Fantastic Bilingual Cities to Visit

For some travelers, getting to stretch their linguistic skills is one of the best parts of exploring a new destination. However, for others, it’s something they would rather avoid. But whether you enjoy it or not, it’s only polite to make an effort with the local language, at least to learn the pleasantries. Maybe you want to increase your chances of getting it right, and maybe have English to fall back on. If you do, there are lots of bilingual and multilingual cities, regions and even countries that you can visit. Try one of these places for your next trip, from Spain to China, and double your chances of learning the local language.

Biel, Switzerland

Despite its four languages, it’s difficult to find cities in Switzerland where they overlap. Many places have one de facto language and a wide understanding of another, such as towns bordering other countries. But the languages mostly divide Switzerland rather than joining it together. However, the largest bilingual city in the country is Biel, or Bienne in French. Both German and French are spoken in this town, which is close to France at the foot of the first range in the Jura Mountains. So whether you prefer the Romantic or Germanic languages, you’ll be able to get along in Biel.

Montreal, Canada

There are several cities in Canada that you could describe as being bilingual, but Montreal is probably the best-known. In this Quebecoise city, you can try out your French, but you always have English to fall back on if you’re not feeling confident. You’ll find that many public and private establishments will have staff happy to speak both languages, from restaurants to hotels in Montreal. Road signs and other official things are written in both French and English. Although, you may be a bit surprised by the French dialect spoken in Montreal.

Barcelona, Spain

The population of Barcelona speaks both Spanish and Catalan. In fact, it’s one of the most properly bilingual cities anywhere. Everyone understands Spanish and around 95% of people also understand Catalan. You might be more likely to attempt some Spanish if you visit, but don’t be afraid to give Catalan a go too. Children in Barcelona learn both languages at school, and you’ll see and hear both languages across the city. If you know a handful of words from each language, you’ll have a better chance of surviving.

Macau, China

Macau is a former Portuguese territory, which is why you’ll hear the language spoken all the way on the other side of the world. The two other widely spoken languages are Cantonese and Mandarin, which are both native to China. Many people will understand more than one of the locally spoken languages, which is good news for anyone who might struggle to speak either of the Chinese ones. Mandarin and Cantonese are notoriously hard to grasp, so you may just have a little Portuguese to fall back on. Although Cantonese is most common, many people can also hold a conversation in the other two languages.

There are other bilingual or multilingual cities across the world, from Singapore to Luxembourg. And it’s these destinations that showcase how different languages and cultures interact.