Learn English Through Stories

Learning English doesn’t have to be painfully challenging and difficult – try learning English through stories! You can actually enjoy yourself and learn English quickly, with fluency, with stories.

You don’t have to be bored in your English class, just learning from a textbook. I studied Spanish, Portuguese, and French through stories! As an intermediate English learner, you can enjoy learning by reading or listening to stories.

You probably read stories in your native language, and it’s enjoyable! But have you thought about how you could do this in English to improve your fluency quickly and actually have fun doing it? Instead of reading in your native language, try reading in English!

There Is a Strategy to Using Stories for Learning

There is some strategy involved when you want to use stories to learn a language. If you just read or listen, and don’t really think about it, that’s fine. It will still help you. But teacher Ryan is going to show you some special strategies that will help you hack your way to fluency much faster! You’ll benefit from reading and listening to stories, learning new vocabulary and phrases, and improving your English fluency at the same time. Stick around to the end and take a quick quiz to test your listening comprehension abilities.

Hi everyone, I’m Ryan. Today, I’m sharing two stories from my trip around the world. You’re going to learn new phrases and vocabulary. Both stories are about me, and they are true! I hope you enjoy them. Let’s get started with the first story!

Ryan’s First Story: A Disaster at the Border

At the beginning of 2018, I was in Ukraine, which is a wonderful country! I love it there. I always feel happy, and the people are really friendly. I totally recommend visiting Ukraine!

However, I needed to take a bus from the western part of Ukraine to Poland, then fly to Sweden, then fly to the USA, and subsequently fly to China, where I would teach science. (Vocabulary tip: “Subsequently” refers to the next thing in an order – bus, then plane, and subsequently another plane, in this case. Back to the story.)

Normally, the bus ride takes 8 hours. I thought I would allocate 24 hours. So now, I have 24 hours to do an 8-hour trip. I’m safe, no problems, right? Wrong! It was a disaster.

We left the city at 1:00 pm, and it took 90 minutes to get to the border. When we arrived, the traffic was backed up as far as you could see. I couldn’t even see the border because there were so many cars backed up. I was a little annoyed at this, but I wasn’t nervous.

The Hours Keep Passing

Then, the hours started passing – five o’clock, six o’clock, seven o’clock, eight o’clock. It’s getting darker, and I’m thinking, “We haven’t even moved. We’ve been in the same spot for hours and I have a flight in Warsaw that I need to take!” Eventually, it became super-dark at the border because there were no lights. We are still waiting, barely moving. It’s so cold in the winter in Ukraine, so, so cold. (Vocabulary tip: To describe this, you could say “frigid.” So frigid, so cold.)

No one on the bus spoke English, and I don’t speak Ukranian. This was a problem, because I didn’t know what was happening! Why are we not moving? Is everything okay? Can I walk across the border? By this time, it was midnight. We’ve been waiting for 11 hours. Another hour passes, and we finally move a little bit. Now it’s 1:00 am, so we’ve spent 12 hours of this journey still sitting at the border.

Border Control on the Horizon

Now I can finally see border control, and this is exciting! But I hadn’t eaten for 12 hours, and I was famished. I was so hungry because there was nowhere to eat and I didn’t have any more food with me. There was really nothing I could do but wait.

Eventually, an old man offered me some cookies. It was wonderful! It was so kind, and it raised my spirits. (Vocabulary tip: When something “raises your spirits,” it makes you happier. When this man offered me cookies, it “raised my spirits.”)

But I was also almost out of water. I barely had any water left. I drank my water, ate the cookies, and the hours kept passing. 2 am, 3 am, 4 am, and I realized that I would miss my flight. I wouldn’t go to Stockholm, which meant I wouldn’t go to the US, which means I wouldn’t be able to go to China. I would have to start from scratch. (Vocabulary tip: “Starting from scratch” means to start from nothing.)

I’m Going to Miss My Flight!

