This Tumblr thread discusses what you do when you don't know what word you want in the language of the country you're in. (Check it out, the story about the guy in Greece who needed to extend his hotel stay one night is not to be missed.) As a sadly monolingual world traveller, I have a couple of stories along those lines.
Once in Tokyo I was eating sushi. I wanted hot sake. Asking in English for “hot sake” didn't work. I think the waitress was partly sure of “hot” but was confused by “sake”. In English this means a specific Japanese liquor, made from rice, but in Japanese it is more general and can refer to any kind of alcohol. So she didn't know what I wanted and I didn't know how to ask for it in Japanese. (Wikipedia tells me it's “日本酒” (/nihonshu/, “Japanese liquor”).)
I took out my Palm Pilot and drew a picture like this:
That did the trick and I got what I wanted. Thanks, patient Japanese waitress.