Going to study abroad when English is not your first language is an intimidating prospect for many people. Not only does your level of English directly correlate with your academic success, but it also affects your ability to make friends with other international and local students, navigate campus bureaucracy, services and administration, find work if your student visa also provides a temporary work permit and a long list of other factors.
Studying abroad will likely be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life, so don’t let language skills hold you back. Below are 4 ways international students can improve their English before taking the leap.
Play Word Games
One tried and true way to improve your vocabulary in any language is to make the process entertaining. There is a litany of free word games online that can help you add to your base understanding of words and phrases, but by far the most popular is Scrabble. Scrabble forces you to search your language knowledge and it is also played competitively, which makes learning more enjoyable.
If you are new to scrabble and are struggling to put together those winning combinations at first, consider using a word unscrambler to help get things rolling. This will show you the various available combinations with the letters you have been given and help you find the less obvious ones.
Listen to Music in English
Another fun way to work on and improve your English language skills is through music. Listening to popular music in English is a great way to expose yourself to the slang words and phrases and colloquial expressions that native speakers in English-speaking countries use when speaking to one another. If you arrive at an English-speaking institution already knowing how to use this kind of language, it will be easier to join and understand conversations among your classmates, other people on campus and people you interact with in public.
Read in English
Reading, in any language, is the foundation of language acquisition and skills. The more you read, the more grammar, vocabulary and syntax you commit to memory, the better a writer and speaker you will become. Reading in your non-native language can be tedious, but if you are going to be studying at an English-speaking institution, you are going to be reading and writing in English constantly.
You can start reading easier texts, like newspaper and online magazine articles, and slowly work your way up to more complex literary, scientific and non-fiction books and texts. As you go, it is a good idea to make a list of terminology, expressions and phrases that are new to you.
Keep a Diary in English
Another crucial step while learning any language is writing it. The more you read and write, the more fluid your use and understanding become. A great tip for international students who are preparing to study abroad in an English-speaking country is to keep a diary in English. Going abroad for the first time is both exciting and stressful, and can be quite emotional.
Keeping a diary or journal is always a good way to help think through and deal with your emotions, so why not improve your English while you do it. Here it is important to really make an effort to write to the best of your abilities, proofreading, spell checking and grammar checking your daily or weekly additions so that you are improving as you go.
The fact of the matter is, if you are planning on studying in an English-speaking country, your level of English when you arrive dictates much of your academic success and, depending on your social circle, a lot of your interpersonal success as well. Keep the above recommendations in mind and you will hit the ground running as soon as the semester starts.