Learn English Using Your City

Using Your City to learn English-2.png

Were you born in the city you live in?

Picking up a guidebook to read about your city is a great opportunity to both improve your English and either fall in love all over again with the city you've chosen to make your home, or if you were born and grew up in it, perhaps fall in love for the first time!

Three years ago I came to live in Madrid with the Spaniard, despite the fact that he grew up here and didn't leave until he was 25 I was the one running around like a little pac-woman, pulling him away from the touristy spots and towards secret plazas.

I thought he was just very uninterested in his own city until I started meeting friends in places I thought they would know and surprising them with hidden gems like the secret garden in Plaza la Paja (the best quiet shady spot for reading a book or some furtive instagram scrolling for any Madrilenos reading this).

I was equally guilty of not breaking out of my comfort zone when I lived in Manchester, rarely leaving the Northern Quarter for 7 years. In London before that, I went between Regents Park, Covent Garden and Borough Market, it was much more fun visiting friends years later and popping in and out of Greenwich and Portobello Road. 

As a tourist I actually go to the galleries and markets that as a Londoner I used to add to my notes app, an eternal list of things to do that were never checked off.

This is why I strongly recommend you pick up a MONOCLE guidebook for your city, grab your notebook and pencil and go sit in a cafe to see your city through the eyes of someone who loves it.


1. You already have an idea or feel for the places they are describing, your brain is going to be exercising and training itself to anticipate the meanings of words. You’ll be making connections and building vocabulary without even trying to. 


2. The level of language and the quality of writing in Monocle is high with a variety of styles of writing. From introductions to the creators and makers of the city to essays describing writers experiences there on all topics, from politics to relationships to the retail revolution.

Probably my favourite part of them is the neighbourhood guides and suggested routes to walk around. Invest an afternoon every few weeks to follow them and get the latest on shops, bars and galleries in each one. You will hopefully find yourself filled with enthusiasm, or if not you'll at least have plenty of things to talk about in work that week!


Use your notebook to write down any particularly interesting expressions or vocabulary, remember to try to sketch pictures to help you remember things and jot (write) your responses down. If the guide claims a certain new cafe is the greatest thing to happen to a street in 5 years and you think it’s the worst, write it down! It will help you both to construct your language and also to remember the structures from the guide.


If you find the level of language to difficult to begin with, then start with a blog, usually the language will be more accessible, here are some to begin with but you can find your own for your city simply by googling ‘YOUR CITY’+ BEST + CITY GUIDE + BLOG. 

For Madrid you could start with Naked Madrid.

For Paris try Local Milk, she even has a google map that you can download with the best places to take photographs in Paris!

For other cities DESIGN*SPONGE have great 24 hour guides!

Don’t forget to supplement your reading with a podcast to listen to about cities or culture, or some music in English about your City!

Or pick up a copy of SUITCASE magazine to get some inspiration on other places to visit if your own city hasn’t persuaded you!