Do we do it? I mean of course learning thai. Err..... the majority, if we are honest will actually say no to this.
The vast majority merely stumble along with maybe 50-60 odd words that we spout out in the hope that they actually mean something and particularly something actually relevent to the conversation you are having.
Probably the biggest barrier is the tones. If you havent got a good ear, words sound exactly the same with a falling, mid, high, rising, low tone or anyother way of saying the blasted word. A lot of times, I just give up and revert to the pointing, mumbling state of tourist terror when they dont understand me. Other times in the 5 ways I say the word I accidently say it with the right inflexion and tone and they understand or someone is listening and they repeat the word to the general nodding of heads and understanding of the person I was speaking to. The trouble is, it sounded exactly like the way I was saying it.
Sometimes, I think it is actually a great conspiracy that Thais have just to make fun of the falang. They just want a bit of fun at the foreigners expense.
The thing of course is confidence. Too many times, we write in our report cards so and so lacks confidence to speak. But what do we do when we have a chance to speak thai? We mumble and stumble or just rely on their English. Not exactly a great example. But, unless I get a fire under my butt and put some effort into learning it properly, I am probably going to continue the same way, picking up a couple of words here and there and maybe in 20 years I will have the Thai level of a 5 year old!