New York City Your Best Tool for Learning English

Now that the hustle and bustle is over from Christmas, Hannukah, and the New Year, you might be looking for something to do in January in New York City. Fret not, because there is PLENTY! If your New Year’s resolution is to get out more and not waste your winter months hibernating, here are just a few ideas that I’ve gathered to keep you active, even in one of the most blustery months of the year. Plus, as I’ve mentioned in previous posts, perfecting your English is only going to get easier if you interact with others outside of the classroom. This is the perfect time to meet new people and commiserate about the cold weather, the shorter days, or even the post-Christmas slump. Everyone is in agreement when it comes to those topics, so what better way to engage with others? You never know—you may even make new friends this way AND perfect your English speaking skills! Who knew New York City could be so educational?

  1. Restaurant Week: January 22nd – February 9th, 2018; multiple NYC locations

This is one of my favorite times of the year in New York City. You probably know by now that I’m very mindful of my money and spending, and it’s also no secret that the Big Apple can be pretty expensive. Eating out can be a luxury at times, and trying out new restaurants is an experiment in budgeting. Too often, I simply have to turn down a dinner party invite if a restaurant is too expensive for my window of spending; but during Restaurant Week, I can finally try out all those locations that I otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford. Select eateries throughout the city (over 300!) participate in this, in which they offer a prix-fixe menu including 3 courses with a discounted price. This way, people like me—people on a budget—can try out the food that makes their restaurant so highly regarded. Check out the lineup, and you’ll be sure to find a spot you’ve been dying to try! Just some advice: make a reservation and arrive on time (or even early), as this timing is VERY popular, and you don’t want to lose your table! You’ll be exposed to unique menu items, and given the packed locations, you’ll be mingling with many people, so this is a great way to incorporate your written AND spoken English—you’re always learning in NYC!

  1. Winter Jam in Central Park; January 28, 2018; 11:00 am – 3:00 pm

If you’re aching for some outdoor snowy activities and don’t have the means to travel to the slopes, look no further than Central Park! On this day only, the Bandshell area of the park is covered in artificial snow so that you can get in some snow time. If you’re brand new to skiing or even if you’re a seasoned snowboarder, this is a great time to check this out! If the slopes aren’t your cup of tea, you can also watch live ice sculpting, catch some ice bowling, and there’s even a market to get some light shopping in! This is a great time to bring friends and do something totally different for the day! Since this is also an activity in which you’ll be interacting with vendors and shopkeepers, you’ll be getting plenty of spoken English practice, and you may even meet some new friends!

  1. Post-Holiday Shopping; all over New York City

You might have noticed that shops and malls were packed throughout December as people did their Christmas and Hannukah shopping. In my experience, I generally try to avoid these areas for practically the whole month since it’s just too crowded for my taste! But come January, the crowds die down a bit, and for me, I feel like I can enjoy shopping again. Plus, I tend to get quite a few gift cards each year for Christmas, so January is a great time to spend them. Additionally, practically all the shopping areas host post-holiday sales that really make you want to take advantage of the great deals. This is a great time to check out the prime shopping areas (think Macy’s and practically anything on 5th Avenue) since the crowds are a bit lighter and the sales just make it worth it. Again, you’ll be interacting with lots of vendors and shop owners, so this is a great opportunity to put your spoken English skills to use.

Category : Stay in New York

If you find yourself in New York City for New Year’s Eve and looking for something iconic to do, here are just some of the best options—if you’re in the mood to go all out or looking for an activity a bit more mellow, there’s a little bit of everything here so you can start your 2018 on the right foot! Don’t forget to wish everyone a “Happy New Year” in your best practiced English!

new year event

Behind Christmas, New Year’s Eve is easily the most popular holiday in New York City. Times Square, the most-visited tourist attraction in the Big Apple, is home for this annual countdown to the new year. Thousands of people gather anywhere within the Broadway and Seventh Avenue neighborhood to get a sight and view of the sparkly ball that will drop at midnight to ring in 2018. While this is the typical activity on this day, there are so many other options to ring in the new year in New York City. Luckily, if you’re new to English, this is a great time of year to brush up on your social English skills, as many people will be out and about, so you won’t find any shortage of people to talk to! Here are some of the most popular things to do in New York City on December 31st and January 1st. Take your pick—you won’t be let down!

  1. Times Square; Manhattan

Yup, this is the location that everyone thinks about for New Year’s Eve. While it looks elegant and festive on television, I must warn you: you will be standing outside for hours on end, in the same spot, without bathrooms or food, and you don’t want to leave your spot because you WILL lose it. If this all sounds like something you still want to do, make sure you come early, well-dressed, stocked with food, and make sure you use the restroom before you leave. You’ll be surrounded with THOUSANDS of people, so this is a great time to practice your “Happy New Year!” openers!

