Unfortunately, the assumption that Americans only speak English and expect everyone else to do the same sort of applied in my case when I studied abroad. I knew zero phrases of French before I stepped on the plane and was armed with my Rick Steves' phrase book that I was hoping would help me communicate just enough until my French lessons began.
If you are visiting an area that speaks another language and are a picky eater, it is important to learn the names of foods that you like and don't like. Samantha and Emily hated fish with a passion. They made up a little reminder "poission = poison" so they knew to avoid it on menus.
You'll also find yourself doing a lot of pointing and gesturing. Because somehow these generic sign language moves transcend language and culture. Most of the time.
Finally, while you may have a grand idea of visiting every country in Europe at one time, but be prepared for a language overload. After accidentally speaking French in Italy, and Italian in Switzerland, it might be easiest to try your hand at English and hope for the best.
We truly live in a global society. Whether you're travelling for fun, or working in a global company or organization, interacting with others who speak a different language is inevitable. Don't let a language barrier prohibit your information from reaching people across the world. Go a step beyond Google translate and instead opt for a translation service, such as Smartling, run by humans and not computers.
The Jessa Olson Blog
Meet Jessa (formally of Life of a Sports Wife). Similar to me, she spent some time in Arkansas. There is something about everyone around you shouting "Woo Pig Souie" that automatically gives you something in common. More than our shared time living in The Natural State, we are also baseball fans (her husband works for the minor league team) and I suppose I will forgive her for wearing Rangers attire. Jessa is also a runner and is constantly sharing tips for you to become a runner too. It's yet to work for me, but I always love the motivation! New to her corner of the internet? Get a crash course here.