The "They Do Not Speak English in Europe Myth"

I am sure that there will be more myths/lies about the immigration issue going forward, but one is already starting to kill me. I have heard at least three times on national media (with the third being this morning the supposedly liberal Alex Bennett on Sirius) that we need to make everyone speak English because "we need to learn English when we travel around Europe". This is a completely ridiculous statement.

Having traveled around Europe and having many friends from Europe, I know that the vast majority of the continent speaks English as a second language. As a traveler, there is seldom any problem negotiating Europe without knowing the native language. All Europeans are taught a second language in school, and for the most part that language is English.

The only area that this might not be true is in Eastern Europe, where for a while the second language was Russian. However, when I was in Romania, the younger generation all knew English, and I was never in too much trouble with my limitted English. Okay, once a cop pulled me over for speeding and I had to rely on my wife's ability to speak Romanian. Even so, if you knew English and at least one European language, you would be fine.

Leaving out Eastern Europe, travel is a breeze in English. Around the most popular locations, signs are in both the native language and English and sometimes one more language. Also, signs over there tend to have pictures to help non-native speakers. I could only guess that getting out into the countryside for extended periods would be difficult, but I do not think that is what the talking point is getting at.

In part this ease of travel is that Americans have been travelling to these places for centuries and refusing to learn the native language. How did the fact that Americans were unwilling to learn a new language turn into Americans have to to travel.

So where does this myth come from? Do the people perpetuating it really believe it? Who is it trying to fool? Is anyone really fooled? This is just so intriguing to me. Hopefully, someone can help shed some light on this.

Comments

I second

All of my European travel took place in Greece, so take this for what it's worth: In Athens, everyone I ran into spoke English. In smaller cities, getting along in English was no problem, and even out in the countryside a few minutes of searching would find the English words necessary to get a beer or lunch.

I don't think it's a myth.

I think it's an out and out lie to feed the kind of ultra-nationalistic bullshit that the right fringe stands for.