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Want To Attend A US University? First, Learn English


Our reader, Anuar from Rabat, Morocco asked us what he needed to do to apply to universities in the United States.

His first question was about learning English. Here's a summary of what we talked about, and a link to the Facebook Live conversation we had with him. Take a look.

How do I improve my English skills?

  • Take a look at VOA Learning English, which publishes news stories in simple English to help English learners.

  • Translate any news article into your language, then re-translate it into English. You will be able to compare what you wrote with the article. Through this, you will improve your vocabulary, writing, and translating skills.

  • Language exchange program: Find a partner who speaks English and also wants to learn your language. You could find someone from your university, or use the Language Exchange Community where more than 3 million members from over 133 countries practice 115 languages.

  • "I am currently doing this language exchange program with a Korean-American who wants to learn Korean," explained Elly Kim, an intern with Student Union. "We meet once a week and talk about each week’s topic. The topic can be politics, culture, food, and everything. We speak in English for 30 minutes and then in Korean for 30 minutes."

  • Don’t be afraid of broken English, just try to speak English to everybody. This is how you improve. Practice makes perfect!

  • Read "Don't Yell at Me, I'm Trying to Speak English."


Master the vocabulary.

Learn the words that are the building blocks of language. Make flashcards and carry a few with you to review throughout the day. Use free online sources like StudyStack, Quizlet, Studybeans, Inside Story Flashcards, etc.

Talk to anyone and everyone.

It is impossible to feel confident and comfortable speaking a foreign language without a lot of practice. We know it is difficult to put yourself out there and converse in an unfamiliar language, especially if you’re not outgoing. But think of it as a crucial step in achieving your goal of fluency. Speak with your classmates and teachers, and take advantage of the immersive environment of living in the U.S. or an English-speaking country.

Watch and listen.

Enjoy watching movies? Try watching them in English rather than your native language, with or without subtitles. Listening to music or the radio in English is another great way to get familiar with common phrases and increase your comprehension. Try writing down what you hear and look up any words you do not know.

Get a conversation partner.

Many universities offer language tutoring or will match international students with native English speakers to meet regularly and converse. Find out if your university offers a service like this. If you are still in your home country, see if there are any American or English-speaking students in your area who you could practice with.

Talk to yourself.

Although it may feel unnatural, a great way to get comfortable with the language and gain confidence is to talk to yourself or your friends and family in English. Even if they don’t know understand what you’re saying. Narrate what you’re doing, stand in the mirror and have a conversation with yourself, or record your voice and listen to it. These are great ways to improve your pronunciation and even notice where you are making mistakes.

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