The most common reaction I get when telling people I am going to a foreign location is, “but you don’t speak the language”. This is probably one of the most crippling fears of travel. The fear of not being understood. It’s true, I don’t speak anything other than English, but I have never had a problem communicating. Every culture knows a smile and nod is friendly. Asking for the name of a town will get you a barrage of directions, and when they see your confused look, you get directions in mime. You will figure it out.
The best thing to do for those who are not natural linguists, is to learn a few basic nicety phrases on the local language. Basic Greeting, Hello, Excuse me, Please, and Thank you will get you amazingly far.
Cash registers in stores and gas pumps in stations show the numbers you need to pay so you can get most of what you want without speaking a word.
It’s really all about attitude. If you are a polite interested guest in a country, looking to learn what you can, then you are halfway there. This attitude means you’ll come home with more than just pictures. You’ll return with stories and a greater understanding of our world.