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Started this based on discussion at #Image_for_Travel_topic:World_languages. See also Talk:Phrasebook International#VfD discussion; I took some text from that article. (WT-en) Pashley 21:20, 22 December 2009 (EST)

See also Talk:List_of_phrasebooks#Reorganize_page_structure --(WT-en) Peter Talk 14:46, 3 February 2011 (EST)

The version used seems to be Phrasebook International of 02:38, 26 October 2009. --LPfi (talk) 14:23, 18 September 2017 (UTC)

Image for Travel topic:World languages[edit]

I made an image, knowingly Perhaps this image could be made for a new travel topic:World languages; intented to explain the world languages best learnt for global travel. 06:11, 13 December 2009 (EST)

We do have an article like that somewhere, but concerning the map, I think there are some errors. If "light yellow" (English as a second language) is the color used in South Korea and Japan, I would call that misleading... Shouldn't all of Quebec be green (French)? More of central Asia knows Russian, Kenyans and Tanzanians speak English as a second language, The "light black" is actually dark green, are you sure that Mandarin is known by all of Southeast Asia?, etc. (WT-en) ChubbyWimbus 17:29, 13 December 2009 (EST)

Quite a nice idea but some problems with the implementation. In addition to the errors pointed out by ChubbyWimbus above:
  • Malaysia and Singapore do not speak Indonesian. Malaysia should be English as 2nd language. Singapore could arguably be primary English speaking.
  • Africa has a number of issues.
  • What does the light grey denote?--(WT-en) Burmesedays 00:34, 15 December 2009 (EST)
really on the en wikivoyage, the propensity to speak English is the most useful fact to an English speaking traveller, i would have thought. Holland, Scandinavia, etc - before going to learn another language which is a second language to the country anyway.. --(WT-en) inas 00:45, 15 December 2009 (EST)
The light grey presumably denotes nations where none of the colored languages are spoken. To add another issue, Icelandic is spoken in Iceland. If this map were used, I think it could only possibly be used for the Phrasebook International (which is currently nominated for deletion). Otherwise, the languages spoken in each country are covered in country articles along with whether or not English will be understood. (WT-en) ChubbyWimbus 00:53, 15 December 2009 (EST)
The basic idea is good, but the topic is complicated.
In Canada, French is the primary language for all of Quebec, much of Northern Ontario and parts of other provinces, but English is widely spoken in those areas as well. There's huge variation, though; in some areas (e.g. parts of Montreal), you're fine with just English, but in others (e.g. Northern Quebec) you're helpless without French.
Mandarin is useful almost anywhere in China, since it has been the lingua franca for centuries and the only language used in education, government and national media for 50-odd years. However, for Hong Kong & Macau, Cantonese is more important. Mandarin is also an official language in Singapore, but other Chinese dialects are more widely used.
In many places, language use has political overtones. Speaking Mandarin in Tibet or English in Quebec may irritate some people.
For travellers, the most important languages are what Phrasebook International calls regional languages. Quoting that "Learn some of a regional language. Russian for Central Asia, Arabic for the Middle East and North Africa, French for some parts of Africa, Spanish for Latin America. This may be easier than trying to learn the local languages and is more widely useful." I'd like to see a map that emphasizes those. (WT-en) Pashley 20:20, 15 December 2009 (EST)
This map looks like an attempt to do that, though. It just has a lot of errors. I mean, aside from the languages listed, there are not so many other "linguistic spheres". Some, like Korean or Japanese, could be listed, but they have no sphere of influence. You could make a case for Swahili, but English is understood by most people that speak it. I'm on the fence about the usefulness of any such map, although I would be surprised if the phrasebook international got very many hits anyway. (WT-en) ChubbyWimbus 22:39, 15 December 2009 (EST)
The world's major regional languages

Here's an attempt to create something more useful for our purposes. I initially tried to have English on the map too, but deciding which countries to include was just impossible—I think a separate color coded map showing the percentage of people per country that you'll be able to reasonably communicate with in English would be much more useful. This one just looks at the top 7 (I think) languages in order of relevance for travelers, and shows for which countries the language should be useful. The most obvious weakness is that this map cannot show tiny countries.

