English for Travelers: How to Learn the English You’ll Need to Travel the World
If you want to be confident, prepared and have fun on your travels, don’t forget to bring your English skills.
Studying English won’t feel like studying at all if you practice the right way.
There are a lot of fun ways to practice English which can also help you get excited about your travels.
But first, let’s look at why you should learn English for traveling.
- Why Should Travelers Learn English?
- How Travelers Can Practice English Before the Trip
- 5 English Language Apps for Travelers
- Intro to Business English for Travelers
Why Should Travelers Learn English?
English is used all around the world. Since English is used in so many different countries, you’ll probably use English to communicate in many travel situations. While the staff at your hotel might not speak your native language, they will probably speak some English. Many signs in airports and at popular tourist sites will be in the local language and English, so it’s helpful if you don’t speak the local language.
Knowing English can help in an emergency. English could save your life if you happen to be in an emergency situation. A friend of mine who is Sri Lankan was traveling in Nepal when the April 2015 Nepal earthquake hit. He had trouble finding his wife after the earthquake, so he used English to communicate with others to look for her. After several days, he finally found her, and wrote a very thankful letter to all of the people who had helped him.
In moments like that, knowing how to speak English can be very important in communicating the right details in an international travel situation. Hopefully, nothing like this ever happens to you, but it is best to be prepared.
Learning English will also make you more confident. When checking into your hotel or attending an international conference, knowing English will make you less shy and not worried.
It will be easier to make friends, share your ideas or have a stress-free vacation.
Overcoming the fear of talking to strangers in English is a significant step towards English fluency. In addition to this, when it comes to traveling, communicating with strangers is a necessity. Whether you’ve lost something, are looking for the train station or after a restaurant recommendation, starting conversations with strangers in English is a vital skill.
Learning English for traveling will only improve the way you understand the world, and help open new opportunities for you.
How Travelers Can Practice English Before the Trip
Here are some useful tips and fun ways to practice the English you’ll need in your travels.
Tips for Learning New English Words
You might try to learn as many new words as quickly as possible, but take your time. Start with 5-10 new words a day, and learn them well.
- Use vocabulary lists that will be most helpful for travel, like this one.
- Write down your 5-10 daily words on flashcards, with the definition (or image) on the back.
- Review the flashcards throughout the day. Take them with you to work, and put them around your house in places where you can see them.
- When you see a flashcard, make up a sentence using that word, but make sure it’s something you might actually say while traveling. Say it aloud. For example, for the term “queen bed,” you might say “I’d like to book a queen bed for three nights, please.” (Note: A queen bed can comfortably fit two people.) The verbal (speaking) practice is very useful.
- If you’re traveling with others, role play. Act out situations (checking into a hotel, at the airport, asking directions) and use your new words as you act out common travel scenarios.
Use these tips to help you memorize (learn by heart) the new words you’ll need while traveling.
Travel forums are websites where people ask questions about certain destinations (places), and multiple people can respond with answers. By using travel forums in English, you can research for your trip and practice English at the same time!
The following sites and forums will help you plan your trip and put you in direct contact with vocabulary that you will need to take with you on the trip:
- Tripadvisor is a great website that includes both a useful forum (with advice, photos and questions from other travelers) and reviews of hotels, restaurants and more! From the main home page, simply fill in the “Where are you going?” field with the name of your destination, and the “What are you looking for?” field (hotels, restaurants, flights, things to do), then press “Search.”
- Thorn Tree Forum is the very helpful forum branch of the Lonely Planet website. The forum is mostly for backpackers, but answers a lot of very specific, hard-to-answer questions related to things like visas, budgeting (money), and travel times. Go to the “Country forums” section to select a country, or type a term in the “Search” field on the top-right.
- Yelp is mainly used in the United States, so it probably won’t be helpful if you’re traveling outside of the USA. In the United States, however, Yelp has detailed reviews of many businesses, restaurants and offered services.
5 English Language Apps for Travelers
Here are five apps that will help you organize and enjoy your travels. Download them before you leave and bring them along with you!
1. CityMaps2Go by Ulmon
iTunes | Android
Cost: Free; Pro: $4.99 USD
CityMaps2Go is a useful app that allows you to download maps and brief guides to most major cities and many frequently-traveled countries. The maps are then available offline and can also give you directions.
2. XE Currency
iTunes | Android
Cost: Free; Pro: $1.99 USD
XE Currency is an app you should absolutely have. It’s free, offers live currency rates, and will save you from buying something you can’t afford (don’t have enough money for). Use this app to quickly convert local currency to your home currency, so you know how much items cost.
iTunes | Android
Finding places to eat is often difficult in a new city. OpenTable will solve that problem completely! This app lets you search for any type of food near your location, and shows you specific restaurants nearby where you can eat that food. It has lots of pictures for the meals at each restaurant, so the images make it really useful. You can read a restaurant’s menu before you leave home to learn names of foods in English with pictures, and have an easier time when you sit down to order!
4. Weather Pro
iTunes | Android
Cost: $0.99 – $2.99 USD
Will it be raining in London next week? Probably, but to be sure, check Weather Pro. Download this app and you’ll always be prepared for the weather—rain or shine.
5. TripWhistle Global SOS
TripWhistle Global SOS will provide you with emergency contact information in 196 countries. You can easily call local emergency numbers for the police, ambulance (for a health emergency) or firefighters. You can also easily share your current location.
Intro to Business English for Travelers
Finally, many travelers who learn English are going on business trips. If you’ll be using English in business situations, here are some quick tips to get you started.
Introduce Yourself Confidently in English
First, make sure you can introduce yourself confidently in English. (That link will show you how). Then, practice on the plane—introduce yourself to the people around you.
Do this as many times as you can: while waiting in the airport, at a train station, on a bus, at your hotel, etc. By practicing in low-stress situations, you’ll be prepared to introduce yourself to business partners.
Read Popular News Headlines
People love to talk about current events. The more you know about what is going on in the world, the easier it will be to start a conversation in English.
Whatever is happening in the news might also be related to your business. These are things you will want to be able to speak about clearly and confidently. If you’re looking for a recommendation, The Guardian is a fantastic site for international news.
Be Aware of Different Business Cultures
Before you travel to an English or non-English speaking country, research their business culture. Culture is different in every country, so you’ll want to be familiar with the basic do’s and don’ts.
For example, in some places of the world, you should greet men with a handshake but greet women with two or three kisses on the cheek, while in other cultures you might bow to greet someone. Even if they seem like small details, knowing these differences is very important during business travel.
Business English Resources
Here are some places online where you can further study English for business travel:
- Alison.com has a great, free class called Introduction to Business and Travel English Language Skills, which is perfect if you need more practice. It should take 1-2 hours and offers a certificate for successful completion.
- Business English Pod has a series of podcasts based on travel. This will be very helpful if you have a busy schedule. It mainly focuses on different situations you may encounter during your travels.
- TalkEnglish.com has a small section that will help with questions you may need to ask on business trips.
- The English language learning program FluentU also has videos about business vocabulary, news and practices.
Business English Communication
If you’re traveling for business, you want to focus on being a good communicator in English. To be a good communicator, remember to:
- Ask questions.
- Be an active listener and show the speaker you understand.
- Get clarification if you do not understand.
- Be very specific about what you mean to say, to avoid misunderstandings.
So, now you know how to get started with business English, where to find restaurants while traveling, and what the weather will be like. You also have tips for practicing your English skills, so your trip should be a success!