I thought, What am I going to do? There was no wi-fi, so I had to use someone else’s hot spot. I started looking for jobs in Ukraine. Where can I live? How can I get a job? What can I do? How can I make money? I didn’t know what was going to happen because I was going to miss my flight.

Four more hours went by, and then it was 7:00 am. I had been waiting in that bus for 19 hours. Soon, the sun came up, and it started to make people feel a little bit happier. However, we were all upset because we had been sitting at the border for 19 hours.

Crossing the Border, Finally

Eventually we crossed through, got our passports stamped, and started driving. But we weren’t out of the woods yet. (Vocabulary tip: Being “out of the woods” means to be finished with trouble or danger.)

Then, a tire popped. Of course, a tire popped on the bus and we had to wait three more hours for someone to fix it. Eventually, they did fix it and we finished our drive to Warsaw. We sat in that bus for 30 hours, and it should only have taken 8 hours. Oh, I definitely missed my flight, and I didn’t know what I was going to do.

How does the story end?

Well, I have a friend named Fufi. Fufi was able to find a new plane ticket to Sweden, so I could take the flight to the USA and to China. It worked! I ran to the airport in Warsaw, switched planes in Sweden, went to the USA, then went to China. So, happily ever after! Now I’m here, so it was wonderful, but definitely a disaster at the border.

Great job! You finished story number 1. We had some phrases and new vocabulary in there, so hopefully you understood all of them.

Ryan’s Second Story: A Trip to Italy

The second story takes place in Italy in 2019. My girlfriend and I had traveled to Milan as part of a joint birthday celebration. (Vocabulary tip: “Joint” in this case means shared, or together. So we had a shared birthday celebration.)

We really wanted to do some hiking and see some wonderful nature, so we went to the Lake District and arrived at a city named Lecco. We immediately started searching for a place to sleep, and we started with couchsurfing. (Vocabulary tip: “Couchsurfing” is a wonderful way to meet local people. It’s an exchange of stories and hospitality, and it’s a really wonderful way to get in touch with a culture. If you’ve never tried couchsurfing, or if you don’t know what it is, check it out at couchsurfing.com. It’s really fun. I’ve done it many times and I highly recommend it.)

Couchsurfing or Hotel?

Unfortunately, we didn’t find a couchsurfing host, but we did find a hotel. We decided to stay there, but we were famished. (Vocabulary tip: You know this word – we needed to get some food.) We went for a walk around the lake and stumbled across a pizza shop. (Vocabulary tip: “Stumbled across” means we accidentally found a pizza shop.) It was delicious! We loved it. We had a lot of food, and then we went back to our hotel. After eating, we wandered around the lake for a little bit before returning to the hotel and hitting the hay. (Vocabulary tip: To “hit the hay” means to go to sleep. It’s kind of a funny old saying or expression – “to hit the hay.”)

A Day for Hiking and Meeting Giorgio

The next day, we started a hike on a mountain called San Martino. It was a beautiful day, the sun was shining, the clouds were mixed about, and it was really nice. But it was really hot, and we forgot to bring water. So when we got to the top, we were shocked to find a well. (Vocabulary tip: A “well” is a place that you can pump water out and drink water from the earth.) We did this, and it was so wonderful. The view from the top of the mountain was spectacular. The water was glistening. (Vocabulary tip: “Glistening” means that it was sparkly and shiny.)

It was really special, and we just sat there for a while. On the way down the mountain, we encountered an old Italian man named Giorgio. Giorgio had a huge dog. It was a Bernese Mountain dog. So big, but so cute because the dog had a bucket in its mouth, just carrying it around. We stopped and talked with Giorgio, and he told us that if we would wait there, he would return with some wine and invite us to his home.

We were tired, but we said, “Okay, we’ll wait.” We waited for him, then we walked to his home, which was at the base (Vocabulary tip: “at the base of the mountain” means it was near the bottom of the mountain.)

Giorgio’s House

It was amazing! From his house, you could see the whole city. It was so wonderful. We talked with Giorgio for a while, and he offered to drive us down the mountain and back to our hotel. “Jojo” is an awesome guy, and if you ever see this, Giorgio, you’re wonderful! I hope to see you again someday.

