Living in a foreign country where your native language isn't used can be a daunting prospect. Imagine how much more complicated it would be to do simple tasks such as ordering food, taking public transportation, or singing in a karaoke bar. To get past the language barrier, you need to rely on a combination of cross-cultural communication techniques and social dynamics.
1. Use non-verbal communication
Non-verbal communication includes body gestures, hand signals, and facial expressions. Prehistoric cavemen survived using these techniques alone so a modern day human being such as yourself should have no problem thriving.
Show off your expertise in charades by using body gestures to act out what you are trying to say. Use hand signals to greet people, get directions, or ascertain number values. Display the appropriate facial expression to express an emotion. In case of emergency, a smile can do wonders in generating some goodwill from kindly strangers.
2. Learn a few basic words
If you ever have the time to take note of which words you use everyday and how often you use them, you'll find that a few basic words make up the majority of your vernacular. These include: Hello, goodbye, thank you, yes, and no. If you take the time to learn the local version of these words, then you should be more than able to get by.
If learning is too much of a chore for you, write the words down on index cards and flash them as needed. You can also include frequently used phrases, such as: Where is... , how do I do... , and how much is this.
3. Make friends, lots of them
The easiest way to get something done is to let someone else do it for you. Unless you're willing to shell out some cash for a professional, then asking a friend for help is your best option.
A good way to make friends in foreign countries is to seek out locals who wish to learn your native tongue. For example, many non-native English-speaking university students welcome the chance to practice their English with a good English speaker if only to improve the quality of their written reports.