In order to avoid having the worst holiday of your life because you booked the wrong room in a hotel or you ordered a rat’s tail instead of chicken in a restaurant, go through the following tips and have a fabulous summer.
Making a booking in English
Booking a room or any other type of accommodation is the first step toward your holiday. Although at first glance it seems to be an easy task, somehow you always end up in a room with a view on garbage containers, instead on a beach. When making a booking, keep information simple and concise. The same goes for restaurants, transport, theatres and cinemas.
1) For the beginning, use phrases such as:
I’d like to book … a double room for three nights from Monday 30th July to Thursday 2nd August
… a table for two at 8 p.m. tomorrow night
… a flight from Munich to Rome
… seats tonight for ‘Phantom of the Opera’
2) Asking for more information
If you want to know more about forms of payment, time of check-in and check-out, baggage, etc.:
Does this price include all taxes? (for flights and hotels)
Is there an air-conditioning / a baby cot / an extra bed / internet access in the room?
Is there a private parking / cancellation fee policy? (for hotels and restaurants)
What time do I have to check in / check out? (for flights and hotels)
How much is the baggage allowance? (for flights)
Is there an en-suite bathroom? (for hotels)
Can I pay by (Visa, American, Diners, MasterCard) credit card?
English in a restaurant
When you come to a restaurant, the first thing you are given is the menu. Have a look at some useful expressions you may hear or say when ordering a meal:
• the dish of the day / daily special = what the restaurant is featuring (e.g. “What’s the dish of the day?” – “It’s the chef’s omelette.”)
• “set menu” = a menu where the starter, main course and dessert are chosen by the restaurant
• “a la carte” = where you choose what you want to eat from the menu.
If you want to find out more about the food that is served and its contents, check out these phrases:
a) Asking for a description of the food
“What is ‘fisherman’s pie’ exactly?”
“Is this dish vegetarian?”
“Does this dish come with any vegetables?”
“Can you tell me how this dish is prepared?”
b) Describing food
• “It’s a meat dish, garnished with parsley.” (a garnish is something that is served with the food, not mixed in)
• “It’s topped with cheese.” ‘(topped’ means something that goes on top of the food)
• “It’s served with a side salad.” (a salad served in a bowl or separate plate)
• Sauces can be cheesy (made with cheese), savoury (salty or spicy), creamy (smooth), spicy (made with chilli peppers) or delicate (a subtle, rather than strong taste).
• Desserts can be rich (very filling with a strong taste), light (not heavy in taste or texture), tangy (a sharp taste of lemon or orange), or fruity (made with fruit).
As far as the direct waiter- customer communication is concerned, you may hear or say the following:
c) The waiter:
“Are you ready to order yet?” or “Have you decided what you are having?”
“Can I recommend the chef’s special?”
“Would you like anything to drink with your meal?”
d) The customer:
“Could you give us a couple more minutes?”
“We really can’t decide. Can you advise us?”
Some useful tips:
a) Remember the essential information:
• how many nights (at a hotel)
• how many people (at a restaurant or the theatre)
• what time (for a flight or at a restaurant)
• how much does it cost (for a flight, theatre tickets or a hotel room)
b) Research the vocabulary you need before you make a call:
• what type of theatre seat you need
(balcony / gallery, stalls or arena, parterre, boxes)
• what type of a hotel room you want (single, double, twin)
– where you want to sit on the plane (window or aisle)
c) Remember to pronounce numbers and letters clearly when giving information (especially when spelling your name – revise alphabet!). When you spell something or give a number, speak slowly and emphasise the important information.