The next day, Annie had to fly to Germany, and I started hitchhiking. (Vocabulary tip: “Hitchhiking” is when you put your thumb up and ask for a ride from a driver.) I started hitchhiking from Milan to Rome.

Hitchhiking to Rome

The first car to pick me up took me all the way to Florence, which is halfway to Rome. They were a nice young Italian couple, and we talked about traveling and hitchhiking. They were really fun, but I decided in Florence to rough it. (Vocabulary tip: When you “rough it,” it means you live without the normal things. In this case, roughing it, I decided to sleep outside. So – no hotel, no hostel, nothing. Just sleep outside. So I slept outside – I “roughed it.”)

The next day, I started hitchhiking to Rome and a young Italian girl picked me up. She was driving really slow, but it was okay. We talked about South America, and traveling, and it was really fun but she dropped me off in the middle of nowhere. (Vocabulary tip: The “middle of nowhere” means that there was nothing around me – no people, no cars, nothing.)

This was kind of crazy. I thought, What am I going to do? I looked at my phone and saw a small road leading into Rome. I thought it would be my only chance to finish the hitchhiking adventure.

Is Somebody Watching Me in the Middle of Nowhere?

So I walked down a little hill and had to jump over a gate, but when I jumped over the gate there was video surveillance. (Vocabulary tip: “video surveillance” means that there were cameras watching me.) Then, I saw a sign that said this was a government facility. I had just walked into, well, I had just trespassed into an Italian government place and I was freaking out. (Vocabulary tip: “trespass” is to go somewhere you are not allowed to be.)

I walked really fast towards the gate, and when I got there, I had to jump over another gate to get out of there. There were two cameras watching me. I was really worried that there were going to be some cops, and they were going to arrest me, but nothing happened. Thankfully!

How Will I Get to Rome?

But I wasn’t out of the woods yet, right? I wasn’t done with the trouble. I still had 30 kilometers to go before I arrived at Rome, and I couldn’t walk 30 kilometers with that giant backpack.

I started walking down the road and there were no cars…there was nothing. There was one house far away in the field, but it was pretty isolated. I didn’t know what was going to happen. I had to wait there for an hour before another car came. It was a young Italian guy, and he drove me all the way to Rome. I made it!

That is the end of my hitchhiking adventure, and a crazy day for sure.

Congratulations and a Quiz!

So congratulations! You just finished two stories! Hopefully they weren’t too boring or too long, but I tried to include lots of new vocabulary and phrases.

Now it’s time for a short quiz to see what you understood.

  1.  Which of these words means “extremely hungry?”
    a.  frigid
    b.  glistening
    c.  famished
  2.  What does “start from scratch” mean?
    a.  to start from the beginning with nothing
    b.  to start with an advantage
  3. Where would you probably “rough it” if you were going to “rough it?”
    a.  a luxury hotel
    b.  a dark forest
    c.  an English class

The answers are:

1.  c, famished
2.  a, to start from the beginning with nothing
3.  b, a dark forest

Great job today! Don’t forget to sign up for our newsletter so you can get more English tips and strategies for learning sent directly to your email! Stories are great for learning English, but have you ever tried to learn English by listening to the news? Watch this lesson to see why that may be more difficult than listening to stories. Thanks for joining me today, hope you enjoyed the stories! See you again soon.

Picture of Gabby Wallace, M.Ed TESOL

Gabby Wallace, M.Ed TESOL

About the Author
Gabby Wallace is the Founder of Go Natural English, where you can quickly improve your confidence speaking English through advanced fluency practice. Even if you don't have much time, this is the best place for improving your English skills. Millions of global intermediate - advanced English students are learning with Gabby's inspiring, clear, and energetic English lessons. Gabby has a Masters Degree in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages from Boston University and 20+ years experience helping students become fluent through her online courses and membership program.

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