I know that in 2007 Madagascar adopted English as a third official language for the country but from what I can tell it was mainly for encouraging investment from non-French/Malagasy rather than an indication that a significant portion of the population speaks the language.
Does anyone have any experience on how easy it is to get by with English?
I am not a person who usually avoids tour groups and big tourist hotels. I am just wondering what level of hand gesturing and Malagasy I will need, to get from one end of the country to the other.
My wife and I traveled in Madagascar for 3 weeks in 2005 - we dont speak French and got by fine, Many of them know at least a few words in English and together with hand gestures you can get by fine - I dont remember language being any kind of issue or impediment.
It was a great trip and I highly recommend visiting about 10 years ago
Niko you will be fine, as long as you are not the type who speaks in English and then when the person does not understand, you just repeat yourself BUT LOUDER. You do need to make some effort, try to avoid complex phrases or colloquialisms and do try to tame your accent if you have one (such as my Australian accent), but Madagascar and the Malagasy (who are brilliant linguists in general) have made a huge effort to spread English around in the past decade. You will be just fine. Go, enjoy yourself, enjoy your efforts at communicating with the ever patient Malagasy, and be prepared for the odd drunk who knows one sentence in English and repeats it to you ALL DAY or for however long you happen to be sharing a bus stop or whatever. It helps to learn a simple phrase in French, for desperate moments, such as "is there anyone around here who speaks English"? I rescued myself that way many times prior to learning Malagasy because there is always someone who can, and who will be proud and happy to help you. about 10 years ago