I remember sitting on an airplane headed to study abroad in China with my Chinese-English Dictionary gripped in my hands. I only knew how to say a couple of Chinese phrases and could read nothing! I felt both nervous and excited. I knew attempting to learn a second language would be one of the greatest challenges of my life. But as I thought about being able to communicate with people in their heart language, I became motivated and excited to learn.
Perhaps you had similar feelings on your way to America to study English. You probably found out as quick as I did, that learning a language can be frustrating and even heartbreaking. No one ever likes to feel misunderstood, which happens quite often if you are speaking in a second language. No one likes it when others laugh at a mistake or a mispronunciation, even if they do not mean to hurt your feelings. If you have ever experienced any of the difficulties of learning a second language you are not alone.
Learning a new language requires perseverance, courage, and humility. Don’t let anything stand in the way of your dreams and your desire to speak fluent English. Do not worry about what others will think or say if you make a mistake because that is how you will learn and improve. It is also important not to compare yourself to your classmates. Each person has different learning styles and strengths. The main thing is that you can reach your goal if you continue to work hard.
I have spoken with many International students who are in America studying English or attending University. Here are some helpful tips I have gathered from them to help you improve your English:
1. Have a good foundation of vocabulary. This is something you can work on even before coming to the United States. One graduate student, Seth, from Korea, keeps a journal and writes down new vocabulary words he learns and he reviews them periodically. Use the word in a sentence to better retain the word.
2. Watch American TV and Movies. Many popular television shows and movies include slang and common ways of saying things. This will help you with vocabulary, learning the culture, pronunciation, and listening comprehension. Consider watching TV shows and movies you can see more than one time in order to review what you are learning.
3. Make American Friends. Spending time with American friends will give you a chance to practice and increase your motivation to learn and understand. One way to make American friends is to join a student group or club on campus. Groups such as Bridges International have American members who are interested in other cultures and desire to make friends with Internationals. Even though it might be scary, try initiating with an American who seems kind and friendly.
4. Listen carefully to native speakers and try to imitate them. My International friends who have amazing pronunciation listen carefully to the sentence structure and pronunciation of native speakers, then try to imitate them.
5. Review, Keep Practicing and Don’t Give up! Although fluency happens slowly, you will be able to look back and realize your improvement; then celebrate!
You are taking on the difficult but rewarding challenge of learning English. Believe me, your hard work and effort will pay off! I wish you much success.