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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.

Survival Travel Vocabulary

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?

Dr. Wagner has a PhD in Linguistics and is dedicated to learning and teaching languages online and abroad. She has studied in Quebec and Australia, taught English in France, and is currently based in the US.