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 Survival Travel English: A basic course in EFL for travelers.

Airport English

A Role-play for Getting Through Customs: 


Time: 1 hour


The purpose of this lesson is to give students the skills to pass customs with as little trouble as possible.

This lesson follows a simple format of an introduction and discussion, followed by a role-play activity.


The Teacher will need to print off and photocopy customs officer role-play sheets, traveler role-play sheets, and passport and character prompt cards. Note: There are two versions of the customs officer role-play sheet, A and B. This is so that students can hear common customs questions asked in more than one way.


Tell the students that they will be studying airport English. Have one student come up to the front. Give that student a passport card and explain that you are a customs officer. The student will have to pass customs. Because you are the customs officer, you will be able to lead the conversation. The conversation should go something like the conversation on your right.

I often have students try to accomplish a task cold, before I actually set out to teach them the skills to do it. This accomplishes two things: One, it lets me know if the lesson will be too easy and hence a waste of time for them. Two, if it's not too easy, it lets the students know why they are studying it. One problem with false beginners is that they sometimes feel the subject material is below them, yet they are unable to function in that subject material. It is a way to show them their limitations.


After a few students have tried to get through your customs and immigration, then go over the conversation to the right. Write the questions on the board and ask the students what possible answers could be. With all of the questions and possible answers on the board, have a few more students try to come through your customs. Hopefully, they will have no problems doing it well.

Role-play Activity:

Now, comes the real focus of the class: role-playing going through customs. The class will be divided into two groups of students: customs officers and travelers. Hand out the custom officer role-play sheet to the custom officers. Each custom officer represents a country of their choosing and they will briefly interview each traveler before letting them into the country. It works well when you put their desks in a line so that the travelers can go from one customs officer to another in an orderly fashion.

Handout the passports and traveler role-play prompts to the travelers. Have the travelers read their prompts. Note: you should be able to fold the character prompts and paste them onto the back of the passports. It is very convenient like that.


As travelers get interviewed, the customs agents take down the travelers' information. The travelers write down what countries they visited. Finally, if time permits have the students change roles.

Back to Survival English!


Target Language:

A: Welcome to Canada. May I see your passport please?

B: Sure. Here it is.

A: Where are you coming from?

B: I'm coming from Seoul, Korea.

A: What is the purpose of your visit?

B: I'm here on business.

A: How long are you planning to stay?

B: I'll be staying for three weeks.

A: Where will you be staying?

B: I'll be staying at a hotel.

A: Have you ever been to Canada before?

B: No, this is my first time.

A: Do you have anything to declare?

B: No, nothing.

A: Enjoy your stay.

B: Thank you.