If English is not your native tongue, you may be nervous and a little apprehensive about speaking it while studying in the United States. Fortunately, you can prepare for the transition before you leave, and many college and university campuses have a wealth of English as a Second Language (ESL) resources that will help you adjust once you arrive. Follow the expert advice and suggestions here to polish your communication skills and to make the most of your adventure abroad.
Brush up on Your Skills
Practice makes perfect, and you'll want to brush up on your listening and speaking proficiency before you set foot on campus. Rick Johns, director of the LEAP Intensive English Program at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio, suggests consulting modern technology for a thorough and entertaining English lesson. “Watching films and English-language television offerings where available is always a good way to practice listening comprehension and to learn idioms and expressions,” he says. “If a student has access to the Web, going to news sites such as CNN.com, NPR.com, and BBC.com is a wonderful way to both read and listen to intelligent news reporting. These are very helpful for practicing listening to academic material, which is a vital skill for college coursework.”
Preparing ahead of time will help tremendously, but what do you do once you arrive at your college destination? Paul Carbonaro, coordinator of the ESL program at Sinclair Community College in Dayton, Ohio, recommends complete immersion. “Students should spend as much time as possible in the company of native speakers to feel increasingly comfortable about using and encountering English and to improve speaking and listening skills,” he says. “They should also read, read, read to broaden their English vocabulary.”
Avoid Your Comfort Zone
Johns also contends that immersion is important to a student's English-speaking success, but he warns against seclusion. “Surround yourself with English as much as possible,” Johns says. “A good way to do this is to join a volunteer organization or a church. It's certainly understandable that students would want to find people from their own countries who speak their mother language, but if they retreat too much into their home culture, they won't develop the language skills necessary for success at the university.”
Once you're acclimated to your new surroundings, ask an advisor or university official about resources available for ESL students. “Typically, there should be course-specific tutorial services, as well as a writing and reading tutorial center, language labs, an ESL advisor—perhaps within an international student office—an international student club, or an ESL student-specific orientation session,” Carbonaro says. Taking advantage of all your college or university has to offer will be beneficial to your overall experience in the United States.
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