  1. New Year’s Eve Night Bike Ride; Brooklyn to Manhattan

If you’re looking to stay away from the bar scene, this is a great solution for you! Grab your bike, as the ride will start at night in Brooklyn, and you and your fellow riders will travel over to Central Park to ring in 2018. When you arrive, everyone will be together for a fun party—and the bonus is that you got a great exercise out of it! This is a great way to meet new people, so brush up on your English “nice to meet you” and “what brings you to New York?” Just make sure you don’t drink too much so you and your bike can get home safely!

  1. Coney Island Polar Bear Club New Year’s Day Swim; Coney Island, Brooklyn

This might seem crazy since the thought of getting into the ocean in the middle of winter is a bit ridiculous, but this event is incredibly popular with the New York City locals. These (slightly crazy) partakers will disrobe their winter layers and plunge into the ocean for a quick shock to the system. If this doesn’t sound sane for you, plenty of people go to the location to just see for it themselves and cheer on the bold and brave. Head down to Coney Island in Brooklyn so you can brush up on your English social phrases, like: “These people are crazy!” or “I could never do something like this!” or even “Maybe I’ll do this next year—it kind of looks like fun! Why not?!”

  1. Keep the party at home!

If you’re anything like I am, the older I get, I find it’s more difficult to stay up all night to celebrate the holiday. Or sometimes I find myself turned off by all the crowds on December 31st. So if you’re like me, bring the party home! Invite your friends for a decked out New Year’s Eve celebration at your place—have everyone bring snacks and drinks, play the best hits of 2017, set up a trivia game for all the events that took place that year, and toast to a healthy and happy 2018! You might find that you have more fun this way, and chances are, you’ll probably save a lot more money this way, too! Plus, if any of your friends are practicing their English like you are, what a great opportunity to mingle with these people so you can all practice together!

Category : New York

The holidays are a wonderful time of the year—amazing food, reunions with loved ones, and appreciation for all the blessings you have in your life. If you’re travelling out of New York City for the holiday or if you find yourself staying in the Big Apple, here are few tips and tricks when it comes to making leaving (or staying!) as seamless and painless as possible. Brush up on your holiday wish phrases before you head out so your holiday spirit stays strong and positive!

holiday travel

You might remember from an earlier post a few months ago when I talked about ways to travel outside of New York City—it might be helpful to pull that article up again because during the whole month of December, you might find that it’s one of the biggest travel times of the year—much like summer when everyone is taking their vacations. Because of Christmas or Channukah, thousands of people that call New York City home will be travelling all over the world to reunite with their families to celebrate these respective holidays. If you’re staying in the city for these events, be mindful of where you go in the city during the busiest time of the year. If you’re one of the many that will be travelling elsewhere beyond New York City, here are few tips and tricks I’ve come up with during my time here to make it just a little bit easier—otherwise, you might find yourself frustrated or spending way more money than you should! Also, if you’re new to English, these tips should be helpful since as you know, this city is a melting pot of international people, so you won’t be alone! I’ll include a few universal phrases that will help you get through the hubbub of the season.

  1. Book ahead

If you’re travelling, it’s helpful to book your trip as far in advance as possible. If you’re flying by plane or train, you might find that flights around the Christmas holiday book up quickly, so if you wait until the last minute, not only will your options be minimalized significantly, but they’ll raise the prices exponentially simply because they can and they know you’ll pay it! Using sites like Orbitz and Trip Advisor will help you compare competitor prices so you know what the average rate is and how each company compares to one another. The longer you wait, typically the more you’ll pay. It’s also helpful to be mindful of traps—if you find a deal that’s almost too good to be true, pay attention to the fine print (here’s where your English reading skills will come in handy!), as they’ll take on tons of fees to more or less make their money back.

  1. Pick times typically not popular

Consider taking a red-eye flight (overnight or first thing in the morning) to avoid crowds and maybe even higher costs. Many people travel in the middle of the day or during typical rush hour times, so these are when your airports and train stations are going to be the most congested, which will no doubt contribute to your limited patience. If you’re okay with waking up in the middle of the night or travelling when the rest of the city is asleep, it might be worth it so your jolliness will stay upbeat. If you find yourself travelling during these less-than-popular times a day, you’ll find that you may not be interacting with too many people. But still make sure you practice your “Happy Holidays” with those that you do encounter to keep the spirit alive during the stressful travel times.

