Reviewing functional language for traveling

Kim Bradford-Watts, Kyoto Women’s University, Kyoto University


Quick guide

  • Key words:travel abroad preparation, review of travel English
  • Learner English level:False beginner and above
  • Learner maturity level:Adult
  • Preparation time:30 minutes
  • Activity time: One hour
  • Materials:Themed board spaces (see “Preparation”), a number of different magnets (I use cheap ones with numbers written on them), and a 1-yen coin


Some false beginner learners in a mixed-level company class I taught some years ago were nervous about using English on an upcoming trip to Hawaii. They had a translator for the business meetings, but were on their own on the plane and getting to the hotel, and during free-time activities including eating out and shopping. After reviewing functional conversations for several weeks, we played a game to practice these conversations the evening prior to their departure. The aims of this game were (a) for students to anticipate in which order situations may occur, and (b) to practice the language that they had been studying.

This was a class of 18 learners, of whom an average of eight would attend on any given week. Since the students were going to Hawaii, I used a tropical theme for the game, but this could be changed depending on the destination. This is a board game, but the “board” is constructed on the whiteboard prior to play (see “Procedure” for details).


Step 1:Decide on the theme. In the example in Figure 1 they are basically ovals, but in the Hawaii class, I used pineapple-shaped board pieces.

Step 2:Cut the board pieces out of cardboard in the required shape. My pineapples were approximately 10 cm tall and 7 cm wide.

Step 3:Write all the steps that students need to take in order to successfully complete a trip, one per board space (e.g., On the plane: Beef or fish?, At immigration, At customs, Taxi to the hotel, Checking in, etc.). Make sure the pieces can be organized in a logical chronological order for situations that may occur during their trip, linking places with things like Asking directions to the shopping center. See Figure 1 for examples.

Step 4:Attach magnetic strips at the top of the reverse side of the board spaces.


Step 1:Shuffle the board space pieces and lay them out randomly over the top of the table.

Step 2:Ask students to put the series in order by choosing board pieces and placing them in a continuous line on the board. Link with arrows drawn between the spaces (see Figure 1). If the order is not logical, ask students questions to establish what step may be next. Some situations are open to negotiation, or there may be alternative possibilities. The negotiation of order is an important step in terms of encouraging anticipation of what may happen during their trip, and for English practice in general.Discuss the timeline to confirm its accuracy.

Step 3:Review the steps that they will go through when traveling on the journey.

Step 4:Each pair of students picks one magnet to act as their marker as they go around the board. These are placed on the whiteboard before the first game space.

Step 5:Determine which pair will take the first turn.

Step 6:The first pair tosses the one-yen coin. If it lands on the “1” side, move the pair marker one space. If it lands on the “tree” side, move the pair marker three spaces.

Step 7:Pairs perform the dialogue determined by the situation described on the space upon which they land. Other pairs and the teacher listen carefully. If the performing pair leaves out anything important, they must go back two spaces.

Step 8:Play until the pairs take off for home, having completed many of the conversations throughout the game. This took approximately 90 minutes.


This game brings together travel-related dialogues practiced in class, and it informs students of what to expect at each stage of their trip. It also provides a chance to practice complaining and reporting something lost or stolen. I hope that your students find this game fun and useful.