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Jerusalem to teach taxi drivers English

Municipality is planning to fund language course for drivers to make cab rides more tourist-friendly

Illustrative: Line of taxis waiting for passengers (Kobi Gideon/Flash90)
Illustrative: Line of taxis waiting for passengers (Kobi Gideon/Flash90)

Jerusalem taxi drivers are looking to improve their grasp over one area in which they are often sorely lacking orientation: English.

Israel’s capital is a global tourist magnet, naturally, but many taxi drivers in the city are unable to converse in English outside of basic sentences, and are thus incapable of offering foreign visitors advice and tips which they frequently seek.

All that may be at an end, however. Yedioth Ahronoth reported Wednesday that the city’s municipality is preparing to offer local drivers an intensive English course — with an emphasis on tourist-friendly speech – to boost their chitchat capabilities.

Taxi drivers will only be required to pay a modest sum of NIS 100 ($28) for the course, which will feature a total of 60 study hours per student and be held in groups of 10. Special focus will be given to correct English pronunciation of the names of holy sites and other tourist attractions.

“Everywhere in the world, the first people to be asked about a city and what’s worthwhile doing in it are the taxi drivers, who know every nook and cranny,” Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat told Yedioth.

“Jerusalem’s taxi drivers are our ambassadors to the many tourists who visit to the city. That’s why we’ve decided to invest and fund their English studies. I have no doubt that the many tourists will be impressed with the results,” Barkat said.

Asher Chen, a 62-year-old driver, said he was pleased with the municipality’s initiative.

“From my experience tourists don’t just want us to drive them to their destination but to talk to them a little, tell them about the country, recommend a good restaurant, a café, a place they should visit while they’re here,” Chen told Yedioth. “I make do with the English I’ve got, but I’d like to be able to make conversation without constantly searching for the words.”

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