Excuse me do you speak English please? Although this is not the first phrase I learnt in French, it is certainly the most useful one I've remembered. One of the issues with British people is we are too lazy to learn over languages because we just expect everybody to understand us. I've just got back from a trade show in Lille ran by British and French suppliers. My French is not even basic, but I understand a little so naturally I was the go to person when my British colleagues wanted something and there was only a French person in sight to ask. I didn't mind trying my French because its not often I speak it at all anymore and anyway when I make I mess or I am really not sure I just utter "parlez-vous anglais s'il vous plaît" if they haven't started speaking back English first by then anyway because the majority of my french colleagues or the conference centre staff spoke some English. The big thing for many of the French people I tried to speak to was just trying and they appreciated it so much. Surely you would prefer it if somebody asked if you spoke their language in English first before just talking gibberish to you, right?
I feel as a nation we are pretty ignorant abroad, everybody is guilty of it in some aspects. The classic line I heard in a French hotel at breakfast was "Well there isn't much English food here is there". Well, no there is not maybe because we aren't in Britain. We have already seen great advances in technology of all kinds meaning we can now trade and buy across the world in an instant and travel to places previously untouched or undiscovered by others before us. Maybe we should just try at least a little bit to all understand the place where we are visiting before we travel somewhere. Embrace the cultures that we visit and experience new and different things, that is the idea of travelling surely? Or are we all going to carry on complaining about nobody speaks English and there is a lack of English food everywhere we go?