New York City Your Best Tool for Learning English

I’m sure by now you’re pretty fluent with all sorts of social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, SnapChat, and maybe even Pinterest. If you don’t normally use these applications, I have a few suggestions for you that might elevate not only your social media presence, but your familiarity with the city as well as your English-speaking skills.

If you’re not already familiar with hashtags, I recommend looking into some of the ones below, as you might get some more followers, but it’s also a way to check out the New York City skyline from someone else’s perspective or discover a new hotspot that you had no idea even existed. Plus, you’ll soon discover multiple accounts that are dedicated to New York City scenery alone, so once you start following these accounts, you’ll be exposed to so many fantastic images and sights. It’s like a constant reminder that you’re a part of the magical city that is The Big Apple.

Here are a few great hashtag examples that will get your accounts attention as well as introduce you to other passionate New Yorkers. Don’t forget to practice your English phrases by trying out unique hashtags and interacting with other users—talking about New York City is a favorite topic by ALL these users!

#nyc, #newyorkcity, #Newyork, #thebigapple

This is a great way to start out if you’re new to creating a social media presence. You’ll find there are thousands upon thousands of posts that use this hashtag, so it’s easy to become lost within this delineation. But again, if you’re new to this way of interacting with other English speakers, it’s a perfect opening to engage conversation with them and share your experiences with them.

Hashtags by Borough

#manhattan, #brooklyn, #queens, #thebronx, #statenisland

Once you’ve gotten used to sharing images and experiences with other New York City users, you can specify your posts more with the specific borough that you might be in at that moment. This way you can check out the other posts that others have shared from that same location. Again, this is the perfect way to engage with others that share your views and appreciation for stunning city scenery. For me, I was very unfamiliar with Brooklyn, and heading to this foreign borough was on my to-do list. Before I went for a visit, I scooped out all the #Brooklyn hashtags to get an idea of where I wanted to visit. Once I did this, I knew exactly where and what I wanted to visit first.

Hashtags by Neighborhood

#midtown, #lowereastside, #uws, #williamsburg

When I first moved to NYC, I lived in East Harlem, and to learn about my neighborhood, I would search hashtags that said, “#EastHarlem.” I used these images to learn not only more about my region, but I discovered great new restaurants, stunning hidden pockets of entertainment, and I even discovered a fantastic thrift store that I never would have found without the hashtag! If you and your friends are looking to explore a new neighborhood, see what you find when you look one up via a hashtag, and don’t hesitate to send the users messages if you have questions about their post! Don’t forget that the sole purpose of social media is to be SOCIAL! And again, what better way to practice your English?!

Hashtags by Theme

#igersofnyc, #visualsofny, #seeyourcity

This is another fantastic way to learn about New York City treasures. Once you’ve established your way around your social media platforms and are comfortable with using your hashtags, try you wings at some more complex hashtags, like the ones above. These are some examples of hashtags that very popular users utilize in their accounts, so it would be a great idea to test them out on your own. Your posts will be amongst others that thousands of others follow, so not only will you be sure to gain followers in that way, but you’ll discover so many great destinations in New York City that you never even knew existed.

Also, don’t forget to reach out to these other users for ideas or inspiration or even advice! They’ll be more than willing to give you directions, advice, or insight into their post, the destination, or even life in the city in general. There’s no better way to gain guidance than from another fellow New Yorker—don’t forget that at heart, we’re all in love with the same city!

Category : How to Learn

As I’ve mentioned before in a previous post, one of the greatest things about New York City is the wide range of multiple cultures nestled within the city limits. By now you’ve probably encountered “Little” neighborhoods in the Big Apple, and depending on your home country, you might find yourself drawn to some of these areas, as they might be the “host” neighborhood of your homeland! I’ve chosen a few of these neighborhoods to give you an idea of what you can expect from each of these areas, or “micro-neighborhoods.”

1. Koreatown in Midtown Manhattan

I chose to introduce this one first, as its location is in an easily accessible area and close to the heart of New York City: Times Square. In fact, the area that Koreatown lies in is also known as Greeley Square, so this might help if you’re having difficulties finding it. Its location on 32nd Street (also known as Korea Way) between 5th and 6th Avenues offers great exposure to the Empire State Building, Penn Station, Madison Square Garden, and the Garment District.

If Korea is your homeland, you might find coming to this area will remind you of home with lots of restaurants, bakeries, bookstores, and nightclubs that healthily balance Korean life and New York City life. This neighborhood primarily has their signage in Korean, so this would be a perfect time to challenge your English-speaking skills among others with your same or similar heritage.

