As an international student, my experience with the English language is rather curious. I went to my first English lesson when I was nine, but I knew how to speak English from kindergarten because I watched too much Cartoon Network.
When I arrived at Salford, I thought I was fluent in English as I had completed the Cambridge English: Advanced (CAE) certification. Big mistake. After my first lecture, it felt as if my head was going to explode.
The accent had nothing in common with the one I knew from our listening tapes at my English school, nor with the series and cartoons I used to watch. It took me about two weeks to get over the language barrier and start opening my mouth.
In fact, to start talking in English, German, Italian or whatever your choice is, you don’t need to feel like a helpless mouse in front of an elephant. What’s more, you don’t need any military training. The new language is not you enemy. On the contrary, it is your new best friend, you just need to get close with them and get used to their character.
Once I embraced the challenge, it was much easier than I thought. Which means that if I can do it you can do it. Here’s How:
As I mentioned, I learned English from Cartoon Network, as did many of my friends. For those who think that they are too mature for cartoons, sitcoms are a great alternative. The series are short, engaging and the episode ends just before you get bored.
Usually, the topics are day-to-day issues, so the level of the language is not too advanced. Talk shows are also good because there are people with different backgrounds and accents, plus you can find various interviews with your favourite celebrities.
TedTalks are among the most interesting and fun lectures about diverse topics. Their advantage is that you can choose the length and the topic and you can watch it with subtitles if you don’t understand very well.
Whenever you travel, listen to the radio or podcasts in the language you’d like to learn. The more you listen, the more new phrases you will remember, hence the more you’ll understand. Music is particularly good because rhythm helps you remember phrases and sentences. Of course, you can find many karaoke versions of your favourite songs on YouTube which is another excellent way to fun learning (be careful if you have flatmates, though).
To communicate like locals do, it is important to hear the intonation and the rhythm of the language. Bad English is when you are trying to speak a foreign language in the pace of your mother tongue. Remember when I mentioned the talk shows? It is good to repeat the phrases and the sentences you hear. But I suggest doing this when you are alone! The more you get used to hearing your voice when talking in a foreign language, the more natural it will become in time.
Observe how locals communicate and pay attention to their gestures and intonation in a different situation. When you get used to them, you will start using them even while speaking your mother tongue. A great way is to study the gestures of your favourite characters on TV, or to go out for a drink with a foreign friend.
You can describe your day or write on a particular topic, using the new phrases you’ve learned. A more pleasant way is to find someone to talk to through social media – the perks are endless, and you can make life-long friends.
Take a book or your Kindle everywhere with you and read when you have time. Reading is a great way to learn grammar and you can work at your own pace. Take notes, write down the meaning of each new word and highlight sections to come back later.
Make it your new hobby
If you love cooking, read the recipes in the language you are trying to learn. Love board games? Get together with people on an equal level and practice those phrases that you will need to use in that informal situation. Plus, board games are super fun, regardless of the language.
If you’d like to become a pro in a certain language or need help with English, sign up for the language courses at the University of Salford. I hope you found my tips helpful!