Using cookbooks are great but they’re mostly “chunking”. By chunking, I’m referring to where language students have learn expressions as a chunk. Like in a phrase book – handy if used with care, but you get to the point where you are trying to combine “Can I see Mt Fuji from here?” with “I would like to buy a beer” to reach “Can I buy you a drink?” and ending up with “Here from Mt beer buy want”. So at some stage you need to go learn the basics and try from there. I picked up First Principles by Victoria Hansen at Woolies and really couldn’t ask for more in terms of mastering the essentials.