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:

  1. Asking for help
  2. Eating at a restaurant
  3. Getting accomodations
  4. Buying things
  5. Booking something
  6. Talking about myself
  7. 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?)

  • To be a beginner (learn just a bit for traveling) yet speak with the grammar of a native, you "simply" need to memorize stock phrases that natives would say. So make your own personal phrasebook, get a native to turn it into phrases they would say, and then learn and understand those phrases. You've got built in vocabulary and proper grammar. – AML Jul 30 '18 at 11:17
  • The title of the question could be improved by replacing "a particular purpose" with the purpose in this specific question. Survival language might be such a term, though native English speakers probably know a better one. – Tommi Brander Jul 30 '18 at 21:37
  • 3
    Personally, at the language level you're aiming at, I wouldn't try to use grammar "as though I were a native speaker". You might be mistaken for a native speaker, and then you won't understand a single word of the answer. Showing some grammar and pronunciation mistakes makes your proficiency clearer, and makes your partner use simpler words and sentences. – Ralf Kleberhoff Jul 31 '18 at 11:29
  • A German series of language-learning books ("Kauderwelsch-Sprachführer") has an interesting approach. Besides the foreign-language phrase and the German translation, it shows an intermediate step, using German words, but foreign grammar. So you easily get a feeling for the foreign grammar. – Ralf Kleberhoff Jul 31 '18 at 11:35
  • @RalfKleberhoff That is interesting. I remember a French book that did the opposite - it was mainly in English at first, but gradually started replacing words with their French equivalent. – Michael Stachowsky Jul 31 '18 at 12:53

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