If, like many Americans, you are a bit rusty on your multilingual skills, consider these tips to work around the language barrier:
– Buy a phrasebook. Your local bookstore will have a variety of pocket phrasebooks with handy travel phrases, and they are small enough that you can use them without it being obvious that you’re a tourist (at least until you speak).
– Download podcasts. There are free language podcasts available on itunes for almost any language you can think of. Native speakers walk you through pronunciation, grammar, and common scenarios in 8-15 minute segments. And once they’re loaded on your computer or ipod, you can listen to them anywhere, and as many times as you’d like.
– Speak! Approaching locals in their own language can make them more willing to give you the information you need. Your grammar and accent don’t matter as long as you’re able to make yourself understood.