American Life: Practical English Skills
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American Life: Practical English Skills

Learn English conversation, how to pay bills, and learn the cost of living in America all in your free time at home.
4.3 (287 ratings)
Instead of using a simple lifetime average, Udemy calculates a course's star rating by considering a number of different factors such as the number of ratings, the age of ratings, and the likelihood of fraudulent ratings.
12,052 students enrolled
Last updated 4/2015
Price: Free
  • 6 hours on-demand video
  • Full lifetime access
  • Access on mobile and TV
  • Certificate of Completion
What Will I Learn?
  • Confidence in English conversation and navigating American life in the following topics: Travel Reservations, Buying a Cell Phone Plan, Finding a Place to Live, Driving and Health Care.
  • A clearer understanding of the systems that Americans use in everyday life.
  • FUNCTIONALITY and FLUIDITY (Practicality and "the flow").
View Curriculum
  • You should have already taken some Beginner's English Courses. You can speak and understand reasonably well and can use basic tenses but have problems with more complex grammar and vocabulary.

Have you already learned English grammar in school or university but have little experience putting it into practice? Our lectures are practical and will give you an understanding of the English language in real life situations.

American Life English gives you Practical Skills! At the end of this course you will be able to confidently:

  1. Make Travel Reservations
  2. Refine a Search
  3. Contrast and Compare
  4. Follow the Rules of the Road
  5. Purchase Protection Plans

You will learn vocabulary used in the American cultural context. You will be able to appropriately communicate with and relate to Americans.

We will teach 5+ hours of video lectures and all the vocabulary you need to independently complete these life skills. Anyone is welcome to join who can speak and understand reasonably well and can use basic tenses but have problems with more complex grammar and vocabulary.

You can access the lectures and worksheets when it is convenient for you. You don't ever need to worry about missing a class. You can listen to the lectures as many times as you need until you master each topic.

Language + Culture = Adventure!

Are you considering moving to America or soon travelling to America? This course will help you to get ready for your new adventure.

We want you to be as prepared as you can, taking advantage of every opportunity presented to you through knowing the English language and to succeed in those opportunities.

Who is the target audience?
  • Anyone who has learned English grammar in school or university but have not used what they've learned in the real life.
  • Anyone wanting conversation with native English speakers.
  • Anyone wanting an understanding of the cost of living in America.
  • Anyone who wants to learn English on their free time at home.
  • Anyone travelling or moving to America.
  • Anyone who is testing for ESL, English as a Second Language, or TESOL.
  • Who should NOT take the course: Anyone who does not have a basic understanding of English grammar and vocabulary. This is an intermediate course.
Compare to Other English Language Courses
Curriculum For This Course
41 Lectures
2 Lectures 07:24
Promotional Video

This course is full of practical English in the context of American culture.

Learn how to communicate effectively.

Almost every lecture has a downloadable PDF file with vocabulary words. Each section has a downloadable crossword puzzle using vocabulary words from the section. At the end of each section you will complete a quiz.

Course Introduction
Travel Reservations
8 Lectures 01:26:24

Overview of making Travel Reservations

What is a flight?

When can I "make a reservation"?

Synonyms: to book = to reserve

What things can I rent?


Types of flights

  1. round-trip
  2. one-way
  3. multi-city

Make a choice. Choose your airport.

What distance can you drive to the airport?

Can you travel to an airport which is farther away?

Who is travelling? How many adults? How many seniors? How many children?

Will there be a child sitting on your lap?


  • to leave
  • to arrive
  • to return
Book a Flight: Part 1: How to Answer Questions About Your Travel Plans

At the end of this lecture you should be able to understand each of these statements and questions.

  1. Look at your search results.
  2. Where is your layover at?
  3. Please select your favorite option.
  4. Look at the trip details.
  5. What is the total due at booking?
  6. What kind of government photo ID do you use?
  7. Were there any issues with your flight?
  8. How would you like to receive confirmation of your flight status?
  9. What is the gender of the infant travelling with you?
  10. Please send me a text message alert if there are any delays or cancellations.
  11. What gate are you departing from?
  12. What is your departure time?
  13. Are you a Frequent Flier?
  14. Do you prefer an aisle or window seat?
  15. Would you like to purchase travel protection?
Book a Flight: Part 2: How to Confirm Your Flight Details

When travelling you will need a place to stay. In this video you will learn what a hotel reservation is and about some of the amenities inside of a hotel.

