Dr. Paul Nation & Survival Travel Vocabulary

Anyone who has done research on vocabulary acquisition has come across Dr. Paul Nation’s articles and books. His 1990 book, Teaching & Learning Vocabulary, as well as his 2001 book, Learning Vocabulary in Another Language, are the basis of most vocabulary acquisition classes at universities today.  He favors frequency lists, extensive reading, and the lexical approach to language teaching in addition to the need to teach students strategies so they can become autonomous learners. In case you haven’t read my previous posts on vocabulary in language learning, I completely agree with his methods.

Currently, Dr. Nation teaches at Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand, and his homepage offers useful resources to download for those interested in vocabulary acquisition. The ZIP file Vocabulary Resource Booklet includes survival vocabulary in 19 languages, based on Nation and Crabbe’s 1991 article “A Survival Language Learning Syllabus for Foreign Travel” (which is also included), ideally for tourists who will be in a foreign country for only a few weeks or months. This survival vocabulary should take no more than 60 hours to learn.

Here is the syllabus in English, from the article. Numbers in parentheses simply mean that the item occurs in more than one section.

1. Greetings and being polite

Hello/Good morning etc. + reply [there are many cultural variants of these, including Where are you going?, Have you eaten?]

How are you? + reply e.g. Fine, thank you.

Goodbye

Thank you + reply  e.g. It’s nothing, You’re welcome.

Please

Excuse me [sorry]

It doesn’t matter

Delicious (6)

Can I take your photo?

2. Buying and bargaining

I want … (4, 6)

Do you have …?/Is there …?

Yes (8)

No (8)

This (one), That (one) [to use when pointing at goods]

There isn’t any

How much (cost)? (5, 6)

A cheaper one (5)

NUMBERS (5, 7) (These need to be learned to a high degree of fluency)

UNITS OF MONEY (5, 6)

UNITS OF WEIGHT AND SIZE

How much (quantity)?

half

all of it

(one) more

(one) less

Excuse me [to get attention] (4)

Too expensive

Can you lower the price? + reply  (Some countries do not use bargaining. In others it is essential.)

NAMES OF IMPORTANT THINGS TO BUY  (These may include stamps, a newspaper, a map.)

3. Reading signs

Gents

Ladies

Entrance/In

Exit/out

Closed

4. Getting to places

Excuse me (to get attention) (2)

Can you help me?

Where is …? (5)

Where is … street?

What is the name of this place/street/station/town?

Toilet

Bank

Department store

Restaurant

Airport

Train station

Underground

Bus station

Hospital

Doctor

Police

Post-office

Telephone

Market

I want … (2, 5, 6)

How far?/Is it near?

How long (to get to …)?

Left

Right

Straight ahead

Slow down (Directions for a taxi.)

Stop here

Wait

Ticket

When

5. Finding accommodation

Where is … (4)

Hotel

How much (cost)? (2, 6)

A cheaper one (2)

I want … (2,4,6)

Leave at what time?

NUMBERS (2, 7)

today

tomorrow

6. Ordering food

How much (cost)? (2, 5)

The bill, please

I want … (2, 5, 9)

NAMES OF A FEW DISHES AND DRINKS

A FEW COOKING TERMS

Delicious (1)

7. Talking about yourself and talking to children

I am (name)

Where do you come from?

I am (a New Zealander)/I come from (New Zealand)

What do you do?

I am a (teacher)/tourist

You speak (Chinese)!

A little/very little

What is your name? (Especially for talking to children.)

How old are you? + reply

NUMBERS (2, 5)

I have been here … days/weeks/months

I am sick

8. Controlling and learning language

Do you understand?

I (don’t) understand

Do you speak English? (7)

Yes (2)

No (2)

Repeat

Please speak slowly

I speak only a little (Thai)

What do you call this in (Japanese)?

_______________________________

Do you agree with this list? Anything missing? Anything not that necessary for survival as a tourist?

Education Systems, Creativity, Motivation and Results-Only Environments

+-*Being snowed in for a week meant watching a lot of TED talks online, and a few that really interested me focus on certain established environments and how they are not very conducive to education, creativity or motivation. Sir Ken Robinson on how schools kill creativity and the need for a “learning revolution” throughout the […]

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My two year-old niece will help you learn spoken French [New informal French video]

+-*My two year-old niece was recently talking to David on the phone, and she asked t’es au boulot ? Are you at work? However, books will tell you to say es-tu au travail ? instead – or actually it’s more likely they will insist on êtes-vous au travail ? because foreigners never need to use the […]

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Review of Language Learning Websites II: Mango Languages, LangMaster, LinguaTV, and Yabla

+-*Six months ago I posted my thoughts on the popular language learning sites Livemocha, Busuu, LingQ and Hello-Hello. Now I would like to review four other language learning websites that I have used recently.  The previous four sites were “communities” where not only can you use their flashcards and exercises, you create a profile and […]

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Chinese Food in France (Helps with Homesickness)

+-*Happy Thanksgiving to the Americans, whether you are actually celebrating it or not! This week is always hard for me because I’m usually rather homesick, more so than at Christmas since Christmas actually exists in France (albeit a less excessive form of the holiday… I need an overload of decorations, people!) Luckily we did something […]

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Regional Differences in France & Italy: Bienvenue chez les Ch’tis & Benvenuti al Sud

+-*In 2008 when Bienvenue chez les Ch’tis was released in France, it was an instant success. The plot focuses on the manager of La Poste in Salon-de-Provence, who is transferred to Bergues in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region and all the negative stereotypes about the north of France, i.e. it’s always rainy and cold, the people are […]

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Cost of Living in France: My Personal Experience

+-*How much does it cost to live in France? I’ve received a few e-mails inquiring about the cost of living in France, so here is a listing of my monthly bills and yearly taxes. Hopefully this information will be useful for those who are looking to move to France and want to compare the costs. […]

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Learning French through Comedy: Sketches by Les Inconnus

+-*Probably the most famous comedy sketch in France is Télémagouille by Les Inconnus. You can read the entire transcript online though it’s written very informally and there are many spelling mistakes. Don’t forget to check out their other sketches on Youtube or Dailymotion (I’ve included some of my favorites below). A 5-DVD set is also available from Amazon.fr. […]

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Decorated Shell Casings from WWI – Aisne 1917

+-*Remember those old war newspapers we found in grandma’s storage space last year? We came across another interesting find recently: decorated shell casings (douilles d’obus) from 1917. To pass the time in the trenches, soldiers used shell casings as canvases to create their own works of art. You can see other examples by searching images.google.fr. Sadly, […]

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Listen to the Languages of France & French around the World

+-*Corpus de la Parole is a great site for anyone interested in the languages spoken in France and the DOM-TOMs. If you’ve ever wanted to hear what Alsacien, Basque, Breton, Francoprovençal, Picard, Occitan, or Reunion creole sounds like, there are audio files and some transcripts available.  There is also a lot of information on the […]

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