abroad. This included basic terms such as “please” and “thank you”. Nearly a third of those surveyed (29 per cent) said that they avoid going to restaurants if the menu is not in English.

Just under a third (31 per cent) said they can hold a basic conversation in a foreign language and only 14 per cent were able to speak a foreign language to a high standard.

Despite this, 73 per cent recognised the importance of learning a few foreign phrases when heading abroad.

Past research conducted by the British Council has shown that the UK has a shortage of people able to speak Spanish, Mandarin Chinese, French, Arabic and German, the five most important languages identified for the UK’s future prosperity.

The findings follow news that the usage of Google Translate soared by 30 per cent in Russia during the World Cup. Top searches from fans attempting to communicate with local people included “stadium” and “beer”.

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