I check in when I arrive and I check out when I leave.

What is your preference? What do you prefer?

Promotional Code = Promo Code = Online Coupon. This will give you a discount. Then you will get the best bet possible.

Set your filters. Refine your search.

Would you recommend that I stay in this hotel? I would recommend it since it had nice amenities such as wifi and a free continental breakfast.

Make a Hotel Reservation: Part 1: Checking In and Checking Out

Measurements in America are done in feet and inches.

Amenities and bed sizes. What is the difference between a king, queen, and crib?

I would like to request for a cot to be put in my room.

Make a Hotel Reservation: Part 2: What is Inside a Hotel Room - Amenities

How to write a review about your stay at the hotel.

Use some new adjectives to describe the hotel.

Write a Hotel Review

Learn what picking up and dropping off a car means.

If you want to save money, you should drive an economy car.

If you want to show off to your friends, you should drive a luxury car.

If you have a large family, you should drive a van.

If you will travel off-road, you should drive an SUV.

Rent a Car: Part 1: Pick Up and Drop Off

What is rental car protector?

What if you are in a collision?

What are the requirements for child car seats?

There are restrictions for people under 25 years of age.

* * * When you are finished with the lectures in this section: download the crossword puzzle. It uses vocabulary words from the section for extra practice. There is also an answer key for the puzzle available. * * *

Rent a Car: Part 2: Protection in a Collision

Travel Reservations
15 questions
Cell Phone
8 Lectures 01:05:45

This is a short overview of the section:

  • Providers
  • Networks
  • Contracts
  • Pre-paid
  • Smartphones
  • Basic Phones
  • Cell Phone Bills
  • Hidden Fees

Compare Verizon's 2 year contract with a free phone to Cricket's no annual contract plan.

A provider is someone who supplies something. A cell phone provider, such as Verizon, supplies a cellular data plan.

There is a limited time offer for a discounted price on the Unlimited Talk and Text Plan.

Be careful that you do not go over the amount of gigabytes you are allowed to use each month. There are extra fees for data overage.

There is an early termination fee for anyone who breaks a 2-year contract.

Do you have a warranty on your phone?

Contract vs. No-Contract Plan: Part 1: Unlimited, Overage, Early Termination Fee

The differences between a phone with a contract and a phone without a contract. What does nationwide coverage mean? If the phone has unlimited domestic coverage, does it have unlimited international coverage?

Nationwide and Domestic both refer to the whole USA.

You can get a discount if you use Auto-Pay.

It is possible to get a new, free phone with activation.

Contract vs. No-Contract Plan: Part 2: No Hidden Fees

You can find a free or discounted phone by looking at the current promotions.

Operating Systems:

  • iPhone
  • Android
  • Windows

You can take a selfie with your front camera.

I use the GPS on my phone to get directions to new places that I visit.

If you have an unlocked phone, and the phone is compatible with this network, then you can buy our SIM card.

Smartphone vs. Basic Phone

You should always check to see what a cell phone provider's coverage is. Maybe you need 4G LTE coverage because you will be downloading videos and music. Maybe you only need 3G coverage for using your GPS.

Coverage Maps

Compare and Contrast. How to use simple objects to expand your English vocabulary. Ask questions like: How are these two things different in regard to shape, size, color, purpose, and design? How are they similar?

Bonus: Compare & Contrast Activity

Is it really a great value? Any website you go on is filled with marketing jargon. More for less or more for your money, learn some marketing vocabulary so you can become a better consumer.


"Who's gonna pay my bills, gonna pay my telephone bill?" You are going to have to pay your bill. Learn some vocabulary that will assist you in understanding your cell phone bill.

The due date and the total charges due are the most important parts to read on your bill.

Many companies add surcharges or hidden fees each month.

You can call someone who uses a different provider and it will not cost you any extra fees.

* * * When you are finished with the lectures in this section: download the crossword puzzle. It uses vocabulary words from the section for extra practice. There is also an answer key for the puzzle below. * * *

Reading a Cell Phone Bill

Cell Phone Quiz
17 questions
Finding a Place to Live
8 Lectures 01:15:38

You can search for an apartment, house, condo, duplex and townhouse in the classified ads of the newspaper or you can search online.


Where should you live? This lecture will guide you through the process of searching for an apartment online. You will learn how to narrow your search to find the right community for you.

Set a filter for the max monthly rent you are willing to pay.

