In most cases, your dreams of travel to a foreign country need not be put on hold simply because its residents speak a different language. Oftentimes, people who work in the tourist industry will speak at least enough English to help you get by in that language. But even if you plan to travel far off the beaten path, there are ways to have a great vacation experience without understanding much of the local language at all.
Technology has made an enormous dent in the difficulty of translation while traveling. Applications for Smartphones will let you translate words and phrases on the fly, and downloadable phrasebooks marry the old standby of looking up words as you need them with the convenience of electronic devices.
If your devices fail or seem inappropriate, you can also rely on much older communication strategies. Hand gestures and body language tend to be pretty universal, though in some places they can have different meanings and you should look them up in a guidebook just in case. Drawing pictures can also help you get your meaning across, and carrying a notepad on which you can jot down information can be extremely helpful.
While you can have a great experience in a foreign land without speaking a word of the language, learning a bit of a new language can also be fun and will help you immerse yourself in a culture. Try memorizing a few words or phrases and striking up a conversation with a local in a public place like a restaurant or a bar. You may be amazed at how far a little bit of language, combined with gesturing and politeness, can take you. Even if you don’t remember the small details of what you learn in a given conversation, you may also be surprised by how much of the language you retain.