Again, we’ve received an interesting post of one of our users. We’re happy to share tips and tricks by Olan Ahern on how to improve your English speaking and writing skills during an Erasmus exchange.
As a former student studying abroad – an Irishman studying in England – I like to think I’m an honorary Erasmus student! While I was unlucky not to have the opportunity to learn a foreign language, I did get the opportunity to meet a lot of students from a wide range of countries. The experience sparked my enthusiasm for new subjects and trying new things; from eating Paella with Spanish students to going out on the town with Russian students and learning to truly appreciate vodka, these experiences changed my life forever!
After spending several months with my new found friends, something occurred to me (besides the fact these people were great fun to be around); some people were getting a lot better at English while some people were only improving slightly and others weren’t improving at all.
I asked those who were making great progress what their secret was, how come it was so easy for them to pick up the English language?
The following is a summary of the responses I got:
A lot of my friends said they were surrounded by English speakers for the majority of the day, and one of the most important aspects of gaining proficiency in any language is speaking it regularly!
Here is a list of ways to do so:
- Pick subjects that are highly populated with English speaking students, this will encourage you to interact and learn from them.
- Interact with other English speakers as much as possible. This will help you get a proper grasp of the language. This is known as real-world comprehension and practical use of the English language.
- If you live in a bilingual household or dorm, try to make an effort each day to speak English.
- Arrange a day every week for a number of international and English students to meet up in a relaxed environment and learn from one another.
- Go to the local pub! It’s an easy and relaxing way to get a grasp of local slang and different sayings in the area. This is often the most confusing thing for many international students. For example, the saying “it’s raining cats and dogs” doesn’t mean it’s literally raining animals.
Watching TV is an excellent way to learn English and relax at the same time. Different programmes offer different opportunities to improve your level of English.
The 3 S’s:
- Soaps: Help you understand different accents. For example, watching Coronation Street will expose you to the Manchurian accent, while watching Eastenders gets you used to a Cockney accent.
- Sitcoms: Improve your cultural awareness and help you to understand different tones and expressions. Also a great introduction to English humour and sarcasm.
- Sport: Improve numerical understanding, possibly for those who have a lower level of English.
Watching programmes is an easy way to improve one’s English comprehension without feeling like you are studying. A helpful tip, as your level increases after a couple of months watch dubbed or subtitled films in favour of those with English voice and subtitles.
The Internet is full of resources that can help you improve your English proficiency. Students spend a lot of their time online. Here a list of ways to improve your English whilst online:
- Read news articles on English news websites is a way to work on reading comprehension. The Internet is one of the best places to go to improve vocabulary since definitions can be looked up easily with a simple web search.
- Bookmark an English dictionary website. Some dictionary sites, such as The Free Online Dictionary, have vocabulary games and other learning tools available right on the front page.
- Freerice.com is another vocabulary-building website that allows users to answer multiple-choice vocabulary questions. The site will donate 10 grains of rice to fight world hunger for each correct answer.
- Participating in an English-speaking message board or forum community is a good way to work on your writing ability while discussing topics of interest.
- You can judge your level of English by using sites such as Pearson PTE specialists in English language tests. This is a good method to check where you need to improve.
While a lot of people find it effective to increase proficiency in English through the methods I described above, taking formal classes or joining a club dedicated to learning English can accelerate your progress. Classes can help increase motivation and keep you on a normal schedule of study, many people find this important for learning!
This is a guide I’ve devised from my friends experiences of how they learned English. I hope people who read this post find it useful and hopefully find helpful tips especially if you’re an Erasmus student studying in England.
Olan is a former Erasmus student who works on behalf of Pearson PTE specialists in English Language Learning