You can also filter your search by how many bedrooms and bathrooms would need in your apartment.

You can apply to live in income restricted housing if your job doesn't pay you much money.

Apartments are measured in square feet.

How far is your commute to work? Do you drive to work, take public transportation, bike to work or walk?

What renovations has the landlord done in the apartment complex?

Searching for Rentals: Part 1: Set Your Filters

Some landlords charge administrative fees and application fees.

An intercom makes it easy to let guests in to your apartment building.

It is possible that you have so many things that you will need an additional storage unit.

What utilities are included in the rent?

There are laundry hookups in my apartment. I can buy my own washing machine and dryer to hook up for my convenience.

This neighborhood in Chicago is very diverse.

The cost of living in rural areas is cheaper than in urban areas.

What is the nightlife like in this neighborhood?

Searching for Rentals: Part 2: Your Neighborhood

You will be watching a dialogue between an owner and a potential tenant. Learn what questions may be asked by a landlord and what are some good questions for a potential tenant to ask.

Meeting with the Landlord

A lease agreement is a contract between a lessee and a landlord or owner. They are specific and wordy documents. You will learn some basic vocabulary to help you understand these agreements.

Tenant = Lessee

Party = WHO is involved

Premises = WHERE it take place

I needed written consent from my landlord before my mother could come and stay with me for the summer.

The agreement commences in May and expires in April of the following year.

Signing a Lease Agreement: Part 1: The Party and the Premises

Continuing your journey through a lease agreement. Learn what a check is because some owners do not accept cash payments. Your credit history will show if you are a good lessee or not. Subletting is not allowed. Apartments are rented out in varying conditions. Make sure that when your contract is finished, you return the apartment back to its owner in the same condition as when you began to rent it.

Signing a Lease Agreement: Part 2: Be a Good Lessee

Do bills ever stop? No. Electricity, gas, water, and trash are all examples of utilities. Some of these are included in the rent; some are not. Learn some basic vocabulary to help you navigate your utility bills in order to pay them.

Trash pick up is curbside.

Electricity is measured in kilowatt hours (KWH).

Paying for Utility Bills

* * * When you are finished with the lectures in this section: download the crossword puzzle. It uses vocabulary words from the section for extra practice. There is also an answer key for the puzzle available. * * *

Conclusion: Finding a Place to Live

Housing Quiz
16 questions
Driving in America
9 Lectures 01:15:58

A Police Officer and a Cop are synonyms.

Many Americans drive long distances to get to work.

Americans like to multi-task while they drive: They drive and eat. They drive and talk on the phone. They drive and put on make-up. They drive and dance and sing to their favorite songs.

American teenagers can take their Driver's Permit Test around 15 to 17 years old.


The first rule of the road is to wear your seat belt.

ticket = traffic citation = traffic violation

Different states have different rules of the road.

Americans measure driving distance in miles per hour, mph.

You cannot pass another car if there is a double yellow line in the center of the road.

The police officer will pull you over if you are speeding. You must pull over onto the shoulder of the road.

Rush hour - when drivers go to and come home from work and there is much traffic, usually around 8 am and 5 pm.

Rules of the Road: Part 1: Cops and Citations

If you share your car with a co-worker, you carpool.

Don't drink and drive!

D.U.I. and D.W.I. are the same thing.

Drunk, tipsy, buzzed are the same thing while you are driving.

Don't text and drive!

A Hands-free device is the opposite of a Hand-held device.

Watch out for potholes in the road!

Rules of the Road: Part 2: No Drinking and No Texting

Here we take a look at difference road signs and what they tell us to do or, more often, what NOT to do.

Pedestrians cross at the crosswalk. If they do not cross at the crosswalk, they are jaywalking.

School zones always require you to drive at a slower speed during school hours. You should always stop when you see a school bus' flashing lights.

Road Signs: Part 1: Pedestrians and School Zones

Double yellow lines = Do not pass

Be careful on slippery roads.

Parking can be tricky. Make sure you do not park in a private or reserved parking spot, because your car might be towed by a tow truck.

It can be difficult to parallel park on a city street.

Fines will be doubled if you are speeding in a construction zone. Drive slowly through road work areas.

"This road has tolls." You will need to stop and pay a toll at the toll booth.

Road Signs: Part 2: Parking and Construction Zones

We will show you all the parts of the car which you commonly use while driving, in the interior and the exterior of the car.

