New York City Your Best Tool for Learning English

New York City is of course full of plenty of things to do and see, but it can be tricky to muster the energy or the motivation in February when the weather is unpredictable, frigid, and often quite unbearable. Plus, the comfort and coziness of your home can be convincing enough to sway you to stay in and catch up on your Netflix shows—but fight the urge! Luckily, even in the dreary month of February in the middle of winter, there are still plenty of ways to spend your time and enjoy the sights of New York City. Plus, if you’re learning English, these activities are also great ways to practice your vocabulary and put your social and verbal skills to good use. So put on your heaviest winter jacket, check the weather forecast, and get out there!

valentines day

  1. Super Bowl—Sunday, February 4

This is one of my favorite times of the year! As an avid football fan, I look forward to this day for months! In an earlier post, I introduced you to the football teams based in New York City—this game is the championship between the two best teams of the season, so this game is basically for all the marbles! To celebrate, people come together to cheer on their favorite team and eat tons of food. If you feel like celebrating the game with hundreds of other football fans in New York City, make sure you plan ahead—bars fill up quickly! Make sure your English football terms are brushed off before heading out: “Touchdown!,” “Go team go!,” and “First down!” are all phrases you’ll overhear, so get ready!

  1. Mardi Gras—Tuesday, February 13

If you’ve learned anything about New York City by now, you know that New York City does everything big. Mardi Gras is no exception! This occasion is widely celebrated in Louisiana, but of course, New York City celebrates the day just as colorfully. Mardi Gras, which is French for “Fat Tuesday,” is a time when people feast and enjoy amazing jazz music before Lent. Since the origin of this holiday takes place in the New Orleans area, you’ll notice people replicate the traditions of this region: people stuff themselves with BBQ, dress in purple and gold beads, and blast funk, blues, R&B, and jazz. If you feel inclined to join the party, this is a great way to practice your social English skills. Grab a group of friends and hit your favorite jazz club and brush up on some BB King lyrics!

  1. Valentine’s Day—Wednesday, February 14

Chances are you’re already familiar with this holiday. You’ll discover that you’re going to be surrounded by all things romantic: restaurants will offer sweetheart specials, chocolate boutiques will feature discounted packages for those in love, and you’ll also probably start to notice many more jeweler advertisements. I find that if you’re in a relationship or single, any of these kinds of destinations are going to be hard to get into this time of year. If you’re looking to practice your English Valentine’s Day vocabulary, I recommend picking up a pack of candy hearts that have the sayings on them—they’ll tell you exactly how to communicate with your special someone!

  1. Chinese New Year Parade—Sunday, February 25

Head to Chinatown to celebrate the Lunar New Year! The parade starts at 1 pm, but be sure to get there early so you can secure a great spot—it covers areas from Mott Street to Canal Street then continues to East Broadway and Sara Roosevelt Park. Also, be sure to come hungry because Chinese restaurants from all over the city come to the parade and serve some of their best dishes. You’ll get to see traditional Chinese dances, traditions, and dress. Even if you’re new to English, this is a great time to do some quick research on Chinese phrases so you can mingle with the crowd—and you never know: you might help someone else that may be new to English!

Even if you’re still getting your grasp on the English language, these activities will still allow you to enjoy New York City in the coldest months of the year. February is a great time to take advantage of your English practice, so be sure you don’t become a hermit—get out there and practice!

Category : NYC Today

New York City, if you haven’t learned so by now, has one of the highest rates of homelessness in the country. Small and family-owned businesses struggle on a daily basis to get by while in competition with more powerful big-box retailers. Talented performers, like singers, actors, and musicians, often barely scrape by while trying to pursue their dreams in this great yet competitive city. The winters in New York City are often the most difficult time of the year for these individuals, for the harsh temperatures create higher electric bills, slowed transportation, and unlivable conditions. If you have spare time, money, or goods that might help these struggling people, here are a few ways you can volunteer and give back. Plus, these organizations will help you with your English skills, as human interaction is at the very core of these causes. Not only will you get your language practice, but you’ll be helping to make someone else’s day as well.


  1. DEED app

If you’re not sure where to start, consider downloading this app to help you brainstorm. To start, all you need to do is add in your location (your zip code or borough), and all the local charities and volunteer opportunities will pop up in your feed, allowing you to choose what stands out to you the most. You can organize your options by location, date, or kind of service. This is the best way to get started and to get you motivated; once you volunteer the first time, you’ll want to keep doing it, guaranteed. Plus, once you’re out there with one group, you can share your information with others, which will not only exercise your English social skills, but you’ll hear about other volunteer and non-profit groups for future community outreach days.

