One of the first fears to overcome is a lack of fluency in language of your destination countries. Most Europeans speak enough English to address common tourist questions (e.g., where is the toilet, how much does this cost, which tram should I take to get to (your destination), etc.). Further, many Europeans speak very fluent English but here are a few rules to keep in mind to make it easier to get the local person to use his/her English language skills to help you out.
Be Polite: Realize that THEY are doing YOU a favor by trying to speak English. So before you launch into a question, start by politely asking if they speak English, making PLEASE the first word you say. By taking this approach, most locals you encounter will be glad to try to help you out. Below are translations for frequently visited non-English speaking countries:
German, “Bitte, sprechen Sie Englisch?” (bit-a, spreck-in zee English?)
Dutch, “alstublieft, spreek je Engels?” (al-stew-bleeft spray-gah ayn-gels?)
Speak Slowly: Just because they tell you they speak English, remember it’s not their native tongue, so when you ask that question in English, speak slowly and enunciate every syllable.
Simplify the Question: It’s best to use as few words as possible to help a local understand your question and give you the correct/best answer. For example, if you and your wife are trying to get from Brussels airport to the city center using the metro system, there are two ways to ask for help:
Good: Which train for the city center?
Bad: Which train should my wife and I take to get to the city center?
Google Translate: The best translation site that I know of. In addition to translating from/to most languages on the planet, you can listen to a recording of how to properly pronounce the words in the local language. App available for both Android and iPhones.