There’s no denying the fact that American travelers in Europe benefit from the widespread European proficiency in English. But after visiting most countries in Europe, I can testify that the advantage of being a native speaker of the 21st century’s lingua franca is definitely not evenly distributed throughout the EU.
Czech linguist Jakub Marian has created this helpful map (see below) describing the levels of conversational English proficiency in most of the European Union nations. Marian based his map on data collected by the 2012 “Special Eurobarometer 386” report.
Having traveled in both Spain and Hungary recently, I can attest that being a monolingual English speaker continues to be problematic in both countries at times. Although having resided in areas of the U.S. with large Spanish speaking and Hungarian speaking populations, I seem to have learned a lot more Spanish than Magyar by some form of linguistic osmosis, because it’s always easier to communicate in Spain than in Hungary.
Image © Jakub Marian