  1. NYC Service

This is another digital option to have customized volunteer options curated for you. Whether it’s helping the environment with planting trees in the park or helping young children with reading, writing, or arithmetic, you’ll have plenty of choices when it comes to helping others. Plus, think about this: if you’re brushing up on your English, consider helping others with their English. By practicing and learning together, you both could help each other strengthen your skills. Pretty cool, right??

  1. Ellen’s Stardust Diner, Times Square

Nope, you’re not mistaken—I meant to include this! When I first moved to New York City, this restaurant was one of my first must-see places. With its location so close to Broadway’s biggest theatres, this diner employs performance art hopefuls. Every couple of minutes, a server that has hopes of making it to Broadway will grab a microphone and start singing and dancing to classic and popular showtunes for everyone’s entertainment. Try singing along to practice your English—you might be surprised how easy it is to remember English words when they’re set to music! While performing, the manager will pass around a bucket that is meant to collect cash tips and donations, designed to help these hopefuls with their singing, acting, and dancing lessons. By visiting this destination, not only will you be fed and entertained, but you can walk away with the enormous feeling of helping each hopeful performer get one step closer to their dreams.

  1. Donate to thrift shops

There are endless destinations in New York City that accept donations. Places like the Salvation Army, Goodwill, and general thrift stores are always looking for and happy to accept used clothing, furniture, toys, home goods, or even books that you may not use or need anymore. As I mentioned before, there are thousands of people and families in New York City that can barely get by, so these individuals rely on the donations and goodwill of others to aid them in their daily lives. If you’re looking to give back but may be short on time or services, consider sifting through your closets or cabinets, and gather all the items that are just taking up space. By donating them to these centers, not only will you free space in your living area, but even better, you’ll know your things will help someone else’s life. Get used to hearing the English phrase, “Thank you” quite a bit as you’re giving back—it’ll make you feel wonderful.

Category : How to Learn

If you guys know anything about me by now, it’s that I’m always talking about NOT hibernating and staying indoors. We live in the greatest city in the world (in my opinion!), so why stay inside and miss all the spectacular things this city has to offer? But I’ll be honest with you. This time of year, it really is very easy (and tempting) to stay inside and snuggle up with cozy blankets and slippers and just relax with hot cocoa and Netflix rather than facing the brutal elements outside. Between the snow and cold temperatures and wind, sometimes all I need to do is look out the window to convince me to stay inside. So, I say, go ahead, and give into this desire every once in a while! I’ve come up with some creative ideas on what to do indoors if you’re planning some hibernation time this January. And of course, each idea has some creative ways you can keep your English practice fresh and in-use.

winter in new-york

  1. Netflix – OF COURSE!

I honestly have no idea how I got through life without Netflix—without commercials, I can catch up on my shows, rewatch some of my favorites, or even start ones that I never would have considered before—it’s just too easy! With my friends and family always telling me, “You would LOVE this show,” I find that I’m always adding more to my queue—not a bad problem to have! If you remember in my movie post from a few months ago, watching movies and television shows in English is a really fun (and somewhat mindless) way to “practice” your English. Because your full attention isn’t on “learning” or “practicing” the language, you might find that it’s a lot easier to pick up on sayings, slang, or even common inside jokes. For example, I never watched “Friends” when it was still on television. But now that it’s over and they put the whole series up on Netflix, I easily binged all ten seasons, and then I finally understood all the jokes that people would make about the show when before they all went over my head!

  1. Baking and cooking

This is something that I wish I would do more often to be honest with you. I’ve never been too skilled in the kitchen—I’m not very patient, and I never really had any interest in learning how to do anything besides making pasta and toast. (Hey, I’ve made it this far in my adulthood—I’ll be fine!) But when the weather is miserable and you want to learn to make a new dish, January is the time to do it. Consider a dish using ingredients that you already have—there are websites where you put in what you have, and they’ll spit out a variety of options that you can make with those items. Talk about a fun challenge! Or maybe do the opposite: find a recipe that looks and sounds delectable, gather the ingredients at your local market or grocery store, then challenge yourself to make it! Not only will you appreciate the time indoors, but you’ll be able to say you pulled off a brand new dish! And of course, this is great practice for your English reading. Between the measurements, instructions, and recipe shopping, you’ll be a pro any time you need to make another meal! Plus, your friends/roommates will love reaping the benefits of your new hobby!

