As summer kicks into high gear in the Northern Hemisphere, tourist season is upon us. If you’re one of the many people preparing to head off on a dream holiday this year, learning English for travel is a simple but effective way to make your trip a better overall experience.
If you’re headed somewhere like England, Australia, or the United States, it certainly makes sense to learn the local language. Even if you’re not sticking to destinations in the Anglosphere, however, English is effectively the world’s lingua franca. Speaking a bit of English should help you get by in many of the world’s most popular tourist spots. You may not speak the same native languages, but English will be a great unifier with those around you.
As you prepare for your upcoming journey, let’s review some easy ways to get started mastering the basics of English for travel.
Master Key English for Travel Phrases Before You Go
If you don’t already speak basic English, you’re at a serious disadvantage. Fortunately, learning key English for travel phrases and sentences will help you to get by while on your trip. Start your English crash course by reviewing some of the different situations you might find yourself in during your travels. Even simply memorizing a few rudimentary phrases should allow you to get the most out of your trip overseas.
Arriving in a Foreign Country
After months of preparation, your plane has finally landed overseas…now what?
First, you’ll need to pass through customs. This is where you will answer questions about your vacation plans and speak to immigration officials. Your conversation may include the following important questions:
- Where is your final destination?
- What is the reason for your visit?
- Did you pack your own bags?
Get familiar with the process beforehand and you’ll be in great shape by the time you arrive at the airport.
After clearing customs, you’ll be ready to start exploring!
Getting Around Town
You’ll likely use public transportation options to travel to and from your end destination, such as the subway or the bus system. In other cases, you may be walking and need help reaching your final destination. Either way, you’ll need to pick up some simple questions you’ll use to get directions, buy tickets, and make your way around.
I would like to go to “X”.
If you can tell people where you’d like to go, you should find your way with a little luck. Even if you don’t understand anything else, this phrase will help you direct your taxicab drivers, speak to workers at the train station, and get rudimentary advice from people you meet on the street. Simply substitute your destination for “X.”For example, “I would like to go to the Eiffel Tower.” or “I would like to go to the Houses of Parliament.”
Where is the bus stop/taxi stand/train station?
A question that starts with where is can easily be substituted for the suggestion above, “I would like to go…” If you ask someone for help reaching a specific place, they can point you in the right direction.
Other words you might want to learn include:
- currency exchange
From the security officer at the airport to the hotel clerk where you’re staying, you will need to speak with various people in English during your voyage. Your interactions might cover any number of different topics, of course, but use these English for travel phrases to work your way through a basic conversation.
Do you speak English?
First and foremost, don’t assume someone speaks English unless you’re in an English-speaking country. For example, it’s pretty rude to travel to Germany and simply assume everyone understands the English language, even if most tourist workers will speak some. Start your conversations on the right foot with this simple question.
I don’t understand.
If you find yourself lost while chatting with a foreigner, simply say, “I don’t understand.” This should signal to the other person that they need to speak more clearly or slow down so you manage to follow along.
How much does this cost?
Planning to do a spot of shopping while on holiday? You’ll want to take some time exploring how money works in the country you’re visiting. Of course, each nation has its own currency, but the same number system and phrases work universally. “How much does this cost?” is a quick way to determine the price of any particular item.
I need help/a hospital/the police.
Don’t find yourself in a dangerous situation and realize you can’t communicate. Learn to express your need for emergency help and keep yourself protected. Telling someone that you need help should get their attention and allow them to understand the urgency of your request.
Visiting a Restaurant
Trying different foods and sampling the local cuisine is easily one of the best parts about visiting a foreign country. Of course, before you sit down for a big meal at a local eatery, you’ll want to take some time to review how to speak with your server (waiter or waitress) and order your selections.
The following phrases offer a great place to start:
May I please see a menu?
Asking to see the menu is the right way to learn what the restaurant you’ve visiting serves. Most servers will provide a menu when you sit down, but you can also ask for the menu before you choose whether or not you’d like to stay.
Don’t forget, many restaurants also post their menus on their windows, which should allow you to see if the food is within your budget.
I would like to eat/drink…
After you’ve taken some time to review the options on the menu, you want to place an order with your server. Simply tell him or her your choice. For example, “I would like the grilled chicken with pasta, please.”
May I have the bill?
At the end of your visit, you’ll need to pay your bill. You can ask the server for your bill when you’re ready. In many Anglophone countries, the server will bring your bill to the table without being asked, but it’s still a good idea to know how to request it.
Reminder: Don’t forget to study tipping culture for your host country. In the United States, for example, it’s customary to pay 15-20% of your bill as a tip for your server. This pays the server’s salary and shouldn’t be skipped. Customs vary from nation to nation, however, so look into these matters before you travel.
Tips to Quickly Revise English for Travel
Do you feel like your English could use a bit of a refresher? Whether it’s been a few years since you studied English or you’re simply feeling a little rusty, there are several helpful tips you can use to brush up on your English for travel purposes.
Make the most out of your trip by incorporating the following techniques into your study habits:
1. Start Immersing Yourself
Do you quickly find yourself overwhelmed when you hear people speaking English? Before your trip, start listening to English videos online. If you’re not already using the Woodpecker app, this is a great place to start.
2. Get Some Practice in Before You Leave
You don’t have to wait to speak English until you’re abroad. Instead, why not join a meetup group in your city or connect with other English students who want to chat? Just like riding a bike, you might be surprised to learn how quickly you regain your comfort level.
Review our simple tips for how to use English in your everyday life now!
3. Start Labeling Everything Around You
Got a stack of paper and a pencil handy? Why not craft little notes with English definitions on them? You can stick these notes on various items you’ll take with you on your trip. Then, when you’re standing at the airport check-in counter, you won’t stumble to find the word for suitcase or passport.
4. Purchase a Travel Guidebook
Your phone works great for keeping track of notes and information about your stay, but a travel guidebook should help you get familiar with the names of the most popular destinations in the city or country you’re visiting. Don’t be afraid to take it with you on your trip. Should you get stuck at any point, you can always point to photos in your book for help.
5. Have Fun with It
As great as it would be to be totally fluent before you leave on holiday, it’s probably not a very reasonable goal if you only have a few months to prepare. Hand gestures, drawings, and translation apps can all help you get your point across. Don’t be ashamed to do what works!
Looking for some travel inspiration? Check out a few videos on some of the world’s most popular tourist destinations!