How to practise your English when travelling

Photo by Lynne Hand

by Christine Muir

When you go to another country with the intention of practicing your English speaking skills, there are some things you need to consider to get the most out of your stay. The following 5 tips should help you.

1. Check that the country you are visiting has English as its first language. This is not the same as having English as the common language. People in other countries will always appreciate you trying to speak to them in their own, native language.

2.  Be prepared to travel outside of the main cities. If you stay at a hotel that is part of an international chain, you may find that many of the staff employed there are from different countries. Some of these people may have  English speaking skills that are less than your own. You will also find that the receptionists at such hotels speak the major languages. This will not give you very much opportunity to practise your English.

However, if you are prepared to travel and stay outside of the main cities, for example, at a bed and breakfast (known in England as a B & B), or a small family run hotel, then it is unlikely that any of the staff or the hotel owners will speak your language. Or why not consider staying with a family rather than at a hotel? Many agencies can organise this for you. Doing this will give you the opportunity to experience how people in the country you are visiting really live, and will force you to speak English all the time.

3. Find a local café or restaurant and visit it regularly throughout your stay. Go there when it is not too busy, and the staff will have time to talk to you. You will probably find that the owners and staff will be happy to help you with your English as they get to know you.

4. Go to a sporting event. If you are going to the UK, why not try going to a rugby match? Do not make the mistake of going to a major International match as the tension and emotion of the occasion will be too great. Instead go to a match between two smaller rugby clubs. These are usually safe and cheap to go to, and tickets are easy to buy. Afterwards go to the rugby club for a drink. At the match talk to the person next to you, maybe ask them to explain the rules, or tell them where you are from. You may be surprised at how interested people are in you!

5.  Talk to the shop assistants when you buy something. Again don't go shopping during the busiest times. Go when the shops are quiet, and the assistants will have time to speak to you.

By visiting areas outside the main cities and tourist attractions, you will probably find that people have much more time to speak to you, and will be interested in finding out more about where you come from.