English proficiency tests like the TOEFL and the IELTS make sure international students have the vocabulary and grammar to get by in US college classrooms. But to really get the most out of your experience as a US college student, you will need more than just the minimum English language skills.
Luckily, your university offers lots of opportunities to improve your English skills. Read on to see what you can do to work on your language skills and start speaking like a local.
University Run Language Programs
Many US colleges and universities have programs specifically for international students who want to improve their English fluency.
One organization affiliated with Penn State University gets hundreds of requests every semester from international students wanting to be paired with a “conversation partner” who is a native speaker of English. The organization, called Global Connections, matches international students with other students or members of the community.
International students and their partners meet in person and talk on the telephone. These conversations give international students knowledge of English that they can’t always learn in the classroom. The sessions also benefit the English-speaking partners, who learn about a different culture and country.
Another school run program that nearly all universities with international students offer are international clubs. These sorts of clubs present great ways for you to bond with fellow international students and to work on your English language skills together. For students who feel intimated speaking English with American students, international clubs can be particularly helpful as they offer a safe-place to practice until you feel more comfortable with the language.
Visit the international student services office at your university to find out what’s available at your school.
Learning from the Natives
Outside of university run programs, a great way for you to improve your language skills is simply living and being involved on campus.
When you first arrive at your US college, you may feel nervous about engaging with fellow American students. The challenges you may face while abroad including being away from friends and family, adapting to a new culture, and overcoming a language barrier can sometimes be overwhelming. But don’t let yourself fall into the habit of hiding away in your dorm room. Get out there!
The best way to learn a language is through language immersion. So join some clubs with American student members, go to student events such as mixers and fairs, hang out in your dorm’s common space and get to know the other students in your building, and chat with your classmates before and after class. You can also learn a ton of American idioms from fellow students, which can make learning English that much more fun.
You should also take advantage of all the language learning opportunities your academics present. American professors encourage students to be an active part of the class discussion. If you have something to add, speak up! Participation is often part of your grade anyway, so why not use it as both a way to get that A and as a way to improve your English skills.
And don’t forget about your professor’s office hours. Not only does this time give you the chance to develop a more personal relationship with your American professors, it can also give you the chance you need to clarify anything you were confused on in class or on any assignments.
As an international student studying in the US, you’ve already shown that you’re capable and interested in your English language skills. Take advantage of the time you have in the states to really develop those skills.
Whether you take part in a conversation partner program run by your university or simply engage in campus activities and events, you’re sure to improve your English and be speaking like a local in no time!