Parts of a Car

There are many things in America which you can buy insurance for. But one type of insurance which is necessary is car insurance.

Car insurance company slogans:

  • Like a Good Neighbor, State Farm is There.
  • 15 minutes can save you 15 percent or more.
  • Nationwide is on your side.
  • Are you in good hands?
Car Insurance: Part 1: Slogans

In most states it is required to have car insurance.

Marital Status

  • Divorced
  • Married
  • Single
  • Widowed

Deductible is how much you pay out of your own pocket before the insurance company will pay. The higher you pay for your deductible, the lower your monthly premium will be.

Do you have any violations or accidents on your driving record? If you do, your premium will go up.

Pay in full = Pay up front = Pay in advance

If you get in a car accident:

  • Call 9-1-1
  • Call your insurance company
  • Remain Calm
  • Record the name, address and phone number of other driver's involved
  • Ask the police officer for a copy of the police report.
Car Insurance: Part 2: Premiums and Deductibles

When are you allowed to use a wireless phone for text messaging?

The road surface of a bridge may be dangerous in the winter because it may remain icy after the rest of the road is clear.

When a traffic signal is showing a flashing yellow light, you must: slow down and be especially alert.

You are approaching a stopped emergency vehicle on a multi-lane roadway. The vehicle has its emergency lights activated. What should you do?

If you are convicted of neglect to report a traffic crash, your driving privilege will be ___________.

Signals and directions from a flag person in a construction zone must always be obeyed.

A pedestrian is crossing your lane at an intersection but there is no marked crosswalk. You should stop and let the pedestrian cross.

Driving Permit Test

Driving in America Quiz
20 questions
Health Care in America
5 Lectures 46:55

Health care is very complex and difficult to understand.

Obama-care = Affordable Healthcare Act


Pharmacy = Drug Store

Prescription medication requires a written note from your doctor.

Tylenol = acetaminophen = pain reliever

Medication can be bought in gelcaps or tablets or liquid form.

band-aid = bandage

Hydrogen peroxide is used to clean small wounds.

Over the Counter vs. Prescription

U.S. medical costs are very expensive.

An outpatient does not stay in the hospital overnight.

The U.S. healthcare system is not free. Not for citizens. Not for visitors.

Emergency room visits are for urgent care.

Students should get medical insurance through the university or college they are attending.

Temporary workers should get medical insurance through their employer.

It is possible that a travel insurance provider can deny your insurance claim due to a pre-existing medical condition.

Travel Medical Insurance: Part 1: Hospitals are Not Free!

Important Insurance Words:

  • Premium
  • Deductible
  • Co-Insurance = Co-Pay
  • Expenses
  • Claim
Important questions to consider when selecting insurance:
  • Does the health insurance plan cover both accidents and illnesses?
  • Which doctors and hospitals does the plan recognize?
  • What are the exclusions and limitations?

Travel Medical Insurance: Part 2: Exclusions and Limitations

What symptoms do you have?

Do you have any idea what may have triggered your symptoms?

What is the duration of your symptoms?

Have you ever been operated on? Were there any complications?

Have you ever had an allergic reaction to any medication?

Have you ever or do you currently smoke?

How often and how much alcohol do you drink?

Do you or have you ever taken any recreational drugs?

(For women) Have you ever been pregnant? Did you ever have a miscarriage?

Have you ever had an STD? Are you currently sexually active?

Questions at the Doctor's Office

Health Care Quiz
16 questions
1 Lecture 01:08

Congratulations! Think of all the opportunities you have as a person who is bi-lingual. Don't be timid. Be confident - don't be scared to make mistakes.


Final Exam
50 questions
About the Instructor
Jim & Melissa McDonald
4.3 Average rating
286 Reviews
12,052 Students
1 Course
English Teachers, Greenhouse Club University Student Center

We lived in Central Asia for 14 years where we were the Founders/Directors of an NGO working with university students, "Greenhouse Club." At our student center we taught many skills but the main thing most everyone wanted to learn was the English language. We taught English at our center, in universities, in remote villages and often ended up teaching impromptu mini-lessons at the bazaar. :)

Not long ago we moved back to America and even though we spent our childhoods here we found adjusting to life as adults very difficult to navigate culturally. Many of the lessons in this course were formed out of our hope that others coming to America for the first time would learn not only necessary vocabulary but gain an understanding of everyday American societal systems.

Live confidently!