Mongolian is the official language, and everyone in the nation speaks it as their first language, with the exception of the westernmost province, where Kazakh is spoken. Even after months of immersion in the culture, Westerners find it very difficult to acquire and speak the language. It takes a minimum of 9-18 months of full-time Mongolian language training for Westerners to become fluent. Most Mongolians will welcome efforts to speak Mongolian, even though the tourist will always pronounce the words incorrectly. It’s a good idea to get a phrasebook and practice a few phrases. The numerical system is consistent and simple to understand.
Russian is a required second language in all schools in Mongolia, and it is the most commonly spoken foreign language. This is due to Mongolia’s long history of alliance with the Soviet Union, and Russia following the collapse of the Soviet Union. In metropolitan regions, travelers who speak Russian should have little trouble getting about. English is not commonly spoken, but it is growing in popularity among the younger generation, many of whom study it as a third language in school, and it can be seen on signs around the city. However, unless you understand Mongolian or Russian, traveling outside of Ulaanbaatar without a guide is almost difficult.