Now a study has backed up the myth with hard evidence as people from the United Kingdom are ranked as the least likely to speak another language.
The study, carried out by the European Commission for the European Day of Languages, found that on average, almost two thirds of EU citizens said they could speak at least one foreign language. But the UK is one of only four European Union member states where less than half of the population can speak a foreign language, with just 34 per cent of Brits saying they can do so.
At the other end of the scale, a total of 97 per cent of people Sweden and 96 per cent of those living in Latvia, Denmark and Lithuania say they can speak a foreign language. High levels of multilingualism were present in Luxembourg, where more than half of the working-age adults reported speaking at least three foreign languages. Knowledge of at least three foreign languages was also high in Finland, where 45 per cent can do so.
The report found that 96.4 per cent of those across the EU who are studying another language are learning English.