2. Little Italy in Lower Manhattan

I also chose this one because it’s a cultural hotspot—even if you’re not too familiar with New York City just yet, you might be familiar with the cultural references to this area, like the Mafia. While the neighborhood has since become a much safer place to be, Little Italy is the proud home to outstanding eateries and restaurants that offer the best Italian food that New York City has to offer.

You can safely assume that many inhabitants of this neighborhood speak Italian, but you can also expect many English speakers to be there as well, so this is another great and interesting way to test out your English amongst others that may not consider English as their native language!

3. Chinatown in Lower Manhattan

This is another really exciting location, as it’s the largest enclave of Chinese people in the Western Hemisphere! Plus, if you’re not in Manhattan, there are other Chinatowns in Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, and Staten Island, so you have lots of options if you’re eager for some Chinese culture—and some of the best dumplings you’ll ever have!

If you find yourself in the Manhattan location, however, I must insist that you make your way to Mott Street because one of the coolest spots is on this street—the thing that makes it so incredible is the streetscape and the scenery. If China is your homeland, you might recognize some of the characteristics of this neighborhood, as endless restaurants, shops, and theatres line the streets. Immerse yourself in this culture within a culture and pull out some of your English skills, and you might find yourself as a resource for translation!

4. Little Greece in Astoria, Queens

This is another favorite of mine—one of my great friends lives in Astoria and insisted that I come her way to try out all the best Greek foods that New York City has to offer. This area is largely influenced by Greek culture due to a large Greek migration in the 1960s, and the lasting effect has inspired tremendous and incredible restaurants and eateries.

Little Greece is still mainly composed of Greek inhabitants, but over the years other cultures have called this area home, so you might discover a wide range of other languages spoken here, so it’s almost another small melting pot—so you know that means it’s another opportunity to test out your English skills!

5. Spanish (East) Harlem in Upper Manhattan

I’m a bit biased with this one since I used to live here, but this is an incredible and up-and-coming area for some of the best Spanish food you’ll ever try. Plus, there are some pretty incredible museums and churches to visit if you’re craving some cultural perspectives on the area.

While I lived in this neighborhood, I noticed many shops had their signage in both Spanish and English, so come prepared to use your best English skills while in “El Barrio” (“The Neighborhood”).

Category : Stay in New York

One of the coolest part of being in New York City is knowing that your city is the subject of location for so many cultural references in television. While some shows or movies inaccurately depict New York City, I’m here to give you some of these pop culture staples that portrayed New York City properly so you can rely on these references when it comes to applying your English skills publicly!

1. Girls on HBO

Even if you’re not female, you might find this show pretty relatable as the overall theme of the program is to share the universal struggle of settling in not only in New York City, but as an adult trying to find your “place.” The show is filmed in New York City, so you can trust their references, their lingo and jargon, and you can even get a pretty accurate idea of socializing and nightlife. Watch a few episodes and you might learn a few phrases in English that you hadn’t come across yet, and you might find yourself attracted to Brooklyn!

2. 30 Rock on NBC

I’m biased with this one, as this is one of my favorite shows, EVER, even before I moved to New York City. Once I got here, however, I decided to rewatch the series and realized that Tina Fey’s portrayal of NYC was a beautiful homage to how the city really is. She talks about how interesting subway rides can be, how she adores the dichotomy of loving the city even though it sometimes chews her up and spits her out, and the footage is 100% taken in New York City instead of just using a green screen or a backdrop to make it LOOK like the city. Bonus: it will make you laugh from your gut!

3. Law & Order: SVU (Special Victims Unit)

This show has been on for almost 20 seasons, so this should be easy to catch as they’re always showing reruns. If you like criminal and thrilling shows, this should be right up your alley. It shouldn’t be a secret that New York City can be a dangerous place to live in, and this show does highlight that, so it’s important to keep in mind that it’s only highlighting it, not necessarily claiming that ALL of NYC is dangerous—keep that in mind! But the show is a peek into the world of the criminal justice system, and NYC is always one of the returning characters. Pay attention to the locations, the landmarks, and the discussions around neighborhoods. You might be surprised at how many you recognize yourself and how easily some English phrases you now use!

On the same token, here are a few shows that are “located” in New York City but don’t really accurately portray living in New York City. Either their apartments are ridiculously sized, or the character’s spending styles don’t match up with their careers—regardless of what it is, if you happen to catch these shows, take their depiction of New York City with a very large grain of salt.

