Next year I’m going to be traveling to Europe & going to several countries, do I need to learn a little of every language or just one language that is spoken in every country (if that if even the case(? Also do I need to learn a language for conversational purposes only & what is the best language to learn? How far in advance of my trip do I need to start learning?
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This is an interesting question – it’s always excellent to hear people who are prepared to make the effort to learn new languages when travelling!
The bad news is, there are a LOT of languages spoken in Europe. Are you spending more time on one or two countries, or in certain areas on Europe? For example, if you’re going to The Netherlands you’ll find that most people speak English, and there are countries like Switzerland where it’s also common to have learned English in school. If you’ll be focussing on Eastern Europe, though, you may find it more helpful to learn some basic Russian, or even a little German.
On the plus side, you shouldn’t need to do much more than learn the basics. Mostly you should find that making the effort is the main part – people are generally appreciative when a tourist at least tries to speak the local language, and will themselves make an effort to communicate as clearly as possible.
There’s info on how widely-spoken several European languages are on this site: http://languageknowledge.eu/ Also, you can see what’s spoken in which countries here: http://www.nationsonline.org/oneworld/european_languages.htm
You can find language information in a lot of our Rough Guides books, and we also have several phrasebooks available which you may find helpful. Perhaps the most useful for your trip would be The Rough Guide to Europe on a Budget, which includes the basic phrases you’ll need in each country covered.
I hope this helps!