How did I learn English?

International student Roy’s experience

Growing up in Taiwan, almost every parent would ask their kids to learn English. During primary school, I spent many afternoons at bilingual cram school. I remember my table was always cluttered with vocabulary cards and English textbooks. Despite the mess and the effort, my English was never good enough to understand English podcasts and to speak with native speakers until I came to Australia. The first few months in Australia, I set 6 strategies for myself to improve my English – which might work for you as well.


1. Find a strong motivation with a doable goal for yourself

I found that I didn’t have strong motivations to learn English growing up because I didn’t find it necessary. It was more like a chore to do to satisfy my parents and teachers. I couldn’t understand why I need to learn English until I came to Australia and realised how people use English to communicate with people from different nations. English is like a bridge that brings people who have diverse cultures and backgrounds toward each other. It hit me and gave me a strong motivation to learn English because I want to be able to communicate with people I don’t know and to understand their cultures. This motivation fills me with passion for English and helps me to push myself into a goal of being able to communicate freely with people from different nation and background.


2. Stop thinking in your own language but rather in English

Learning English is a long process with lots of practice. However, you may not be able to practice it all the time with other people, especially if you’re around with people who speak the same native tongue as you. Thus, try to put your thoughts in English instead of your own language as it will help your brain develop and structure English sentences.


3. Surround yourself with English environment

After I convinced myself to crave English with great motivations, I started to make as many vocabulary cues cards as possible to help me memorise them. Going more extreme, I pasted those cues cards on the match items in my room to force myself to remember them. You can probably imagine how messy my room was with hundreds of cues cards. But it worked very well for me. I remembered those vocabs in just two weeks! Environment can help you profoundly on learning English so try to surround yourself with the language and force yourself to embrace it.


4. Find an interesting and enjoyable learning resource

I am very much into Marvel Universe which you can say I am pretty nerdy. But because of it, I learned English through watching Marvel movies and TV shows. Netflix is one of the best channels which allows you to watch many English TV shows, movies, comedies, and documentaries on your spare time. Find topics that you are passionate, it helps you to learn English through it with enjoyment.


5. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, GO OUT and have small talks with strangers

Many non-English speakers, including me, are afraid to speak English because they don’t want to make mistakes to embarrass themselves. However, people can only correct your mistakes when they hear you make them. As an international student, I didn’t have much opportunities to talk to strangers. But having small talks with different baristas every morning helped me build my confidence and pick up their phrases and accent.


6. Be open to make friends from different nations

Making new friends from different nations is so important as it can help you practice your English and experience different cultures, as well. Australia is a multicultural country that can get you to enjoy the diverse lifestyle, food, cultural practices, and experience. I personally think it is the greatest bonus to study in Australia. Studying in language school and university here helped me to experience and learn so much about other cultures. So, get out your comfort zone and make new friends!


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