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Don't Yell At Me, I'm Trying to Speak English

Is there anything more embarrassing for an English learner than being asked to repeat what you just said?

Twice, thrice (that means three times) … each pointing out that you have not mastered English.


(Worse is when the American you’re speaking with RAISES THEIR VOICE as if you are deaf instead of struggling.)

Mastering a foreign language is difficult and requires a big time commitment and a lot of practice. So what’s the best way to solidify your English skills before coming to the U.S. and once you arrive? While there’s no single method, here are some tips that we hope will be of use on your path to English fluency.

  • Master the Vocab

Although I’m a native English speaker, my experience studying foreign languages has given me some skills that are applicable to learning any language. Vocabulary makes up the building blocks of language thus is it essential to have a solid foundation that you are constantly trying to expand. Making flashcards and carrying a few with you to review throughout the day is a great way to improve.

  • Talk to Anyone and Everyone

It is impossible to feel confident and comfortable speaking a foreign language without a lot of practice. I know it is difficult to put yourself out there and converse in an unfamiliar language (especially if you’re not particularly 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 enviro
nment of living in the U.S.

Enjoy watching movies? Try watching them in English rather than your native language, with or without subtitles depending on your level. Listening to music or the radio in English is also a 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 (even if they don’t know understand what you’re saying) in English. 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.

Hopefully you will find these tips helpful as you improve your English fluency. Most importantly perhaps is to keep at it and never give up!