Having a Talk article devoted to language and travel might be interesting. --(WT-en) Peter Talk 00:15, 16 December 2009 (EST)

Awesome map, but English surely is missing, at least for Canada, United States, UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. German is tricky, but I think it at least should be listed for Germany, Austria and most of Switzerland. English will get you further in the Netherlands (though German is partially understood), and I'm not sure if either German, Russian or English should be the best language for East-Central Europe. Southeast and East Asia is complicated as well: I don't think English fits here, even though it's probably the best language for the area. (WT-en) Globe-trotter 07:07, 16 December 2009 (EST)
Yes, this map is much better. Is Persian worth adding? Farsi is the main language of Iran, Dari one of two in Afghanistan and they are mostly mutually intelligible. Tajik and I think some other Central Asian languages are related.
I think English would need its own map, broken up into a scale: UK/US/etc. where it is the primary language, areas like Quebec/India/Singapore/etc. where it is an official language & widely spoken but not the main daily language, places like Amsterdam and where you can generally get by with only English, places like Paris where it is harder, places like most of China where you can expect English only from 5-star hotel staff and the odd student. (WT-en) Pashley 08:10, 16 December 2009 (EST)
What about Hindustani? (Is that term still in use?) My understanding is that spoken Hindi and Urdu are, at least mostly, mutually intelligible. The written forms use different alphabets, Sanskrit-derived for Hindi and Arabic/Persian for Urdu. Does that qualify as a regional language for the subcontinent? (WT-en) Pashley 08:33, 16 December 2009 (EST)
My first thought was similar to Peter and Pashley's - a map to show the English speaker how they'll fare in the countries of the world. Perhaps grouped by percentage of English speakers, or by category eg "Almost universal",..."Typically only hotel reception staff". But going beyond that I think there would be merit in similar maps for other major world languages - then the traveller can get an idea of where their Spanish or Russian will get them by. (WT-en) Andyfarrell 10:35, 16 December 2009 (EST)
English-speaking percent of population by country
The problem with English is that it is a global language, useful almost everywhere, very often overlapping with the lingua francas we're trying to show above—the map quickly becomes a mess. I found a handy wikipedia:List_of_countries_by_English-speaking_population, but it's quite incomplete, and consequently, so is this map.
I've added Persian, German, and Hindustani (I didn't realize Urdu and Hindi were so clearly mutually intelligible!), as you can see from the updated thumb above. I'm not terribly convinced a working knowledge of Farsi will go very far in Tajikistan, whereas Russian will get you everywhere you want to go. The other Central Asian languages are all Turkic. --(WT-en) Peter Talk 01:16, 17 December 2009 (EST)
This map is much better than the originally proposed map! One thing: It appears that Spanish is the language of northern Quebec on this map. Shouldn't it be French, as well? (this comment is about the regional language map) (WT-en) ChubbyWimbus 01:27, 17 December 2009 (EST)
I have no idea why Quebec is frustrating Inkscape so, truly, it is a troublesome province. --(WT-en) Peter Talk 01:47, 17 December 2009 (EST)
I love the (potential of the) English map. As well as filling in the blank countries it could do with refining further region by region within countries, eg in Yucatan it seemed a lot more than 0-5% spoke some English. Perhaps we could do that by compiling traveller experiences in text form first. I like the idea of a general Talk article within travel topics, which could use this map plus some of the material from Phrasebook International which it could possibly replace, and be a general guide to coping with language when travelling. (WT-en) Andyfarrell 03:14, 17 December 2009 (EST)
The "Talk" article idea sounds like a good solution to the Phrasebook International problems discussed on the votes for deletion page. I agree that using countries as the primary unit makes certain parts seem as though they speak more or less English than they do, but it's also a lot more manageable than dividing every country by state/province/prefecture. If the map is accompanied by text, I think differences could be pointed out in the text. The map is just a general overview, so people considering travel to a certain region can go to that region's article to learn more specific information about it. (WT-en) ChubbyWimbus 03:39, 17 December 2009 (EST)

Austria should be fit with German on the map. Switzerland is a harder case, it's split between German, French and Italian: most of the country speaks German though. (WT-en) Globe-trotter 20:54, 22 December 2009 (EST)

I started a Talk article. (WT-en) Pashley 21:17, 22 December 2009 (EST)

Talk and the Talk section of articles[edit]

It seems to me that it would be a good idea to relate this topic to the Talk section that can be added to almost every Wikivoyage article. I see the possibility of also creating travel topics called See, Do, Eat, Drink, Sleep, etc. These topics would tally with the respective article sections and be a general guide to each of the subject sections.