  1. Host a game night

If you have roommates or friends in the neighborhood (so they don’t have to travel far to get to you), consider organizing a game night at your place. Have everyone either make or bring a dish for everyone to enjoy (like chips and dip, hot cocoa mix, or even wine if you’re looking for more of an “adult” game night), then pull out all of the best board or card games you have. Games like Pictionary and Charades are great for large parties, and it’ll be so much fun watching your friends trying to act out or draw their favorite movies or television shows. When I was in college, my roommates and I would host a game night and play Rummy until the sun came up. It was a great way to bring everyone together for laughs—and it was convenient since we saved money and avoided the harsh weather. For your English practice, these nights are great for your social speaking skills, and honestly, your vocabulary! If you’re playing Pictionary, it’s almost like using flashcards! Perfect!

Category : New York

I didn’t realize how fun a speakeasy could be until I actually experienced my first one. When you think about it, nowadays, a speakeasy is just basically a hidden bar. That’s it. During the Prohibition era when drinking wasn’t legal, these were the places that people could get in to drink and stay a bit further away from the law. But as I said, since drinking IS legal now, there kind of really isn’t a point to these spots other than they’re just a ton of fun. Perhaps part of the fun comes with the idea that you feel you’re in a secret club or like you’re even tucked away from the rest of the world, which can be a comforting feeling during the coldest days of the year.


When I went to my first speakeasy, we walked into a fast food restaurant and told someone at the front color a password. They then led us through the back into a secret door, and lo and behold, a full bar! It was SO cool! For the rest of the night, we just kept talking about the place with other bar-goers just like us, discussing our drinks, how long it took us to figure out how to get in, and how exclusive we felt. If you feel like checking some out, I’ve come up with a list for you to try out so you can also chat about the experience with everyone else, exercising your English skills AND meeting new people all at the same time!

  1. Attaboy, 134 Eldridge Street, Lower East Side

Though I haven’t been to this location just yet, I included this spot at the top of my list because I’m DYING to try this one out! Part of reason I want to give it a whirl is because they don’t even have drink menus—all you do is tell the bartender what your favorite liquor or mixer is, and they concoct something specifically unique just for you! I’ve also been told that you have to pay very close attention to the location, as if you’re not careful, you’ll miss it completely—look for a giant neon “A” in the window—there’s your entrance! Be sure to practice words like, “gin,” “sour mix,” and “That’s delicious!” so you can communicate well with the bartenders.

  1. The Back Room, 102 Norfolk Street, Lower East Side

I chose to include this one because it’s actually one of the original speakeasies during the Prohibition, so this location is going to give you as an authentic experience as you can get in New York City—they even use the same entrance as they did over 80 years ago! They even serve you your drinks in teacups and bottles in paper bags—talk about staying true! When you get there, look for a sign that says, “Lower Easy Side Toy Company,” which will then lead down a flight of stairs to the secret entrance. Trust me, you’ll get your English skills tested here when looking for directions and all these secret signs!

  1. Auction House, 300 East 89th Street, Upper East Side

I’m including this one because not only is it in my neighborhood, but what I like about it is that it’s great for a more intimate setting. I came here once with someone that I was dating, and we realized we liked it so much because it was specifically set up for couples. We didn’t have to worry about excessive partiers, either, since they only let in people over the age of 25. It was a nice and relaxing atmosphere, and given the tucked away nature of the bar, we enjoyed our privacy and time alone. This is the perfect time to practice your English sweet-nothings with your special loved one.

  1. Middle Branch, 154 East 33rd Street, Murray Hill

I’m including this location for selfish reasons—my office is located in this neighborhood, so it’s a reminder (for myself!) to check this place out one day after work! Pay attention to the location, as the location is an unmarked townhouse—once there, head down the stairs where you can find the bouncer. When you get inside, you’ll see how surprisingly large it is, as it’s two stories! The music is reminiscent of the Prohibition era, as they have live jazz, taking you back in time and giving you a breath of fresh air from current heart-pounding music of our time. It’s intimate despite its space, so you’ll be able to practice your English socializing skills easily, so bring your friends for a fun and different Happy Hour!

Category : How to Learn