Two-thirds of Britons cannot say anything in a foreign language – with one fifth even unsure of what ‘bonjour’ means, a study claims.
The findings appear to confirm the cliche about Britons being notoriously bad at making an effort to speak the lingo when abroad.
Overall, 64 percent of those polled admitted they did not know a single word in any language other than English.
And just one third – 34 percent – said they were willing to make an attempt at speaking a foreign language while on holiday.
One fifth (19 percent) did not know the meaning of the French word for hello, one of the most recognisable foreign greetings in the world.
And 63 percent had no idea what the Dutch word ‘goedemorgen’ meant, despite the obvious similarities to our own ‘good morning’.
Young Britons were found to be worst at making the effort, with nearly half – 47 percent – of those aged 16 to 24 admitting they have never spoken the foreign language they learned at school.
But 45 percent of the over-55s said they liked to try to speak the local language when abroad, the poll of 2,000 adults by travel website Hotels.com found.
It is compulsory for all pupils to study a foreign language up to the age of 14 and French, German and Spanish are all on the national curriculum.
Yet only one in ten of those polled considered themselves able to speak one of them.
Of these, a quarter could ask only ‘everyday questions’, 21 percent said they were limited to ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye’, and one in 50 claimed they could understand everything said to them in another language, but were unable to reply.
Reasons for not trying to speak a local language included not being bothered, fear of making a mistake or expecting hosts to be able to speak English.