The language barrier here in Japan can be quite substantial at times. My impression, or guesstimate, is that about 1 out of 20 Japanese speak English well enough to have a conversation. So, when we go out to eat, we usually look for menus with pictures of the food. That way, we can just choose whatever looks good, in case the waitress doesn’t speak any English. We still end up eating a lot of food that we’ve got no clue what is though, but fortunately it’s usually as good as it looks.
However, when the menu is in Japanese and there are no pictures, I’ve come up with a quite modern way to place an order, by using emoticons! Here’s an example from a restaurant we visited yesterday:
The emoticons state that I’d like pork in noodles accompanied by a beer. The waiter immediately gave me a nod, made a note of it, and said something in Japanese, before heading to the kitchen. When he returned about ten minutes later (yeah, they serve food fast here!), he brought me this, exactly as intended. A meal most tasty.
The conclusion is: Never mind the idea of Esperanto, we’ve got emoticons folks! 😉