When I travel I enjoy trying to learn as much of the language as possible before I go. However, I often focus strongly on vocabulary, since I find that it's the most useful if I only have a short period to learn.
It got me thinking, though. I can classify my need for the language in terms of urgency. From most to least urgent, I might say the order is:
- Asking for help
- Eating at a restaurant
- Getting accomodations
- Buying things
- Booking something
- Talking about myself
- and it goes on
Most language learning books/websites I've seen are either of the philosophy of "these are the essential phrases" or "we're going to build your grammar up from scratch".
What is the essential grammar needed to communicate my intentions as though I were a native speaker in my categories above (or any categories that make more sense?)