Language learning tips for international students

Pearson Languages
A woman smiling with a backpack stood outside in a cobbled square with many people in the background

Reading time: 4 minutes

Are you studying abroad (or soon to be), learning a new language and need some inspiration on ways to practice your language skills in the real world? Don't worry. It can be daunting to know how to begin, especially in an unfamiliar place, However, with a little bit of effort and following these useful tips, you will be able to improve your language skills and make the most of your study abroad experience.

Language learning tips for international students
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1. Join university groups or societies

Becoming an active member of clubs and societies that align with your interests.

Participate actively: Attend the regular meetings and events that are organized by the groups you join. By actively participating in these activities, you'll have the opportunity to engage with peers who share similar interests and engage in diverse conversations. In fact, you may even want to consider taking on a leadership role by joining a group committee. This will allow you to gain even more language experience and contribute to the success of the group.

Collaborate on projects: Initiate or participate in collaborative projects within the group. Discussing and planning projects in the target language not only hones your language skills but also fosters teamwork and creativity.

2. Strike up conversations during errands

Elevate mundane errands into language learning opportunities by striking up conversations during your daily routine. Whether that’s talking to the cashier or to someone on the bus. They don't have to be long, even brief encounters can help you practice. 

Expand vocabulary: When engaging in conversations during errands, pay attention to the specific vocabulary related to daily tasks. Practice expressing yourself using phrases commonly used in these situations, such as asking for directions or inquiring about products.

Local slang and expressions: Informal settings often expose you to local slang and expressions. Take note of these and incorporate them into your conversations to sound more natural and connected to the local culture. It is also a great way to become familiar with some of the local community.

3. Attend university and cultural events

Experience the local culture by actively participating in events and festivals; this could be either via uni-organized events or local ones.

Engage with locals: Don't limit yourself to observing; actively engage with locals during cultural events. Express your curiosity, share your experiences, and inquire about the significance of different cultural elements. This interaction enhances both language and cultural comprehension.

Document and reflect: Start a cultural journal or scrapbook to record experiences and reflections after attending events; it reinforces language learning and provides a personal record of cultural exploration.  It’s also a nice way to remember fun events when looking back in the future.

4. Volunteer and work opportunities

Explore volunteer/work opportunities within your university's student union or within the local community.

Event planning and coordination: If possible, get involved in planning and coordinating events. This involvement exposes you to a variety of tasks and communication scenarios, from drafting emails to coordinating logistics and broadening your language proficiency. Additionally, it can be a valuable addition to your resume, especially when you're a recent graduate looking for a job.

Networking opportunities: Volunteer opportunities may extend beyond traditional roles and offer you networking opportunities. Some universities may advertise casual paid positions for jobs like guiding prospective students and their families around on open days or assisting with campus tours. You might be able to offer a unique perspective as an international student.

Consider applying for these paid positions to not only utilize your language skills but also earn some extra income (if your visa permits). Engaging with prospective students and their families offers a unique chance to practice your language abilities in a professional context.

5. Participate in study groups

Supplement your academic pursuits and language skills by participating in study groups with your classmates. This might even lead to making some new friends.

Debate and discuss: Encourage open debates and discussions within your study group. Expressing and defending your ideas in the target language challenges you to think critically and articulate your thoughts more effectively.

Peer feedback: Seek and provide feedback within the group. Constructive criticism and language corrections from peers contribute to a supportive learning environment and help identify areas for improvement.

6. Join university groups on social media

Connect with other students at your university through social media groups dedicated to making friends. If you’re yet to start at the university, there are still often groups available for people looking for others starting soon.

Meet-ups: Utilize social media to arrange or take part in in-person meet-ups with fellow students. These informal gatherings provide a relaxed environment for language practice and allow you to learn from each other's unique language backgrounds. It’s also a great excuse to visit new places in the local area.

Online discussions: Engage in online discussions within these groups. Share interesting articles, ask questions, and participate in conversations to enhance both written and conversational language skills. These groups are often also useful for gaining local knowledge or lesser-known tips about life at the university.

As an international student, you’re likely to be far away from friends and what's familiar, but practicing your language skills shouldn't be hard if you can push yourself to get out there.  Maybe start by following just a couple of these tips, and rest assured you’ll be developing your language skills in no time and even making new friends and memories along the way.

Practice your language skills with our language learning app Mondly by Pearson.

Looking at studying abroad in the UK? Make sure to check out our posts International students: Which UK university is best for you?

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