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10 Non English Speaking Countries Where Locals Speak English

Luke Armstrong | Mar 30, 2017

This blog post was updated February 12, 2021.

 

Traveling to non English speaking countries can be daunting.

If you are reading this, then it's safe to assume you speak English. That being said, it’s possible you still struggle with your Japanese, Icelandic, French, and Kachequel ...

Over the years, when I recommend to people that they visit a particular country, they tend to get an uncomfortable look in their eyes. 

“But,” they say nervously. “I don't speak Croatian." 

“Don't worry,” I respond. “Most Croatians will speak English to you.”

If you are fluent in English, you are in luck when it comes to world travel. English is arguably the most useful language to speak on the planet, as it’s almost always the language spoken amongst internationals abroad. 

Even though English may not be an official language in a particular country, that doesn’t mean that the majority of the people who live there are completely unfamiliar with the language.

In this article, I offer you a list of non English speaking countries and tips to keep in mind so that you can communicate with people while on your epic adventure in a foreign land.

frankfurt-germany-town-center

1. Germany — Das Fine if you Don't Speak German!

Come to Germany, where they have the best beer in the world! They’ll tell you about how delicious the beer is in German, the language of Albert Einstein, Beethoven, and Diane Kruger. 

Don't speak German? Don’t worry. That's no problem — Kein problem!

While Germany is one of the non English speaking countries in Europe, more than two-thirds of its population speaks English. To really dive into Germany's English speaking culture, listen to the country's most revered English language singer, David Hasselhoff.

2. The Netherlands — English and Education Mecca

As another one of the non English speaking countries in Europe, more than 90 percent of citizens in the Netherlands know the English language, making it a seamless country for English speakers to negotiate.

The ease of communication and higher education options make the Netherlands a prime place for undergraduate and postgraduate studies taught in English. Why study in in the U.S. if you could study for the same price in The Netherlands?

There are more than 2,100 English courses available, many at postgraduate level. Costs are as competitive as education gets. EU citizens annual education costs in Holland start at $2,200/ year. If you're not from the EU, costs commence at $6,800/year.

3. Greece — It's All English to Me

Next on the list of non English speaking countries is Greece. On the economic side of English speaking European travel, Greece is a highly rated option.

Forget all of the news stories you've absorbed where Greece is portrayed as economically doomed. The people of Greece are still among the happiest you meet. Greeks are warm and friendly to visitors. They can't wait to meet you and pour you a drink (for some reason, many a Greek’s ambition is to buy tequila for foreigners).

4. Basically All the Nordic Countries Speak English

Norway, Finland, Sweden, Iceland, and Denmark may disagree on who the best Bandy player is, but at least three-fourths of the people in these countries could disagree about this in English.

These non English speaking countries in Europe each have their own official language, but locals among the countries communicate with each other, and other travelers, in English. Known for their jaw-dropping natural landmarks and incredible food, the Nordic countries are a great place for travelers of all backgrounds to travel.

5. Philippines — English at its most Chill

The Philippines are a collection of islands located in Southeast Asia. According to Ethnologue, there are 186 languages spoken in The Philippines, Tagalog being the most common.

That being said, even though The Philippines may be one on the list of non English speaking countries, 92 percent of Filipinos speak English. Due to the jovial nature of the Philippines, these conversations are relaxed and playful, filled with local flavor and a joyful energy.

singapore-skyline-waterview

6. Singapore — English Lingua Franca of Asia

Singapore is a uniquely bustling city that is the crossroads of Asian culture. Still, don’t be so quick to put it on a list of non English speaking countries! 

When communicating to each other, people in Singapore use English as the common tongue. 

Part of Singapore's uniqueness is that it is one of only three surviving city states still in existence. While there is no distinct Singaporean culture, the common thread that unites Singapore is its diversity. In addition, nearly every day is a party, as there is almost always some sort of festival happening in the city.

7. Communicate in English in Croatia

Between 2015-2016, Western Europe received very little increase in tourism traffic. While the area may not be a hotspot for the more than half a billion tourists that come to Europe each year, it remains a hub for in-the-know-travelers who appreciate the cuisine, culture, and affordable cost. 

As mentioned, there are quite a few non English speaking countries in Europe. Still, with half of the population speaking English, Croatia is Western Europe's most easily navigable linguistic destination for English speakers. 

8. Puerto Rico — Latin America's English Hub

While Spanish is one language that many Americans tend to speak at least un poco of, not everyone has been quick to board this emerging language boat.

For those wanting to experience Latin American culture without trying to remember all those words from Spanish class, try visiting Puerto Rico. Though it is technically one of the non English speaking countries in Latin America, about half of the Puerto Rican population can speak English. These Puerto Ricans are happy to help you practice your Spanish and help you out when the words won't come.

9. Micronesia — Chill Island Nations Who Hope You Brought Cigarettes

A subregion of Oceania, Micronesia is an offbeat area I hope everyone has the chance to visit. My parents met while in the Peace Corps in the Marshall Islands — a place where 97 percent of the locals speak some English.

Across the island chain of Federated States of Micronesia include the countries of Kiribati, Palau, Nauru, and Vanuatu, where more than half the locals speak English.  
Fun fact: Based on the tales my dad used to tell, many Micronesians will consider you a waste of Westerner if they can't bum a smoke off you.

10. Morocco — English Speakers are Welcome 

Though Morocco is definitely on the list of non English speaking countries, with only 15 percent being English speakers, this is a high percentage compared to other countries in the Middle East. While located in Africa, Morocco also has attributes that showcase elements of European and Arabic culture, such as art, language, and heritage.

Most shopkeepers will use English when trying to communicate with you. Oftentimes, the item on the market will be a rug — and experience you will come to know well on any visit to Morocco. moroccan-street-art

While we are happy to provide you with this guide for travel in non English speaking countries, we also hope you're open to the adventure that exploring a new culture provides. Learning a new language in its country of origin is a rare and exciting experience. As long as your safety is not in question, we recommend taking advantage of this opportunity.

Though traveling to non English speaking countries can intimidating, every single person begins their journey of learning a new language at square one: by not speaking it. I believe there is no better way to learn than by trying to communicate through a language barrier. 

Just remember to be respectful of others’ cultures, and they will almost always return the favor. Even if they don’t, you probably won’t understand their insults, anyway!

Tally-ho, traveler!


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Guest contributor: Luke Armstrong

About the Author

Luke Maguire Armstrong is the author of "The Nomad's Nomad." He has spent the last decade traveling, writing and designing, and funding philanthropic programs around the world.


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