Tips for International Students Learning English in the U.S.

Fluency in English and a degree from an American university can be useful to you in many different fields. You may also want to study English in the U.S. as part of your journey to eventually live and work in the country over the long term or even permanently. The tips below can help you succeed in this endeavor.

Understand Student Loans

This first tip is not specifically about learning English, but it can be financially helpful to you over the long term, and you can start laying the groundwork for it now. If you have student loans, it may be useful for you to know that you might be able to refinance them later. A student loan refinance can be helpful because it may reduce your interest rate or the amount you have to pay each month. However, you should work on building a credit history while you’re still in school to improve the chances that you can will be approved for a refinance. One way to start doing this is with a credit card that you pay off each month. If you can’t get approved for a regular credit card, you may be eligible for a secure one.

Befriend Native Speakers

It can be a shock to go from studying a language in the classroom to trying to use it out in the real world. What’s more, speaking a foreign language can be exhausting, and it can be tempting to surround yourself with speakers of your own language during your downtime. There’s nothing wrong with making friends with people who speak your language and giving yourself a break, but you should also make an effort to get to know native English speakers. This will force you to practice regularly and also give you a chance to better understand how English is used outside of classroom situations. 

Although this is a free way to improve your English, this is the harder path over the short term, but over the long term, it will lead to big improvements. If you’re struggling to get to know any native speakers, see if there are student organizations in your area of interest that you could join. The next best option is befriending other language learners with whom you only share English as a common tongue, forcing you to all speak it to one another.

Speed Up Your Reading

As an English learner, you may have been accustomed to reading slowly and meticulously to make sure that you learn as much you can about the structure of the language from the text. As a university student, you’re going to have to train yourself to skim texts and get meaning from that because the volume of reading you’ll be required to do in some university classes is simply too high to allow for careful and close examination. This is a big challenge because skimming in this way can be tough even when it’s in your own language. 

Practice looking over a block of text and getting the general idea of it even if you don’t understand every word. Don’t worry if you find this really difficult at first or if you often get passages wrong. You really will improve with time. This can be a great exercise to do with another language learner as well. One of you could read a passage closely and the other could skim it; then the skimmer could tell the close reader what the passage was about, and the reader could correct any errors. If you’re in disagreement about any of the meanings, that can make for an interesting discussion in English as well.

Improve Your Listening Skills

During lectures, you’ll be expected to take in what a professor is telling you, and this may be far more complex than any listening exercises that you ever did in class. In addition, every speaker has certain idiosyncrasies that might go unnoticed by a native speaker but which can be difficult for a language learner to cope with. As with the skimming exercise above, it can help to start training yourself by listening to more complex topics in less structured environments than the classroom. You could listen to podcasts or even TV shows without visual cues.

Speaking with Fluency

One of the scariest parts of learning a language can be speaking it. You may worry that you’ll get something wrong or say something silly. Everyone does as part of the learning process, but learning to laugh at it can take away a lot of the anxiety you may be feeling around it and, ironically, allow you to perform better. Just keep practicing by talking to people as much as possible, and don’t worry if you make mistakes.

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