Expat Learnings

Things I’ve learned as an American expat in the UKoGBaNI #2

Native English speakers

I am extremely grateful that I am a native English speaker.

The business language of the world is English. Our tour guide in Jordan told us, “If you know English, you can go anywhere in the world.” He was right. There is no doubt that communication in non-English speaking countries can be difficult at times but it’s always possible to get by even when the residents of that non-English speaking country speak only a little bit of English.

Generally in any tourist city, English will be wildly spoken. Restaurant menus will be in English. Tours will be guided by English speaking guides (sometimes even by Americans). Signs will be in English in addition to the native language. And English will be spoken by people working at restaurants, hotels, train stations, and tourist attractions. There is very little to worry about when traveling to non-English speaking countries when you are an English speaker.

I am grateful that I am a native English speaker but at the same time, I am embarrassed that I only speak one language. The US educational system is failing its students by not requiring fluency in at least one other language. This became apparent to me when we ordered food at the Prague airport McDonald’s on our very first trip to Prague back in 2012.

It dawned on me that even in jobs that are considered remedial or minimum wage or not requiring a great deal of skill, employees are required to speak the native language and English. Sometimes, they are required to speak three languages like in the Riga, Latvia where Latvian, Russian, and English are all widely spoken.

For the next learning in my Expat Learnings mini series, go here. Alternatively, go here to read this mini-series from the beginning.

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