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Travel Language Anxiety? Top 10 Foreign Countries Where Locals Speak The Best English

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Arguably, the biggest challenge tourists face when traveling to a non-English-speaking country is communication. While immersing oneself in a new culture is a big reason why many people travel. Without a shared language, basic tasks like finding transportation, ordering food, or exploring the surroundings can become daunting, not to mention the challenges it poses for urgent or emergency situations.

a tourist receives directions from a woman wearing a denim shirt

Some travelers are more comfortable only visiting countries where English is the primary or official language, but for those who don’t want to be limited by language, international education company Education First (EF) has released results of a comprehensive study that ranks the top 10 countries with the best English. EF’s English Proficiency Index analyzed data from 2.1 million non-native English speakers in 111 countries to determine which countries have the most proficient speakers.  

Famous Playa Del Carmen 5th Avenue Tourist District at Mayan Riviera, Mexico

10 Non-English Speaking Countries To Travel To With High English Language Proficiency

According to the study, an estimated 2.5 billion people across the globe speak English. Researchers acknowledged that “English is the most widespread medium of information exchange the world has ever known. At no previous time in history has a third of humanity shared a language.”

The popularity of the English language, along with modern technology that makes communication between cultures and locations possible is undoubtedly a good thing for tourists who only speak English. Tourists will, however, encounter more locals who have a good grasp of the English language in the following countries:

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a man and a woman look at a map while leaning on a red bike in Amsterdam
  1. Netherlands
  2. Singapore
  3. Austria
  4. Norway
  5. Denmark
  6. Belgium
  7. Sweden
  8. Finland
  9. Portugal
  10. Germany
two men shake hands in the countryside

All of the countries in the top 10, along with Croatia (#11) and South Africa (#12), fell into the “very high proficiency” category. English speakers in these countries are able to understand nearly everything they read or hear with ease, can express themselves spontaneously, and use appropriate language in social situations.

Tourists take in the sights in Croatia

Which Countries Have Low English Proficiency?

Who came in at the bottom of the list? Popular tourist destinations with “low and very low proficiency” include:

Tourist couple cycling in Angkor temple, Cambodia. Angkor Wat main facade reflected on water pond. Eco friendly tourism traveling.

English speakers in these countries can likely introduce themselves, understand simple signs, and give basic directions to foreigners. If traveling to any of these countries, tourists should prepare themselves for additional challenges when it comes to communication.

Iconic London Red Telephone Booth With Elizabeth Tower Big Ben Clock In The Background And Red London City Bus, Westminster, City Of London, United Kingdom

10 Countries To Travel To Where English Is The Primary Language

For travelers who aren’t up for the challenge of navigating a culture where English isn’t well-spoken, there are still plenty of exciting destinations to explore where over 80% of the local population speaks English. The following locations are great options for tourists who want to stick to English in their travels.

Ruins of Belize
a woman looks down from a balcony into a busy square in Jeruselam

Tips To Overcome Communication Barriers

Regardless of where you are traveling, it is always a good idea to prepare for communication challenges. As a courtesy, we recommend making an effort to learn appropriate greetings and simple phrases in the local language. Most guidebooks and travel websites have suggestions on appropriate words and phrases along with pronunciations.

Rome, Italy, May 22 -- Some persons sitting outside a bar enjoy an aperitif in Trastevere in Rome during the slow reopening to a normal life after the lockdown due to the Covid-19. Image in HD format.

In this booming age of technology, there are also plenty of tools tourists can use to navigate language barriers when traveling. Popular language learning apps like Duo Lingo and Babbel can make learning a new language easy and fun and provide an enjoyable way to prepare for foreign interactions.

Couple looking at outdoor menu that is not in english

It is also a good idea to have Google Translate or other translation apps installed on your phone. Google translate offers some very useful tools – the camera, text, and conversation functions. When using Google Translate’s camera function, you can point your camera at a sign, menu, or any other text, and it will translate it into your preferred language.

The text and conversation tools allow users to type or speak or type their native language, and it will translate it into the preferred language. With a little preparation, both the camera and text functions can be used offline.

google translate app

Traveling to a non-English speaking country can certainly cause anxiety for tourists who are not prepared. But with practice, patience, and planning, it can also be an incredibly rewarding experience.

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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com


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Thursday 24th of November 2022

While traveling in Romania (Bucharest only) in 2008 - I felt like I was in America (Last stop pretty much on ~6 week Euro trip)..their English had no accent. It was really good.

Imagine it's even better now 15 years later.

Interesting list. Of course, Scandinavian countries dominate the top 10. And all are small countries except for Germany.

Yoav

Wednesday 23rd of November 2022

Israel primary language is Hebrew not English.

Warrior Princess

Sunday 20th of November 2022

Your article is very limited in terms of scope and that could possibly be becau.se you feel your readership is from a certain section of the world, but you haven't even included a large number of countries in Africa who not only have English as the official language but whose proficiency levels would even be higher than some of the countries mentioned

Muthur

Sunday 20th of November 2022

Obviously, there is no exposure to African countries. What a shame!!