Where Are We Going Today, Sir? : ESP for Taxi Drivers

Where Are We Going Today, Sir?
ESP for Taxi Drivers

Martin Hendrikx
by Martin Hendrikx 30,048 views

Teaching English for specific purposes differs from teaching ESL in many ways, however the most significant is that your students typically will have a basic working knowledge of the English language.

People who seek lessons for specific purposes need to learn English in order to communicate with people in their field. It can sometimes be a difficult task; however this is does not need to be the case. There are always three key factors you will need to consider, which include, specific sets of vocabulary, terms and phrases they will use in their field as well as the most important tool that you as a teacher can use, namely, role playing exercises.

In order to teach taxi drivers, there are several key sets of vocabulary which must be taught, which include talking about time (ETA for the trip), prices, weather, days of the week, ordinal numbers and months, as well as numbers. These will be easy for teachers to teach since there are many different lists of words in these categories which are easily accessible online.

One of the most challenging aspects of being a taxi driver will be to make small talk with their fares. Some phrases that are useful include, talking about nationalities, where people are going, and why they are going there, and general information about the place where they do business. For the following examples, we will assume that the taxi driver, your student, is working in New York City and that his/her fare is a tourist.

  1. I am from Istanbul; where do you come from?
  2. Have you been to see any of the local sights like the Empire State Building yet?
  3. The trip may take a bit longer than expected because we will be stuck in rush hour traffic.
  4. There is so much to do here, especially in the downtown area.
  5. I really recommend taking a day to walk through central park and the surrounding areas. There is a lot to do and many things to see.

Taxi drivers are often expected to know a lot about the city in which they work and tourists as well as local fares will often ask the taxi drivers for recommendations. For this reason, it is important that you teach your students about the local sites, as well as encourage them to make small talk with their customers to learn about the places where they are going. This is an ideal time to use role playing. You can do this by pretending your student is taking you to a local restaurant which he did not previously know. Have your student ask you questions about the restaurant such as the type of food, what the prices are like, and what there is to do in the surrounding areas. This is important because there will be many times where customers will ask the taxi driver to take them to the nearest hospital, Italian (or any other type) restaurant, bus station, museum, etc… These exercises will allow them to learn the right types of questions to ask and encourage them to learn the city. It will also help them to practice their English and expand their vocabulary.

When your student has finished taking their fare, the next big step is to talk about arriving at the destination. Some of these phrases may come in handy.

  1. We will be there in 5 minutes. (this helps the customer prepare themselves to onboard the taxi and pay)
  2. If the customer asks to stop at a specific place, your student could say one of the following.
    1. No problem.
    2. I am sorry, I cannot stop here, but I can stop half a block up.
  3. Your fare is 32 dollars and 50 cents. Here is your receipt.
  4. If the passenger asks you to wait and keep the meter running, some possible responses are:
    1. Sure, I will be here.
    2. I will have to park across the street.
    3. I am sorry but I cannot wait here, however I can give you my number if you would like to call me to come get you.
    4. I cannot wait here; would you mind getting another cab?

There are many other useful phrases that the taxi drivers will need to know and may come in handy. You can practice these with the students in the role playing exercises that were mentioned earlier. Some of the many useful phrases that taxi drivers will need to know are welcoming, understanding the passenger, traffic conditions, fare and fees, goodbyes, special requests, and to tell a customer where there is no service.

Understanding the Passenger

  1. Please speak more slowly.
  2. Do you know the address of the restaurant?
  3. Sorry, I do not understand.
  4. Would you mind repeating that please?

Traffic conditions

  1. There is a traffic jam.
  2. Traffic is horrible right now; you may want to walk the next two blocks.
  3. I think we are stuck because of the pileup on the freeway
  4. I will have to take 5th street to avoid the traffic.

Fare and fees

  1. The fare is 15 dollars.
  2. Thank you for the tip.
  3. Do you have smaller bills?
  4. If you want me to go on the toll road, you will need to pay the fee.
  5. I do not have any change for a hundred.


  1. Watch your step when you get out.
  2. Do not forget your bags.
  3. It has been nice talking to you.
  4. I hope you enjoy your stay.
  5. If you need a taxi, feel free to call me anytime. Here is my number.
  6. Watch out for cars when you get out.

No service

  1. I am sorry, that is out of my service area, but I do know taxis that can go there.
  2. If I go all the way out there, the price would double since I would come back empty.
  3. Sorry, I am not registered to go to the airport.
  4. My car needs some servicing, sorry.
  5. I can call another cab company for you if you would like.

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