If you speak English you’re in luck, since about anywhere in the world you choose to travel will feature a population that understands some basic English. It seems to be a central language, especially when travelling. However, just because many cultures have adapted and learnt enough English to get by, doesn’t mean that you have no need to learn theirs. It’s clear to see in any country you’re travelling if you learn even the most rudimentary statements and phrases of their local dialect you will receive a much greater reaction and usually a greater show of appreciation. Whether or not you’re butchering the pronunciation, or putting sentences in the wrong order, it’s the fact that you’re making an effort to understand their culture, through their language. Being a Canadian, back at home I’m sometimes a little offended in a way if someone literally speaks NO English, even a basic sentence is okay with me – it’s the effort that counts.
My personal experience with this is travelling in East Africa and Indonesia, while each country has a unifying language (Such as Swahili, or Bahasa), there are about 60+ variations depending on the region you happen to find yourself in. For example in Indonesia the national language is Bahasa Indonesia, but in Bali, Balinese is the preferred spoken word. So learning basic “Thank You” and “Please” in Balinese means even more to the locals then simply some Indonesian.
Not only will you find yourself receiving a lot more smiles, but when it comes to bartering, being able to say a few catch phrases, or count in a local language goes a long way for knocking your price down. For one, the seller often will assume you have an idea of the fair price if you can speak the local dialect, and will usually give you the fair price or not shoot to far over right off the hop.
The point is, if you’re off travelling the reason is likely to get away, learn something new, and experience a different way of doing things, and learning a new language is the perfect way to integrate yourself into the culture that you’re learning about.