  1. Avoid the travel hotspots

If you’re staying in New York City for the holidays, you’re going to be in for a wonderful surprise. The city will feel oddly empty, and it will make you feel like you have the whole place to yourself! Now is the time to try out that store that’s always packed or enjoy the serenity of a less-populated Central Park in December. It will feel wonderful! Keep in mind, however, that thousands of people do in fact leave the city in some way or the other, so it would be wise to avoid neighborhoods around Penn Station or Grand Central. Avoid the Lincoln Tunnel and the FDR. If you’re in Queens, avoid the neighborhoods around La Guardia and JFK. These places will have incredibly congested traffic this time of year, so plan ahead and be sure to avoid these areas. Otherwise, the only English phrase you’ll be using is, “Excuse me.”

Category : New York

Ready to get into the Christmas spirit? Luckily for you, you’re in the one of the greatest cities in the world to get a taste of the most festive time of the year. Here are just a few options for you to explore while you’re getting to know the city AND the English language!

rockefeller center

Even if you’re unfamiliar with New York City or the English language, chances are you’re pretty well-versed on the Christmas holiday. What you MAY not know, however, is that New York City takes the Christmas very seriously, as the whole island tends to turn into one giant illumination spectacle. With festive lights and creative decoration displays at every corner, Christmas is impossible to miss in New York City. If you’re new to the Big Apple, here are a few of the most timeless Christmas traditions that New York City is known for. And if English is not your dominant language, there are a few adjustment tips within the piece to help you get adjusted to the time of the year, the language, AND the bright lights of the most amazing city in the world!

  1. The Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree; Rockefeller Center, 49th Street between 5th & 6th

If you know anything about New York City, this is probably one of the most well-known displays throughout the whole year. This year, thousands of New Yorkers (and tourists!) came to this exciting square to watch the Lighting Ceremony on November 29th. At 78-feet tall and weighing in at over 10 tons, the spruce tree is covered with over 45,000 lights, absolutely covering the area with festive and exciting light. The tree will stay up until January 7th, so you’ll have plenty of time to see it if you miss the first lighting. Beware that this is one of the most highly trafficked destinations in the city, so be mindful about when you go (maybe Saturday afternoon isn’t the BEST time to check it out). While you’re there, this is a great time to practice your social English since there won’t be anything to read or write. React to the beauty of the scenery with other viewers—try, “How beautiful, right?!” or “This reminds me that I should really start my Christmas shopping!” Others will laugh along and most likely agree with you!

  1. The Bryant Park Winter Village; Bryant Park, 40th Street between 5th & 6th

This is another one of those must-sees if you find yourself in New York City during the Christmas season. Their greatest claim to fame is their 17,000-square-foot ice skating rink, so don’t forget your skates (or you can rent a pair for $20)! The other great part about this location is that the square sets up seasonally relevant shops and kiosks so you can eat and drink your way through the park while you start your Christmas shopping—or just shop for yourself! Again, this is another hugely popular spot, so think carefully about when you visit. (I’d avoid the weekends if you can.) Since you’ll be interacting with shop and rink employees as you make your way through the park, this is a great way to practice your questions, your “please” and “thank you”s, and you might also notice that people are just generally a bit more friendly this time of year, so be sure to return the smiles!

  1. The Dyker Heights Christmas Lights; Dyker Heights, Brooklyn, 11th to 13th Avenues from 83rd to 86th Streets

If you feel like getting out of Manhattan, think about heading over to Brooklyn to check out this unique show of festive lights. In this neighborhood, houses for blocks go all out with their lights and Christmas decorations—some are even set to music! While this spot is also super popular with residents and tourists alike, be mindful about when you go if you want to avoid overcrowding. Again, this is a great opportunity to practice your social English since you’ll be travelling in a giant pack of other spectators. Everyone will be willing to participate in your mutual awe!

  1. SantaCon; Manhattan, Saturday, December 9th, 2017

Santa Suit 5K; Prospect Park, Brooklyn, Sunday, December 10th, 2017

These two occasions are incredibly popular for New Yorkers. For SantaCon, it’s an excuse to dress up as Santa Claus and day-drink—participating bars throughout Manhattan will offer bar specials for anyone part of the group, so if you’re looking for more of a social gathering this season, this is it for you! Again, this is a perfect time to practice your social English. If you’re looking to get use out of your Santa outfit but not interested in the day-drinking part, they have a 5K throughout Prospect Park in Brooklyn. Or maybe you want to do both—nothing better than curing a hangover than with a solid 3.2 mile run!

Category : How to Learn