Well ive finally decided to do the round-the-world thing end of next yr. So i have a good 18 months to save up money and prepare.
Im from Australia, and only fluent in English. When i was younger i did courses in french, italian and chinese for a couple of yrs, but i dont remember much now.
In the next 18months i thought i would take a few courses in a particular language to help out with some of my travels throughout europe. Ill be going to most of the large countries and a few smaller ones.
What is the best language apart from english to know, when travelling throughout europe?
my opinion - German is the best to know. Esp in East Euro - most have learned a bit of German due to the influence of Germanic culture throughout the east. even in Latvia - my friends bit of German got us a Car ride while we were hitching along a rainy dark Latvian forest...OI!
When I was going around Western Europe, my knowledge of French really helped me. Not only in France, but also in Italy and Spain as well. French is very similar to both Spanish and Italian, so without knowing more than a few words in either language, we got along just fine
I'd also say German, but essentially it depends where you are going to be going in Europe. If it's all Europe, W/E/N/S Europe etc.
Spanish and Italian are really only spoken in one country in europe (for practical purposes San M, Vatican, Andorra etc don't really count here), although they are similar and a knowledge of one can help with the other. Portugese and Spanish also similar, and again Italian can help a bit there. Italian is also spoken in the extreme South of Switzerland, but not a huge area, and also in parts of Slovenia, Croatia and Albania, so i'd pick Italian over Spanish (unless you are also doing s/c america on your RTW).
French is also spoken in W part of Switzerland, W/S Belgium, Luxembourg and parts of SW Germany. French is also similar-ish to Italian/Spanish, so a understanding of one can help with the others.
As well as being spoken in Austria and a large chunk of Switzerland, Luxembourg etc, German is very much a second language in large chunks of E Europe, and with a combination of German and English will certainly help you there. Although it is rapidly changing, German is much more helpful than English in most of E Europe, particularly outside of the major cities/tourist areas.
But if you've got 18months and are going to be travelling around quite a bit, why not take shorter courses in 2 or 3 of them, so you have a basic vocab in more than one - in the long run, i'd guess that will probably be more helpful to you.