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How many languages do you speak?

How many languages do you speak?

Time to read: 2 Minutes and 4 Seconds

How many languages do you speak?

Non UK people – an average of 3

UK people – an average of 1


From The Naked Coach – Abridged

I arrived in Venice, and was met at the airport by a young woman, who asked me:

“Would you mind if we spoke English please?”

Not being fluent in Italian, I said an enthusiastic “Yes”.

I asked her how many languages she spoke she replied:

“Not many. Five I think – German, French, English, Russian and Spanish.

“And Italian?” I suggested.

“Yes, of course” she said with a smile.

“And you?” she asked.

“English and a little German”. I said, in an apologetic way.

She said:

“I think you speak more – do you know the word for yes in French?”


“There, you can speak French”

I said: “Only a few words”.

Then she asked me: “How many words do you need to know, before you say you can speak a language?”

I was about to say “Enough to get by” when I realised the power in her rule of languages, as opposed to mine.

Mine was, up to that moment: “I can only speak a few languages. I only ‘speak’ languages I am “fluent” in”.

Her rule, which is a rule taught in many schools in continental Europe, is simple, and it is this – the moment you know one word in any language, you can speak that language. All you have to do then, if you so choose, is learn a few more words.

Con il mio amore e i migliori auguri a tutti, e grazie per aver tradotto questo.


2 Responses to How many languages do you speak?

  1. That is quite brilliant.
    The trouble is with only knowing the basics, is if you actually try those words out on someone in France, for example. Not the Italian, but French in France, or Italian in Italy etc.
    We once went on holiday and stopped to ask a woman the way to the supermarket.
    Feeling quite smug I wound the window down in the car, smiled and said, ‘Oo ee les supermarche?’
    At which point, given she had obviously understood what I had said, she preceded to speak, thinking I knew French, going off on a long spiel which completely went over my head. We never did get Cornflakes for our breakfast the next morning.

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