While a good start has been made on the topic of Talk, the article, as it stands, is very English-centric. I can understand that a useful starting point for a Talk article is going to be about communicating in, or without, English. But I would challenge the implicit assumption that it should be about inglish exclusively. Perhaps the article is better titled Talk English, if it is to be about English exclusively. I think a general introduction about Talking with others who do not share your native language(s) is needed. - (WT-en) Huttite 20:37, 23 December 2009 (EST)

Since this article was only recently created, I think there is a lot of room to work within this article to provide further details about "Talk" with/in non-English languages. It needs more input in basically every field, so I imagine it will change a lot, if people start contributing. (WT-en) ChubbyWimbus 20:50, 23 December 2009 (EST)
What is there is very much a first cut, nearly all copied from the two things linked to above. It was not intended to be remarkably English-centric, though this is English WT so it mainly addresses English speakers. There are sections on topics unrelated to English — "regional languages" and "coping without a language"; both could be expanded.
I think a section on how to learn a language could be added. It likely needs something on alphabets, too. Is it useful to earn the Cyrillic alphabet to puzzle out signs, even if you speak little or no Russian? What about the Arabic, Hebrew, Tamil, .. alphabets? How can one cope with non-alphabetic systems like Chinese? There are probably things worth adding that haven't even occurred to me.
By all means, if you can improve it, plunge forward. (WT-en) Pashley 04:06, 24 December 2009 (EST)
I like the current focus (and title) as it is likely to be of most use to the native English speaker, and this is the English Wikivoyage. On the Spanish Wikivoyage version of the article (if one appeared) I'd expect to find the topic approached from the viewpoint of coping for a native Spanish speaker. (WT-en) Andyfarrell 01:49, 4 January 2010 (EST)

Re-order sections?[edit]

Current order is:

   * Using English
   * Regional languages
   * Language as a reason for travel
   * Coping without a language
   * Widely used expressions

Would this be better?

   * Coping without a language
   * Regional languages
   * Language as a reason for travel
   * Using English
   * Widely used expressions

Or some other order? What sections need to be added? Should more of the Phrasebook International text be brought here? (WT-en) Pashley 04:53, 24 December 2009 (EST)

word list[edit]

Just to be sure it was forgotten unintentionally: the word list (as (WT-en) saved here) does not have any serious value, right? --(WT-en) DenisYurkin 17:08, 9 March 2010 (EST)


Someone recently added this to the list of regional languages. I'm inclined to delete it as insufficiently important and not widespread enough. WP says < 50 million speakers, way below other languages we list, and as far as I know, it is not much spoken outside former Yugoslavia. Anyone else want to comment? (WT-en) Pashley 21:08, 4 September 2010 (EDT)

I agree with you. It doesn't seem to have the number of speakers or spread across nations to be considered a major regional language. (WT-en) ChubbyWimbus 01:04, 5 September 2010 (EDT)

Singapore Malay-speaking?[edit]

As Burmesedays said above, isn't Singapore primarily English- (or Singlish-) speaking? When I visited in 1976, very few of the people I met spoke Malay - actually, only members of the Malay minority seemed to speak much Malay at all, though I admit my visit was very short. Has Malay-speaking among non-Malays in Singapore actually increased since then? I doubt it, but I stand to be corrected. (WT-en) Ikan Kekek 01:46, 25 July 2011 (EDT)

English (of a usually very peculiar variety :) ), Mandarin and various other Chinese dialects are the most widely heard languages in Singapore. However, Malay is an official state language, the national anthem is even sung in Malay (Majulah Singapura) and I think about 14% of the population is ethnically Malay. It is therefore probably appropriate to include Singapore amongst countries where Malay is spoken. --(WT-en) Burmesedays 02:26, 25 July 2011 (EDT)

Tourist Office[edit]


I think we should add Dutch/Afrikaans.

I feel like we should probably add Dutch/Afrikaans on the map of world languages for these countries:

  • the Netherlands
  • Belgium
  • France (French Flanders)
  • Caribbean
  • Suriname
  • South Africa
  • Namibia
  • perhaps Indonesia

—The preceding comment was added by Ischa1 (talkcontribs)

Maybe, but not for Indonesia, as the country had to fight a brutal war of independence against the Dutch after World War II, so the few Indonesians who are old enough to remember it and are able to speak Dutch may prefer not to, and I seriously doubt there are so many other Indonesians who learned Dutch or used to live in the Netherlands that it's nearly as useful a language there as English, let alone Indonesian. I also think it's safe to assume that while Afrikaans is indeed useful in South Africa, there are many South Africans who won't want to speak it, for historical reasons. It's probably advisable in most cases to try English first there, I imagine. It may be less controversial in Namibia; I think I've read that that's true, though I don't know why it is. Also, Dutch won't go very far in the Caribbean except in a few places, notably including Curacao, Aruba, Bonaire, and St. Maarten. Ikan Kekek (talk) 08:55, 26 October 2013 (UTC)

