How can you express your wants and needs to people who don't share your language, or even culture?
I'm by no means an expert at this, but now that I've travelled a decent amount to predominantly non English speaking countries, I feel like I've got a few tips I can share!
1 - Smile
Whoever you are communicating with can get a good idea of how you're feeling based on this. So, when I'm in a restaurant or at my accommodation, I tend to overdo the smiling, just to reinforce I'm happy with the situation.
It also relaxes them and lets them know you're enjoying yourself. It's helps to build common ground and just sends good vibes I guess!
Obviously If you're unhappy or in an emergency, don't do this!
2 - Learn the basics
Saying 'mingalaba' in Myanmar was always followed by smiles and laughs. Doing this is just polite and helps you to bond quickly with your new friends! I still feel nervous the first few times I start saying hello in the new language. I'm always irrationally scared I'll offend them by pronouncing it wrong! But that's ridiculous. Don't take yourself too seriously, they'll appreciate the effort - and at worse, they'll laugh at you affectionately.
The more basics you can learn the better. How are you, please and no are useful too. As are foods you might not want to be eating! This helps you to understand the menu or explain to the waiter.
In Italy recently I started looking up things on Google Translate to practise saying when going out and being greeted by our hosts. I even managed to get out "I will miss your house". Though I have no idea what they said in return, they at least felt appreciated - I hope!
3 - Use gestures
In Italy our host spent about 5 minutes acting out someone carrying a cross on their shoulder before we realised she was trying to explain that there was an Easter procession in town. That's quite a complicated sentence to explain if you think about it, but we managed to do it without a word of English.
Humans do a lot of the same actions in life, no matter the culture, so gestures are a good back-up way of communicating. It's surprisingly effective. Once again - don't take yourself too seriously! It can definitely be quite hilarious trying to communicate using gestures.
It's good to check that your gestures don't mean something else in the country you're in. For example nodding in some countries actually means no. Though, if you're a foreigner they tend to figure out what you really mean. Just make sure you familiarise yourself with anything that could be culturally insensitive - though most of the time you will probably be forgiven if you're a foreigner.
4 - Relax
If you need help your accommodation owners can usually help you. If it's an emergency or you need to explain to a taxi driver where you're going, I often get my accommodation to write it down on a bit of paper for me so I can show it to them. It's also good to have the name/address of where you are staying written down in the local language! I have found that often taxi drivers don't understand your map, but if you show them the address they'll know how to get there.
If you get really stuck, just consult google! It really is a lifesaver. You can always find free wifi at McDonalds or Starbucks or various other cafes if you need an internet connection.