Before going on your next vacation or business trip abroad, consider learning some of language that is spoken where you're going. You can get started learning easily and relatively inexpensively. Learning local language can enhance your travelling experience, sometimes in ways you never thought of.
You can begin with just a few greetings and phrases, progress to a more 'survival vocabulary' level, or if you really like, you can go ahead and spend months studying language in-depth. In any case, if you find you like speaking and learning language, you can always expand on what you've learned at first and further your study.
Why learn language? For one thing, it is easier to deal with local people if you speak even a little of their language. Don't assume everyone speaks English. Numbers, greetings, directions and simple questions are not very hard to learn and are very useful. The locals will appreciate effort on your part, and in fact, you may receive slightly better treatment than you would otherwise. In a perfect world that wouldn't be true, but every little bit helps.
Improving communication with locals is important. By learning some of language, you reduce possiblity of miscommunication. "Please", "Thank You", "How much is that?", "Where is ..." are all easy to learn and can go a long way toward friendly encounters. These phrases can be very handy for all times you go to restaurants, buy something, take a taxi etc.
Travel is simply more fun when you speak language. It's all part of adventure. Learning country, people and culture will expand your possibilities. By learning another language you can increase your social contacts and travel opportunities. Work, study and even retirement abroad all become more possible.
So, how do you go about starting to learn a new language? There are lots of different sources you can use to get started.
First is online. There are endless websites that can help you start learning a particular language. Travlang.com offers free online words and phrases with audio that you can use to pick up basics. About.com is also an excellent source with some more in-depth tutorials for many languages. You can also do a search on any search engine for "learn spanish" or "learning chinese" or any other language, and you will find many sites with free tutorials.