Speaking English to non-native speakers[edit]

This blog post at Slate, about how to modify your English when speaking to a non-native speaker who may not have native proficiency is something we should consider at least emulating in the "Using English" section of this article, and perhaps even consider as a separate page. Put it this way: I have figured out most of the things in it, but I'd have been a lot happier if I'd been able to read them somewhere before I learned them. Daniel Case (talk) 07:08, 20 December 2014 (UTC)

Good stuff & yes, worth covering here. We do already mention some of it.
It is worth noting also that in many interactions both people will be using a second language. Consider a Swede in Pakistan or the Philippines; English is likely to be the language used, but no-one involved will be a native speaker and probably none will be familiar with the other's accent. The same sort of thing is quite likely to sometimes occur for any of the Talk#Regional_languages. Pashley (talk) 07:58, 20 December 2014 (UTC)

World map of English language speakers just not credible?[edit]

English speakers by country

This chart seems wrong to me.

  1. I can't find any source for the data it is trying to represent
  2. It doesn't explain what data it is trying to represent. Is the the number of native English speakers per country, or just the percentage who know English? (I assume the latter, but who knows?)
  3. You will notice that Canada and Sweden have the same color. Does that mean at least 10% of Canadians do not speak English at all?

I would suggest deleting this as it doesn't make sense at all and probably just wrong. --Andrewssi2 (talk) 23:05, 15 April 2015 (UTC)

I don't know. What percentage of Quebecois don't speak English? Ikan Kekek (talk) 07:06, 16 April 2015 (UTC)
According to w:Canada - "Approximately 98 percent of Canadians speak English or French: 57.8 percent speak English only, 22.1 percent speak French only, and 17.4 percent speak both". That would infer that 75.2% of the Canadian population can speak English. (2006 census).
I find it a bit hard to believe that almost 25% of Canadian do not speak English, although perhaps the statistics only reflect those who speak fluently. --Andrewssi2 (talk) 07:20, 16 April 2015 (UTC)
Yeah, I don't believe that, either. I'm guessing that's the percentage of Canadians who are not native speakers of English. Ikan Kekek (talk) 07:45, 16 April 2015 (UTC)
Well over 20% of Canadians have French as their native language, and there are rural areas of Quebec and parts of the cities where you do not hear English at all in the streets. There are also immigrant neighbourhoods like Chinatowns or the Greek Danforth area in Toronto where other languages are spoken. I have no trouble believing "at least 10% of Canadians do not speak English at all".
For the traveller who speaks only English, Amsterdam may be easier than Montreal. Pashley (talk) 07:50, 16 April 2015 (UTC)
I found Montreal fully bilingual the last time I visited, but I still probably agree with you, even though I met 4 or 5 people in Amsterdam in a long weekend who spoke Dutch and no English. I think a lot of native English speakers would find the Amsterdam accent easier to understand than the Montreal accent, though I didn't have trouble with either (I also speak French, which helped me much more in Quebec City than in Montreal). Ikan Kekek (talk) 07:55, 16 April 2015 (UTC)
So to take this away from the Canadian example, is the map measuring the amount of people who speak English (to any usable level) against those who don't speak any English at all? Andrewssi2 (talk) 09:11, 16 April 2015 (UTC)
I think the map is more or less worthless as it stands now. We don't know what it measures and we don't know how it does that. If there were some explanation; e.g. percenttage of people with at least x years of high school English or native speakers. Or something like number of people with at least B1 English according to the common European framework... But I guess it is hard if not impossible to get credible data on that. Furthermore, the situation in tourist areas and bigger cities (a big part of what we cover on this wiki falls in either category) may be markedly different. The European Union however does a number of studies on foreign languages within its borders and there are some reasonably accurate maps coming out of that; most of them available on commons. For example the following ones

Maybe it would be a good idea to insert one of these maps (or all of them) in lieu of a better one with global coverage, which I don't see happening any time soon. Imho no information is better than badly researched information. And you can say about the EU what you want, but they aren't known for sloppy research... 12:24, 16 April 2015 (UTC)

