As global tourism increases, the need for taxi drivers to speak English is especially important.
After leaving the airport, taxi drivers are the next people that tourists meet in order to get them to the hotel. Taxi drivers don’t merely drive tourists to the hotel, they are the first interaction people have with the country, offer suggestions on places to see and restaurants to eat at, and so much more! Teaching taxi drivers in an English for specific purposes class should focus on these key principles.
What Is Essential for Taxi Drivers’ Instruction
Greetings & Goodbyes
A large part of a taxi cab drivers’ training should include proper ways of greeting people who enter the cab. Especially for beginning-level students, spend time reviewing the polite ways of saying hello and ways to address men and women. Include formal terms such as sir, ma’am, miss, and ways to say thank you and good bye when passengers exit the cab. In class, take turns greeting one another as though they were passengers in the cab to make students feel comfortable with these greetings.
One of the most fundamental skills to teach students who are taxi drivers is numbers. Taxi drivers will need numbers to understand addresses, fees, make change, and communicate with the passengers. Try these activities for working with numbers.
To practice reading addresses, teach students the different ways to say address number. For example 254 Main St. could be pronounced “two-five-four” or “two fifty-four” or “two hundred fifty-four.” For an engaging activity, create bingo boards using an online bingo board generator with a variety of 2, 3, and 4 digit numbers. Call out numbers using various pronunciations as listed above to practice students’ listening skills. Then, rotate and let one of the students be the caller to practice producing numbers. Another engaging activity is to pair students together and have one student at the board. Write a variety of numbers all over the board; make some of them years, some prices, some addresses etc... Have the other student from the pair standing near you a few feet away. Have a basket of slips of paper with the numbers from the board written on each individual piece. Let the student standing near you draw one out and have him or her call out the number to the student at the board. The pair to correctly circle the most numbers in 30 seconds wins!
Another important task for taxi drivers to learn is handling money in English. Practicing numbers as stated above will be helpful practice in addition to explaining the denominations of money in English. Practice exchanging fake money with each other to practice numbers with money.
Recommendations for Tourists
Many people often ask taxi drivers to give recommendations for good local places to eat or must-see historical sites. Ask your students to think of some of these places in their area and how the best way would be to describe them. If you have a class of students from the same location, have them practice describing a favorite local place to another student and have their partner guess which place they’re describing. If your students don’t know the same areas, take turns describing famous places known throughout the world .
Tourists like to feel comfortable and many will want to make small talk with the taxi driver. Students should be prepared to have topics of conversation on hand to discuss with their passengers. A good way to practice this is to pair students up for a few minutes at the beginning or end of each class and let them discuss a “conversation starter” together for 5-10 minutes. Good topics to explore with them are culture, local history, family life, and sports. Encourage students to have a few topics that they feel very comfortable talking about already prepared in their mind so that they will feel confident with the vocabulary and their fluency will come more easily.
Once tourists leave a cab, they will often ask for directions for how to get to their next destination. A taxi driver will need to know how to give effective directions. If you teach in a safe neighborhood with many places to see in a close distance, send students out with a piece of paper and have them find a local restaurant, shop, or site of their choice; it should be about 3 minutes away from the school. When they get to the destination, they should copy down the directions to get from the school to their destination, making sure to note down helpful landmarks. When all of the students return, have them pair up and verbally give each other the directions. Then, send the students out to evaluate how good the directions were. If you think students may get lost, keep them in pairs the entire time.
A taxi cab ride is easy to simulate! Arrange four chairs in rows of two, and have students take turns being the taxi driver and passenger. Start from the pick up of hailing the taxi, and let students run all the way through from giving the address, exchanging small talk, giving advice, collecting payment to giving directions on foot. Ways to vary the simulation include:
- multiple passengers
- a passenger who doesn’t have a destination in mind
- passengers who speak very little English (and they don’t speak the driver’s native language),
- passengers who don’t have enough money to pay
- a passenger who is visiting this city for the first time
- a passenger who has the incorrect address (but doesn’t know it yet)
Simulations will be the most authentic practice for students, allowing them the opportunity to practice vocabulary, grammatical structures, and other necessary language in their job. For beginning students, give them more of a structured script to follow until they feel comfortable. For advanced students, give them more complex and detailed scenarios to give them a challenge.
Taxi drivers have a big responsibility to understand tourists and get them to where they need to be. When teaching this group of students, use the above methods to help them have great vocabulary, fluency, and comprehension!
How would you teach comprehension to taxi drivers?
What are other essentials they need to know?