1. Friends—The characters are rarely depicted at work, seem to have endless disposable income, and are always hanging around together. Not to mention, their apartments are insanely huge for New York City! It’s still a great show, but don’t take their depiction of NYC to heart.

2. Sex and the City—This is another unrealistic depiction of city living. Again, the size of the apartments do not match by scale to the characters’ occupations. Also, their spending habits and the way they only take cabs would make even the wealthiest New Yorker a bit worried for their wallet.

3. Gossip Girl—While this is a campy teen show, the program tries very hard to make NYC a main character of the show, but it doesn’t work. The characters are spoiled high school students that use and abuse their parents’ money and social standings, so as long as you keep this in mind while watching the show, you’ll know now to accept their main character as New York City.

4. How I Met Your Mother—While this is one of my favorite shows, I now understand that the show’s portrayal of New York City is also incorrect. Yet again, the characters’ apartments are way too large compared to their respectable occupations, and as a viewer, you rarely see them at work. This show will definitely draw you in and make you laugh, but don’t take their New York City to heart.

Category : How to Learn

Learning English in a new city can be a big enough hurdle as it is, and when you add in the extra obstacle of cultural sayings and catchphrases, it can be overwhelming. Slang and verbal shortcuts are constantly changing due to cultural influences like music and television, so it can be hard to keep up, even for us native New Yorkers!

“The City”

As I’ve mentioned before in previous posts, New York City has five boroughs: Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, and Staten Island. Typically speaking, it would be safe to assume that when someone says “The City,” they mean New York City as a whole, right? You’re actually most likely wrong! You’ll find that when someone says “The City,” it more than often generically refers to Manhattan. Because the majority of major business and corporations as well as cultural sites are located in Manhattan, this borough tends to become the default location for generic conversation about New York City. You might also find that if someone is referencing a borough other than Manhattan, they’re more than likely to use the specific name of the borough. In short, if you hear someone use “The City” in a generic way during a conversation, remember to default their reference to Manhattan, and you’ll be just fine!

“In a New York Minute”

You might have noticed by now that New Yorkers move fast, and it might seem like they’re always in a hurry. In New York City, everything is FAST. This expression is used all over the country to reference anything that takes place in an instant or immediately. For example, pretend your favorite musician is coming to Madison Square Garden soon. To express how quickly you’d purchase tickets to the show, you might say, “If my favorite band is really coming to Madison Square Garden, I’d buy tickets in a New York minute!”

“Only in New York City!”

You might hear this quite often actually, as New Yorkers embrace how diverse and exciting their city is. There’s always something happening, and it might seem like there’s never a dull moment here. The first time I caught myself saying this was when I was at the subway platform waiting for my train when I noticed a huge rat just gliding along the ground in front of the platform edge, and no one was reacting! Since this was the first rat that I’d seen since moving to New York, I was startled, but then I realized that the rest of New York City has probably seen hundreds of rats at this point, so they were completely numb to this. I whispered to myself, “Only in New York City!”


One of the biggest adjustments I had to make upon moving to New York City was not having a beautiful grocery store with wide aisles and lots of variety when it came to brands and price. While there are indeed stunning grocery stores in the city, most of these places are extremely high-priced and cater to those with steep expendable incomes. Additionally, transferring your purchases from the store to your home is something else to consider for those of us that don’t have cars. So, for most of us, we tend to do our grocery shopping at units we call “bodegas.” These are usually corner shops that have your basics, like breads and cheeses, dry pastas, and coffee, as well as regular household products like detergent and shampoo. The aisles are narrow and cramped, and you have to limit your purchases, as there’s obviously no room for shopping carts. I recommend doing the bulk of your shopping here, as I’ve found the prices to be reasonable. For fresh products, like fruits and vegetables, street carts always have the best supply of all your needs, and they’re all so fresh and cheap!

“Excuse Me”

I’ve realized this is probably the phrase I use most often on a daily basis. Whether you’re saying it as a way to politely ask people to move just a bit for you or whether you say it because you’ve accidentally bumped into someone due to tight quarters, you might find yourself saying this a lot more often than you’d imagine. New York City is a city where people are quite close to one another, either in their living spaces, on the subway, or even in their office environment, so if you’re not used to giving up a bit of your personal space yet, you will very soon. I mean, hey—Only in New York City!

Category : New York