Previous contribution made by me Hobbitschuster (talk) 12:26, 16 April 2015 (UTC)
Yes, the EU map would be a good replacement! It could then serve as a foundation for the specific data we are looking for. Andrewssi2 (talk) 00:20, 17 April 2015 (UTC)
A map with credible data is of course good, but I think a map on Europe only (or only EU!) is not relevant for this article. I think we got the Canada bit explained. Are there other weird things making this map incredible? Contrary to Wikipedia we do not have to have it 100 % right. I think the world map gives a good hint on where you get along in English and were you must be prepared to get along in other ways – which is what such a map should do. No map can tell all the story, because you may go to the one resort dedicated to English speakers or travel in countryside where few went to school. --LPfi (talk) 10:25, 17 April 2015 (UTC)
Well imho this map's coverage outside Europe is not all that good, and besides really duh-worthy facts (people in Australia and the USA speak English? Who'da thunk?) offers questionable "facts"... Where does this map get the information from that Kazakhstan speaks better English than Russia or China? Also imho the Europe map is better as above 50% and below "native" there is really not all that big a difference to the traveler. If you have to (on average) ask two people to find one who speaks English, that's good enough for me to not bother with a Dutch phrasebook for example. Also even in full resolution some smaller countries like Belize or Israel are hardly distinguishable specks on the map. Maybe we can produce our own map based on a blank world map, but than again I doubt there are credible numbers for anywhere but Europe and a handful of other countries, as most governments either don't care or have other problems than finding out who speaks English. And there are few international organizations I know about that gather this kind of data, which to a certain extent is highly subjective as "speaking" a language is not a black and white issue, but rather a continuum from barely to Shakespeare... Hobbitschuster (talk) 12:43, 17 April 2015 (UTC)
Although the map does not have to be 100% correct (as it would have to be on Wikipedia), I would still content that it is comparing 'apples to oranges' statistics for almost all countries and therefore rather misleading.
At the very least we should label this map to say what level of English in each country we are trying to compare against each other (fluency? high school English? written? spoken? ) Andrewssi2 (talk) 22:40, 17 April 2015 (UTC)
I concur with User:Andrewssi2. We shouldn't let the perfect be enemy of the good, but the map right now is worse than nothing (or as a first step the Europe map further up on this talk page) Hobbitschuster (talk) 20:05, 19 April 2015 (UTC)

Italian minorities in Libya and Eritrea?[edit]

I'm not sure you'll have a lot of success with Italian in either of those places - I mean there are many citizens of those two states who speak at least one European language, but that is because they fled the country due to ongoing issues (Eritrea's ahem "government" as well the ahem "situation" in Libya), so it's unlikely you'll find them in those countries. Hobbitschuster (talk) 16:58, 3 March 2017 (UTC)

Interesting BBC article[edit]

Native English speakers are the world's worst communicators. As a native speaker who has been an ESL teacher, I think I'm better than that ("not all men"), but I have certainly seen much of what the article discusses.

Any comment from our contingent of non-native speakers? Can we improve this article using ideas from the BBC one? Pashley (talk) 15:58, 11 September 2017 (UTC)

I'm not sure English native speakers are unique among monolingual speakers. Perhaps it is just more glaring because there are a higher number of well-educated and even well-traveled monolingual anglophones than there are for practically any other language. Hobbitschuster (talk) 16:15, 11 September 2017 (UTC)
Yes. And I think the non-natives observed were a special group: people with significant experience of multicultural cooperation. I do not think an ESL student has any particular ability to adjust to other non-natives; as I said in another thread, adjusting is easier if you know several ways to say something. Perhaps native speakers just avoid learning how to adjust as they think they have nothing to learn. Maybe that is the point to try to get through to them. But adjusting your speech is the main point of the article as of now, so I think the BBC article at most prompts minor additions to our article. --LPfi (talk) 06:46, 13 September 2017 (UTC)
ESL students will "dumb down" their English necessarily because their vocabulary is limited. They are also less likely to talk rapidly, with non-standard dialects or employing idioms, metaphors and so on. Plus they will usually also remember what their first stumbling attempts at English were like. None of that is a given for monolingual speakers of any given language. Plus second language speakers usually have at least some idea of how grammar works. Hobbitschuster (talk) 13:04, 13 September 2017 (UTC)


Talk#Using_English just acquired an old joke as a quote. It uses "anglophone" where I'd prefer "an English speaker". Other opinions?

I'm Canadian & anglophone, francophone and (in my view, horribly misused) w:Allophone (Canada) are the politically correct terms there. I've heard the joke before, but always either in Quebecois French with "maudit anglais" in the punch line or in English with "American". I do not think either would be appropriate here. Pashley (talk) 02:00, 10 April 2020 (UTC)

The reason I used "anglophone" is because otherwise a variant of "speak" would be used four times in not many words. I'm not sure what your issue with anglophone is, but don't mind if you change it.--ThunderingTyphoons! (talk) 11:06, 10 April 2020 (UTC)