Huiying from Zhejiang in China, is currently studying in Scotland – she gives her top five tips about learning new skills and improving your English outside the classroom.
When I arrived at INTO University of Stirling, I was too scared to speak in English.
A year later, communicating in English no longer feels stressful and is even a fun experience.
My breakthrough came after I decided to try different ways to improve my understanding and fluency outside the classroom.
Talking with my friends really helped me do this. Now, learning English doesn’t feel like a chore, it’s fun!
Here are my tips if you want to improve your English so you can succeed too.
1. Speak as often as possible
I was very nervous about speaking in English when I arrived here. I was worried people would not be able to understand me because I didn’t have the right vocabulary and my pronunciation was poor.
But a Chinese student I met on the first day told me not to worry because the people here are very friendly and eager to help international students.
I started by trying to speak English to campus staff. I first went to the University’s library where I got help to set up my Wi-fi and I slowly built up courage to communicate in English from there.
Practice makes perfect.
2. Talk to the locals at every opportunity
Two of my friends speak excellent English. They helped me by pushing me to practise my English on trips in Scotland, England and Europe. They got me to ask for directions to places and make restaurant bookings.
Whenever we took a taxi, they sat far away from the driver so that I had to talk with the taxi driver. It made me more confident. They made me do hotel bookings and send emails to AirBNB hosts.
Get out and speak English! Even buying something, maybe just saying ‘yes’ or ‘no’ or ‘please can you give me a bag’, is a good way to develop your speaking ability.
3. Learn a new skill – like swimming
When I chose the University of Stirling, one of the main attractions for me was the fantastic swimming pool. I don’t like sports but I do like swimming!
Some of my friends from China can’t swim so I suggested they join a swimming class.
I told them that on the one hand they can learn to swim, on the other hand they can practise their English by listening to instructions and asking questions.
4. Widen your friendship circle
Don’t just close your door and keep to yourself in your room. Don’t just stick to your own nationality group. Communicate and make friends with people from other countries.
There are challenges in communicating with others when no one speaks English as a first language. There can be misunderstandings. But keep going, I promise it gets easier!
For example, I went with three Chinese friends and a Japanese friend to St Andrews. We all had to speak in English so that our Japanese friend knew what we were saying.
5. Watch English language movies and the news
I watch movies in English – I like to watch it a few times, and then watch again with Chinese subtitles.
I go with my friends to see movies at the cinema on the campus or in the town centre. First, we saw Beauty and the Beast which was easy to understand as we all read the story as children.
I got into the good habit of watching BBC news every day for one of my programme modules. And I still keep up with UK news. This is a very good way to practise listening in English and helps improve general knowledge.
Learning English has become a good experience. It doesn’t feel stressful. If you learn English for your own interest while you’re on adventures around Scotland, maybe you’ll also find it easier to improve your language ability.
Huiying from Hangzhou, Zhejiang, progressed to a Master’s degree programme at the University of Stirling in September 2017 after being awarded an International Graduate Diploma at INTO University of Stirling.
To brush up on your common English abbreviations, click here. You may also like to read Meryem’s 7 reasons why studying in Scotland is amazing.
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