Let's get real for a minute: you've booked the flights, you're packed, you are ready for a break in a romantic and mysterious foreign country. Then you remember why its so romantic and mysterious to you... you don't speak the language.
This is what happened to me when I went to France. Now while I am by no means a stranger foreign languages, being fluent in Spanish has helped me travel through Spain, Italy and Portugal, French is a language that I have never managed to grasp. Most places you go on vacation to will have some touristy aspects, except restaurants. Sure you may end up on a tourist strip with cliché English menus, but ideally you want to avoid these.
So what do you do? Well through trial and error (and some very understanding waiters and even more understanding and embarrassed friends) I have found some solutions to this problem.
Learn Key Phrases
Remember when you first traveled to a new country and your mother made you memorise phrases like, "Where is the hospital?", "I'm lost", "Help I've just been robbed?". If you're my mother you may have added "Help I'm being kidnapped!" Well as important as knowing those are, unless your vacation turns into a Liam Neeson film, those aren't going to be your most used phrases. It is equally as important to memorise phrases such as "May I have?" or "I would like" or "Yes that!/ No not that".
Never Underestimate the Humble Guidebook
Yes it is 2017 and I'm sure you have an app for that, but you know what you may not have? Wifi and data. I always buy guide books and language reference guides before I travel and even look for ones that have a food specific section.
Let me tell you, I felt zero shame whipping that bad boy out at every meal to be met with laughs and sometimes even small groans, but you know who always was able to translate ingredients? This girl.
Never Forget Manners Maketh the (Wo)man
If you can't begin to even try to memorise a foreign phrase and still can't comprehend the pronunciation you can still order food as long as you memorise three simple words; Please and Thank you. Politeness will get you so far. It is so simple you can even use it when you need to resort to the most drastic of methods to order food... which leads me to my final tip...
If all else fails... point
I tried so hard, phrases memorised, guide book in hand, yet still lost a lot in translation. A few times when I would mumble (or once very confidently) order my food only to have my waiter look at me in confusion and say "quelle?". My response? I would simply put on my biggest smile hold up my menu and point to what I want with a confident "S'il vous plaît!" and "merci".
These tips got me through my vacation and I was able to enjoy some of the best food I've eaten in a long time! Don't be so afraid of messing up that you only order the only food you know how to say for a week. Embrace the fact that you are a tourist and some snafu's will happen.
Follow these suggested tips and you may even find yourself in a restaurant at the end of week able to order without your trusty phrase book and not even realise it, but still end up with delicious food.